Irfaan Khan, of the unquestionable acting credentials, is shilling for a light company these days and in one of their commercials, shot in a superfast cut sequence, is doing something like a rock star number with a bevy of what passes for PYT’s these days. It makes you cringe to watch a man of this quotient of gravitas do this, but hey, I’m all for making a little extra money. This is a commercial, not part of the oeuvre that will comprise his professional legacy. And then there he is, playing the dangerous head of a super-secret and super-efficient criminal organisation in Inferno. In both cases, looking at him onscreen is more than a little ….. disconcerting.
Not as disconcerting as watching Pierce Brosnan in the Pan Bahaar ad, another commercial that is being dissed and trolled violently. Everyone is just completely thrown by watching Brosnan (the ex-James Bond himself, no less) doing a Pan Bahar number. Like a friend said, you can’t watch this commercial without laughing AT it.
If you don’t think Irfan is appropriate for the role in Inferno, you have to take into consideration that a casting phalanx, Ron Howard and the SONY studio bosses all got together to make that decision. As in Brosnan and Pan Bahar, the client, the agency and Brosnan himself all decided to go ahead and shoot. Pause for thought.
I wonder how it was all sold to Brosnan. Did he realise where the brand is located in the Indian ‘classy’ universe? (Or isn’t. Or is it?) Did he care? He was certainly told that most of over a billion people have made it into a giant brand and this much I am sure, he certainly didn’t shoot this for a reduced fee.
My beef with this TVC is that it looks like Brosnan was playing this entire commercial as a laugh. In every single frame Pierce is having a great time just plain hamming it and going through the motions, that too, with just one expression on his face. You have the feeling he can’t wait for someone to shout "Pack Up", so that he can rush to the bank and deposit the cheque. …. and just can’t wait to laugh all the way to the bank. The seemingly solitary action shot, shot from the ceiling is hopelessly and obviously a stuntman.
What dooms this commercial is it ends up as a satire.
Contrast this TVC with Brosnan doing a Bond-number in a VISA ad some years ago, when he was still playing Bond in the movies. That entire commercial accomplished a wonderful nod towards Bond, with Pierce honestly playing Bond, and not one frame suggesting anything but. Contrast that with the sleepwalking Brosnan in the Pan Bahaar commercial. It is twice the catastrophe if it was honestly shot as a full-blooded testimonial and it not only ends up looking like a satire from the first frame to the last.
There’s a rather twisty twist in the Pan Bahar commercial. Brosnan is not being himself, he is playing Bond. Bond is a celebrity in his own right. And Brosnan is playing Bond, sporting a moustache and beard borrowed straight from Commander Whitehead of the famous Schwepervesence campaign that O&M’s American office ran in 1955, 61 years ago. Brosnan’s facial hair serves him well, if only to hide his epression!
The head reels.
The challenge with casting a celebrity is that we have to crack a connection with the celebrity and the brand. A meaningful connection. Having the celebrity hold a small tin and mouth inane platitudes is just not enough.
Pierce has stopped playing Bond three movies ago and Daniel Craig now owns Bond so thoroughly, the world is forced to acknowledge that he is the second authentic Bond after Sean Connery. I wonder if anyone remembers the furore when Daniel Craig was announced as ‘the next Bond’, even upto the website craigisnotbond.com. But Craig painstakingly earned his place as Bond, and has effectively silenced all his critics. Maybe Pan Bahaar may see some such luck, but they better script some great follow-ups.
The WhatsApp joke goes like this: Pierce introduces himself as "mynemifvondzamzvon." Seeing the uncomprehending look in response, Pierce pits out the Pan Bahar and says the line again: "My name is Bond, James Bond."
You really don’t want to get a hold of a celebrity of Brosnan’s Bond equity, and then have it lampooned like this.
Time will tell if this proved to be a masterstroke or not. It certainly has company with Messi for TATA and ZouZou for Kanakia. A global giant and a nationally-recognised builder may have it easy associating with an international figure, but if Pan Bahaar did really bite off more than it could chew is something we should wait and see. Take it easy with the jokes, folks, its not as if Pan Bahaar made a commercial with Mr Bean.
As for myself, a small nod to client and agency for sticking their necks out. And here’s wishing you luck, James, luck.