Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

How Jaaved Jaaferi wrote and danced his way into the world of advertising

The actor walks down the memory lane talking about the ads he has worked on and how the Indian advertising industry has changed over the years

Published: Feb 27, 2023 05:00:35 PM IST
Updated: Feb 27, 2023 05:49:00 PM IST

How Jaaved Jaaferi wrote and danced his way into the world of advertisingWhat remains lesser known about the versatile actor, Javed Jafferi, is that he also scripted some ads, including the ones for Maggi's sauce. Image: Stills from his ads

Jaaved Jaaferi is a well-known name in the Hindi film and entertainment industry whose experience spans over 38 years. One of Jaaferi's most known and iconic works is the nineties' popular dance show, Boogie Woogie, which saw Indians from age five to 50 tuning in every time it aired. But what remains lesser known is the fact that the versatile actor and entertainer started his career in advertising, featuring in his first ad film in 1980. That was four years before he began shooting for the Hindi film 'Meri Jung'.

It was the eighties and the advent of color television had ushered in what many consider the golden age of advertising. In a conversation with Storyboard18, Jaaferi recalls an ad for Hamdard Cinkara. Directed by filmmaker Sumantra Ghosal, Jaaferi who was portraying an overworked employee had the chance to showcase his dancing skills in the commercial. The ad was a hit and remains one of his most memorable commercials.

In a conversation with Storyboard18, Jaaferi goes back to a time when ads were unskippable and in many cases unforgettable.

Edited for clarity.

Q. How did you get your first ad break? Could you share with us some unheard stories of your first experience in the ad world?

My first ad was for an apparel wear named Smash. The ad was shot by ad filmmaker Kailash Surendranath in RK Studios in Chembur. At that point, I was studying in college, probably in Class 12. Along with me, there was another actor named Denzil Smith, who is well-known in the theatre circle. The ad was about a rock concert, where I played the role of a guitarist and Denzil was a drummer. There was a girl named Rukshana Toddywala, who played a super singer in the commercial. She became my dance partner and after the commercial we participated in the All India Dance Championship and won it together.

After that, I became a part of so many ads which were shot by ad film director Prahlad Kakkar, where we became a great team. He shot the Maggi hot and sweet tomato chilli sauce commercials, where I also wrote scripts. I was also a part of the advertisements along with fellow actor Pankaj Kapur.

Speaking of the iconic Captain Cook ad, it was shot at Famous Studios in Mahalakshmi. Previously, I had acted with Sushmita Mukherjee in a play called 'The Trojan Women'. The combination of Sushmita’s expressions and my voice complemented each other very well, which added to the commercial’s popularity.

Also read: Throwback: Wah Taj! The iconic ad campaign about the effort that leads to perfection

Q. You have played quirky characters and have given unique voices to brands, right from Hamdard Cinkara, Gold Spot, Britannia, Captain Cook to Maggi Sauce. What stood out for you in each of these iconic commercials?

In the case of Maggi Hot and Sweet Tomato Chilli Sauce, there was another campaign called ‘Shah v/s Shah' that was being planned. It began with the idea to cast two veteran actors, Naseeruddin Shah and Satish Shah. But Prahlad called me and said, “Jaaved, let’s write something interesting and let’s do the test shoot.” At that point, I was already active in the film industry. And we did the test shoot and the commercial was finally shot featuring me and Pankaj Kapur.

I had written scripts for most of the Maggi Sauce ads which included lines like ‘Boss has gone for a toss’, ‘Lily don’t be silly’ etc. I was associated with the brand for about 25-30 years as an actor, and the campaign is very close to my heart. After Pankaj bhai, I worked with actor Manoj Pahwa in a few series, and then went on to do one commercial with Nawazuddin Siddiqui.

Also read: Maggi's two-minute strategy and how convenience and comfort combined

Q. What was fascinating about advertising during the 1990s?

That period was the coming of age for Indian advertising which was slowly coming up to the level of international advertising. Television had entered the scene and Doordarshan was the first channel. Then, came private channels. Zee TV was launched in 1992, and Sony Entertainment Television was launched in 1995. Earlier, the modes of communication were cinema screens and Doordarshan where popular shows would be screened. In the early 1990s, television advertising became much bigger.

Also read: How small and mid-sized Indian ad agencies find their mojo, and grow

Q. What has changed in the advertising industry today?

It is the age of the internet and there are a lot of reference materials with respect to brands available these days.

But advertising is like a story. When a child is crying, to pacify them, we tell them stories. Advertising is like that. It is not real and people know that. But, people enjoy watching it and subconsciously, it does influence. It is all about recall and how much a brand surfaces at the top of your conscious or subconscious mind when you think of a particular category.

Today, Indian advertising is of an international standard in terms of technical aspects and production, etc. We are at par with America and Europe.

Q. Are you selective about the brands that you associate with now?

I have been selective and particular since day one when I was in my 20s. I don’t associate with alcohol, cigarettes and gambling. I have been true to that.