Iconic Ads: Pan Parag – Welcome the Baarat

The Pan Parag commercial not only advertised the product but also brought in a social message against dowry

Ashok Kumar and Shammi Kapoor appeared in a commercial for Everest Advertising in the 1980s. They talked about welcoming the baaraat/ guests with Pan Parag.

It’s surprising to note that the first and last time these two titans met was because of an advertisement. This was a dream come true for Shammi Kapoor, a huge Ashok Kumar fan. Shammi had never previously had the opportunity to work with him.

In 1986, the late Mr MM Kothari was in Mumbai to meet the Everest Advertising team. Everest had been the advertising agency for the brand for many years. And over cups of tea at the canteen below their office, he said he wanted a change in the advertising strategy for his brand Pan Parag. Mr Kothari communicated to the Everest team that he wanted to position Pan Parag as a product to be given to guests on social occasions, especially marriages. It was focused on “Khatirdari”, or hospitality, and offering a warm welcome to visitors.

He had a germ of an idea. He had also wanted the brand to be associated with the anti-dowry issue. The brief reached Sulekha Bajpai, who had recently joined Everest. She was briefed and asked to write a script for an advertising film.

Sulekha had seen the problems about dowry at close quarters among relatives and friends. She had made a promise to herself that she would do everything she could to discourage people from doing it. It seemed perhaps too coincidental that the brief came her way.

She was able to put together a script quickly which was approved by Mr Kothari.

He insisted on using film stars for the commercial, and so, under the direction of Prem Krishen of Cinevista, they decided to cast the thespians, Ashok Kumar and Shammi Kapoor. The now-famous jingle (“Pan Parag, pan masala, Pan Parag”) was composed by Ajit Singh.

But “Baratiyon ka Swagat Pan Parag Se Kijiye” was more than just a commercial.

Pan masala, was positioned as a social lubricant. Strangers are able to form bonds as a result of the sharing of pan masala, leading to more meaningful interactions and even friendships – as mentioned before ‘khatirdari,’ or hospitality and a warm welcome for visitors.

However, the product was dogged by the spectre of health problems.

The advertisement’s anti-dowry message was the primary reason for its strong recall value. One reason is that in a patriarchal society, the concept of “Baratiyon-ka-swagat,” or as much feared by the “ladki wale” as it is considered a right by the “ladka wallas”. Secondly, the rejection of dowry played a part, when there were as many as five dowry-related fatalities a day in the NCR alone, even though there was an anti-dowry law in effect.

This famous commercial was directed by Prem Krishan along with Sunil Mehta. Ashok Mehta was the director of photography (DOP).

Coincidentally, it was Prem Krishan who was responsible for getting the thespians on board. In those days, actors did not act in advertising films. Prem was closely associated with the film industry as an actor, director, filmmaker etc. Deepak Sharma, the film’s head at Everest had suggested their names especially since Mr Kothari believed that having film stars would add a lot of star value and glamour. Plus it would attract people to watch the film.

The responsibility went to Krishen, especially since his father, the famous actor Prem Nath was close to both the actors. Both the stars agreed to the film because of their close association with Krishen and his father. In fact, they agreed to do it, only because of him.

In the mid-80s, Pan Parag was the single largest brand to advertise on TV.

Shammi Kapoor became synonymous with the brand. Once on his arrival from Hong Kong, along with his brother Raj Kapoor, there was a huge crowd waiting to catch a glimpse. The moment they saw Shammi, they screamed Pan Parag, much to the dismay of Raj, who was incensed. Not only that, the crowd started humming the jingle.

Raj rebuked Shammi saying, “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? With all the years of contribution to the film industry including Junglee, Teesri Manzil, Professor and Dil Deke Dekho, is that finished? People will remember you by Pan Parag?”

It is said that after this commercial with two great actors, many other actors decided to act in advertising films and in a way opened the doors.

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