“We were very worried because Neeraj Chopra seemed to be a little shy. But we met him and he was game about it,” says Ayappa KM, director of the business for bank card aggregator Cred, which places viewers within the sneakers of the Olympic gold medallist as he faces off with a menagerie of characters — all performed by himself. The worries had been misplaced.
Earlier this 12 months, Ayappa had been behind the digital camera for former India captain Rahul Dravid’s ‘Indiranagar ka Gunda’ flip. Then, he had advised this newspaper how Dravid would bury his face in his palms after taking part in a maniac on the highway.
“Neeraj was the opposite of Dravid,” he laughs. “Sometimes he would just break down in the middle of a line laughing. He just wanted to have fun, he was chilling and having a great time.”
The business delves into India’s hysteria and pleasure buzzing round Indian sport’s newly minted Olympic champion. What follows is the POV of Chopra, with the javelin thrower taking part in a number of characters. He is a model supervisor in a boardroom assembly discussing Web optimization-friendly taglines. A reporter with a goatee asking private questions. A moustachioed cashier apprising him of the day’s gold fee. A filmmaker planning biopics. And a wannabe javelin thrower.
“Honestly, we were all worried because it’s a very acting heavy script,” says Ayappa. “Neeraj has suddenly been thrust into the spotlight at such a young age. Overnight, it’s very hard for most people to know how to react to media. If you see his interviews, his current media presence… But he was very receptive and low maintenance. There was no ego and he immersed himself into the characters.”
Ayappa, who says his private favorite character was the model supervisor — “I’ve suffered managers and conference rooms for many years. I like the office setting, of very serious people in suits talking crap” — shares that the business was executed in seven days with elaborate units in-built a Mumbai studio. Comedian Tanmay Bhat and his colleagues on the AIB group wrote the script. On the day of the taking pictures, the crew had Chopra for eight hours, with the hair and make-up for every avatar taking the vast majority of the time. But an enthusiastic Chopra made life simpler.
“In 20 minutes, we used to bang out a scene. Neeraj said, ‘you act it out and I’ll just imitate you if I get stuck’”, remembers Ayappa. “Tanmay and I acted out the stuff and he got it instantly. By the end of it, he was enjoying himself a lot.”
In lower than 24 hours, the video has raked in thousands and thousands of views throughout social media, with main props being given to Chopra’s performing expertise and the self-referential writing. As the reporter, a jostling Chopra thrusts the microphone ahead and asks: “Aapki girlfriend hai? Aapki biwi hai? (Do you have a girlfriend? Do you have a wife?) in a nod to the cacophony surrounding him since his gold-winning exploits in Tokyo in August. Ayappa believes that through satire, Chopra is “restoring the balance”.
“I personally cringe at such questions,” says Ayappa. “You come back with a gold medal, and these are the things you have to ask him. So good satire is a way to restore that balance. The commercial is not just coming from a place of wanting to make fun of people. You need to have a big laugh at yourself. Otherwise, you’re screwed up taking everything personally and being an unhappy man.”
Spoke to the director behind the moment basic #IndiranagarKaGunda advert. How they simulated a site visitors jam and had folks yell at Rahul Dravid. And how every time he screamed, he coated his brow along with his palms afterwards. #RahulDravid @IExpressSports https://t.co/m6RSE7Dhox
— Gaurav Bhatt (@CultOfGaurav) April 10, 2021
Ayappa’s catalogue is stuffed with commercials that subvert the general public picture of distinguished names. Previously, he directed the 7’2 wrestler Dalip Singh Rana, higher often known as The Great Khali, as a delicate soul for a cement commercial. Recently, he helmed a Shah Rukh Khan business, the place the megastar is frightened about his absence from OTT initiatives. Then there was the Dravid as ‘Indiranagar ka Gunda’.
The performing expertise of Chopra, nevertheless, got here as a shock.
“I was quite impressed with the way Neeraj picked up on facial expressions. If you act a certain line and show it to him, he would xerox it. He would replicate perfectly, which is a great thing because he’s not an actor. Only actors do that.”
But Ayappa has a principle on how Chopra acted so nicely.
“In addition to being young and all that, I think somewhere Neeraj likes cinema and that made him loosen up much more. In that brand manager scene, he suddenly recognised one of the extras and started telling him, ‘Oh, you were in that film’,” Ayappa laughs. “I could see in that second that he was not being a celebrity. He was just being a regular guy who’s suddenly aware that ‘okay, man, I’m in this industry now’.”