Stardust Coke Article

Published On: 2012-05-08

Author: unknown

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Thanda Matlab…..Too Hot To Handle!

Sonali Jaffar – Stardust (May ’03) 


Endorsements and all the frills have become as much a part of an actor’s life as lights and the make-up. Stars in the ads are here to stay. You would expect this collaborations of the brand and its equity makers to be a smooth one, but this is the turn of events that follows when there is a stand-off between Coke and the Bloke. 

I recently read a forwarded e-mail about the negative fall-outs of aerated beverages, right from breaking down the calcium component of the teeth to pancreatic cancer and the corroding of bones. Ask Hrithik Roshan, and he might have another example of cola abuse, to add to the long list. There is a storm in a soft drink bottle. That cap that covers implores to be opened. A Pandora’s box, that was to throw up an all-engulfing controversy. 

Hrithik Roshan was the messiah for a rudimentarily stuck film industry. Stuck in an optionless world of the Khans, he was the all-important breath of fresh air. Whether it was picky Aamir, eccentric Salman or banner crazy Shah Rukh, it was Duggu who brought in the ray of hope. His would be debatably one of the biggest Bollywood success stories. Weak-kneed girls and muscle envying men were all in the range of target. But the largest fan-following he inexplicably garnered was that of the tiny tots. Never before had any hero cut so much ice with the cherubs. People said it was his innocence and earnestness, which was identifiable. The end result was that the marketing Gurus accepted the fact that there was a definite following that would use the same toothpaste, suit length, clothes brand or even cola he did. 

So, as is the norm, there were people falling over each other to get Hrithik to sign on their multi-crore endorsement deals. One such company that lined up had an aerated drink to promote stars to have their own equations towards the products. Beyond a point, it is a matter of prestige. It serves as a poignant party conversation among stars. They would boast about the penthouse in Juhu, or the paucity of dates, or the prestigious multi-national endorsements they were shooting for.

Firmly atop the crest, we saw numerous hoardings of Hrithik, precariously lined all across the country. If you think that the ads purely benefit the endorser, you are mistaken. The celebrity ambassador too stood to gain. Take, for instance, Aamir Khan, who has his period of hibernation. His last release was, ‘Dil Chahta Hai’, released in the year 2001, after which we haven’t seen anything of him for a whole year and a half, but he has kept himself alive in public memory by the innovative and variedly characterized cola ads. This happens, as we speak, even in the wake of the fact that he has just signed for ‘The Rising’, a film which would take at least a year and a half to release. 

Coming back to our subject, the highlight. Hrithik Roshan had been paid an immodest sum to swear his allegiance to one cold-drink house. Rumor has it that the aquiline-nosed actor was seriously considering the rival beverage. One hears that it was the clanker of the moolah that helped him make his decision. 

The honeymoon period between the endorsee and the endorsement giant was expectedly smooth. Papa Roshan and his film production house, Filmkraft, had swung into action. A hefty remuneration had been charged. And the ad campaign was triggered off. 

Flash forward to another time; a period of two years and a little more had elapsed. Let us say, despite his infinite talent, Hrithik had made some mistakes. Mistakes that had cost him the ascent of his career graph. When the going is good, the good get going, but they tend to overlook eventualities, and Roshan Jr. was no exception.

Along with the dramatic turnaround came a few unacceptable facts. The Cola company got a storyboard okayed, but they wanted an outside ad film unit to direct the commercial. So Shantanu Shorey and Far Communications was approached, and Hrithik, informed of the change of plans. The ‘Kaho Naa…Pyaar Hai’ boy wonder wasn’t willing to give daddy dearest a ditch. So, he stuck to his loyalties, garbing his unavailability as a lack of dates. 

The Cola company was apparently not in a mood for an unconditional surrender. Besides, they had limited dates of Aishwarya Rai, their other ambassadress. So, the hard-as-nails professional multi-national gave our decent and gentlemanly Duggu a stern ultimatum. And, allegedly, followed it up with a legal notice. Its battery of lawyers had apparently sued Hrithik for 9 crores and demanded that the ad remuneration be returned. 

It was a move that definitely took the wind off the Roshan sails. Well-wishers are of the opinion that Hrithik was only exercising what has been a star prerogative so far – to decide the directors for their commercials. As a Roshan camper puts it, “How come nobody questioned Salman when he got Sohail to direct his Thunbs Up commercials, or Aamir Khan when he got Ashutosh Gowariker to direct the Coke campaign. The fact remains that the bigger companies sign a successful team, and commercially, Rakesh and Hrithik Roshan are one of the most successful teams. All this drama to give the ad to an outside company was a play to get Hrithik to drop his price. But the fact of the matter is that Duggu is not one to give in to blackmail. He would rather have not done the ad than worked without his father, who masterminded his dream launch.” 

As things stand today, the Cola company did not wait for time, tide or Hrithik Roshan’s dates. They have signed arch-rival Vivek Oberoi to replace Hrithik. Vivek, incidentally, was signed by the same company for one of their subsidiary products. After a master negotiation was maneuvered, it seems the Roshans had to allegedly pay back the contract fees. When contacted, Hrithik categorically termed the story, “untrue.” 

The Cola guys were more forthcoming. As a spokesperson put things in perspective, “People tend to get bored of the same faces, so we keep changing our brand ambassadors.” But it’s been a while since one saw Hrithik in any Coke ads. “Hrithik is not the only brand ambassador; we’ve got other stars too. Hrithik’s contract with us had come to an end and that was it.” But then, other stars like Aamir and Aishwarya have had their contracts renewed in the past. “Well, that is one question you would have to put to Hrithik,” he ended, keeping matters in suspension. 

Maybe there are legal issues which force Hrithik to maintain his silence. As we have seen, an any standoff, there is one party which is stronger, who takes on the mantle, who wants to dictate operations. In most cases, this is the film star. But in a doldrums situation, he is not likely to have his own way. When the war dust settles and sanity prevails, the clearer picture emerges. And then again, it might just be another Friday till the Roshan stock soars once again, and the same cola combine queues up outside his mansion for those elusive dates. Then, maybe, Hrithik would veto the giant! Welcome to the world of Bush and Saddam!