Quantum Brief

Throwback: The making of Campa-Cola’s maiden television ad

Storyboard18 explains how Salman Khan got his first ad break, why Kailash Surendranath had to dive in the Andamans to shoot the commercial and more. Read on for all the details.

By  Kashmeera SambamurthyNov 12, 2022 6:58 AM
Throwback: The making of Campa-Cola’s maiden television ad
Kailash Surendranath recalls that in those days, models were seen as stars and advertising was considered as an aspirational profession. After much research and auditioning, Aarti Gupta and Ayesha Durt, Vanessa Vaz, Shiraz Merchant, Sunil Nischol and Salman Khan came on board. (Stills from the ad)

In 1977, soon after the Emergency, The Coca-Cola Company had to leave Indian shores. Delhi-based Pure Drinks Group saw this as an opportunity and launched a made-in-India soft drink, Campa. Through the late 1970s and 80s, Campa refreshed the soft drink market in India through its tasteful advertising and product line. The beverage came in three flavours — cola, lime, and orange — in a glass bottle that had Campa written on it in a bold font. You couldn’t miss it on the shelves or in ads.

In the late 80s, Pepsi began making inroads, while Coca-Cola re-entered post the economic liberalisation that began in the early 90s. Both Pepsi and Coca-Cola went all out with their advertising and set up a vast distribution network. Campa had a tough time competing against the American giants. By the early 2000s, the brand had lost its fizz.

Cut to 2022. Reliance Retail has acquired Campa. The company plans to re-launch the brand in its iconic cola, lemon, and orange flavours. In this edition of Storyboard18’s Throwback series, we look at the making of Campa Cola’s maiden television ad. We also answer these questions: How did Campa Cola give Salman Khan his first ad break? Why did Kailash Surendranath dive into the Andamans to shoot the commercial? What’s underwater housing? Read on.

The origins of the idea

Chaitra Advertising, which is today known as Leo Burnett India, handled the Campa account. Ad filmmaker Kailash Surendranath was approached to produce the brand’s maiden ad film. During the 70s, brands, even the homegrown ones, wanted to add an international flavour to their advertising. It was also the time when brands were obsessed with impressing the youth.

After Chaitra Advertising approached him, Surendranath spent several hours mulling over how to add freshness to a popular brand such as Campa. He turned to recent movies at the time for inspiration. He had heard that the film Teri Baahon Mein, which was a remake of the American film The Blue Lagoon, had been shot in the Andamans. The film starred actors Mohnish Bahl, and Ayesha Dutt (now Shroff), who was later picked by Surendranath for the Campa Cola ad film. What he liked about the movie was its location.

Aarti Gupta (now Surendranath), who is a model, actor, producer and influencer, was featured in the commercial as well. She tells Storyboard18 that to bring in the international feeling in the film, the team wanted an exotic location. She also worked on the casting and styling for the film. Once the location was chosen, Surendranath started looking for actors and models who were swimmers. That’s when he found Salman Khan.

Finding Salman Khan and the rest of the cast

Surendranath recalls that in those days finding people who were ace swimmers or deep-sea divers was not an easy task. It was an era when models were seen as stars and advertising was an aspirational profession. After much research and auditioning, he picked Aarti and Ayesha, Vanessa Vaz, Shiraz Merchant, Sunil Nischol and Salman Khan. Aarti was keen on having an underwater swimmer and spotted Khan, who impressed her with his swimming skills during the auditions. That’s how 16-year-old Khan got his first ad break.

“When we say swimming underwater, it does not mean swimming with diving gear, etc. We wanted someone who could hold their breath and swim comfortably for those few seconds to get that shot. Salman was the best underwater swimmer there. To launch somebody who was new to facing the camera among well-known seasoned models and to make sure he blended well was a challenge. But he stood up to the expectations and came across as a complete breath of fresh air. The ad delivered everything that we aimed for,” recalls Aarti.

The challenge shooting underwater

To shoot the scenes underwater, they had to build underwater housing for the camera. “I contacted a person from Eagle Films. They had made underwater housing for the camera but it was not very convenient,” says Surendranath.

If the lens or thehad to be changed, the team had to take the equipment out of the water each time. The other challenge was that a video assist — a system where the filmmaker could see takes immediately after they were filmed — had not been invented then. That left no other option for Surendranath but to jump into the water to shoot.

Here’s what happened under the water.

The cameraman for the ad film was RM Rao. The crew realised that Rao couldn’t swim only when they reached the Andamans. Surendranath took charge, even though he wasn’t a professional diver. He had no diving gear with him and so picked a few essentials from a vendor at Port Blair. It was a risky task but he took it up. A still photographer shot stills alongside him, especially the scenes outside the water, for print and outdoor campaigns. The commercial was released in 1983.

Hitting the right notes

After the film was shot, Surendranath reached out to singer and songwriter Gary Lawyer, who was in those days particularly known for his Western Music and Bollywood work. Lawyer created a tune in line with the brief, but Surendranath wanted more options.

Lawyer then reached out to music producer Ronnie Desai to collaborate. Desai roped in his partner, Shiv Mathur, who was also a music producer. The trio came up with four-five scratch recordings on a very old Yamaha keyboard at Lawyer’s house.

As the scratches were presented to Surendranath, Desai’s tune was approved. For the final recording of the jingle, experienced musicians were called to Western Outdoor Studio in Mumbai. Apart from Lawyer, Desai and Mathur, the other members were Sandhya Sanjana, a chorus singer; Babu Choudhary, who played the guitar; Dinshah Sanjana; and Ranjit Barot, who played keyboard and drums. Mathur played bass guitar, while Lawyer sang. Desai was also the music composer of the commercial.

The song was partially written by Chaitra Advertising and the rest was adapted to the tune by the music composers. Desai, who vividly remembers the composition process, tells Storyboard18: “There is more to life with Campa Cola,” was given by Kailash. He mentioned to us that the song had to gel well with the commercial’s brief, which was a group of youngsters having fun. It was important to make sure that the line came out as the punchline, as the agency was going to use it across the advertising.

“We converted the theme line into a powerful rock jingle, where Campa-Cola kept getting reinforced in melody. Also, rock music was trending then, which resonated with the youth,” says Desai. This was the first jingle Desai had worked on. Lawyer was the voice behind the jingle.

After the brand ran the film for a year, Surendranath shot another ad for Campa Cola, featuring Vanessa Vaz and Salman Khan. Former Miss India and supermodel Mehr Jesia was also seen in the film. The trio were featured river rafting in Rishikesh.

First Published on Nov 12, 2022 6:58 AM