“Mauka,” which means “opportunity” in English, and transformed it into a tune that pays tribute to both the victorious and the defeated.
The 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup was just under a year away. And Star Sports wanted to make a big splash about it since it had the contract to showcase it.
The internal creative team at Star TV, under the direction of ardent cricket fan Mustafa Rangwala, worked on a creative idea for the World Cup around June 2014. The idea and plan were to create a second Indian team to represent India at the World Cup. This second team was to be a fan squad travelling along with the Indian team, cheerleading as well as taking fans on a journey behind the scenes. (While the BCCI team would play on the field, this fan squad would play off the field, becoming cheerleaders to a billion-plus nation.)
MS Dhoni was a brand ambassador for Star Sports, and he was brought in as the face for this campaign too. TV commercials had been shot with MSD, and the programme was all set to be launched until…
The idea was presented to the bigwigs at Star, but due to various issues like logistics, the idea was shot down, even though a lot of effort and plans had gone into it.
Multiple campaigns were presented thereafter until, in January 2015, the Star head honchos decided that, after a lot of discussions, there would be a multi-agency pitch. Lowe Lintas won the mandate and executed the “wontgiveitback campaign”.
As the World Cup came closer, various executions of the “won’t give it back” campaign were being rolled out in a high-decibel media plan, and at the same time, Star India also wanted to highlight the India vs. Pakistan match which was to be India’s first game in the 2015 Cricket World Cup. It’s the thing that brings the nation together the most, regardless of age, gender, or interest in sports. They sought an initiative that would go viral throughout the country while remaining a subset of the bigger #wontgiveitback campaign.
India’s victories over Pakistan in the World Cup served as inspiration for the effort. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of commercials during an Indo-Pak fight, so standing out was crucial. The directive was very clear: Make the India vs. Pakistan match the biggest sporting event in the broadcast world.
Mustafa had already pitched an idea for this game way back in October 2014. The gatekeepers of the brand or the marketing division had a variety of objections and discomforts with a script like this that will only appeal to die-hard fans; not everyone is familiar with the statistics; our young audiences are unaware of what occurred in 1992, and so on. This kind of thinking, which discounts the fan’s knowledge and ability to recall the past, has derailed many good ideas in the sports marketing world.
But Mustafa was convinced he was onto something big. Desperation set in, and he narrated the script to whoever was possible—from the accountant to the liftman to the driver.
There was a buzz about his script, and the buzz reached Nitin Kukreja, then CEO of Star Sports, and Gayatri Yadav, Head of Marketing, Star India.
On January 31, 2015, they called him in the evening. All he had was an elevator pitch (sans the elevator) in a corridor of the Star office. All of 2 minutes!
Mustafa narrated the script, and midway through, Nitin stopped him and said, go ahead. It had to go on air in exactly 7 days.
For those of you who know filmmaking, that was next to impossible! On-air in 7 days meant the whole production had to be completed in 5 days. A combination of passion, conviction, desperation, and hope made Mustafa say yes! Some may say stupidity or hara kiri!
Bubblewrap Films had worked on some projects for Star earlier. And somehow Mustafa felt that Bubblewrap’s team would be best suited for handling such a project. So on the same evening of the 31st, at around 9 p.m., Mustafa called Bubblewrap, especially Suresh Triveni, and Ketaki and briefed them about the project. Suresh said he would think about the various aspects and come back to Mustafa the next morning.
Around midnight, though, more towards 1 a.m., Suresh called Mustafa. He had figured out that the music was going to be a very integral part of the narrative and he decided that it would be a Sufi qawwali with serious lyrics, basically about ‘yearning to see a loved one.’
Mustafa remembers that this was when the whole Star & Bubblewrap team went together behind him. Ketaki from Bubblewrap gave a very reasonable cost. The marketing folks told Mustafa that they would handle all the budgetary approvals so that he could focus on the production.
Suresh and the team started work. Vikas Dubey, a Star lyricist, was entrusted with the lyrics for the jingle, which were to be written in a serious tone. After a few writes and rewrites, Suresh got what he wanted from Vikas.
The phrase “Mauka Mauka” was Suresh’s idea, and these words lent a whole new dimension to the lyrics.
In parallel, Vinayak Salvi and Rohan Utpat, two independent music directors who had also worked on the KBC and ‘Indian Idol promotions, were entrusted with the task of providing the music. Suresh locked them up in a room and told them they could only step out once they gave him the jingle he liked. By the next morning, they had a rough track.
Salvi and Utpat scoured the cities for a voice that could do justice to both Alaap and Sufi music. Alamgir Khan, a native of Chandigarh, was selected as the vocalist, and the three of them began improvising to come up with the song.
Suresh finished the casting and put his production team in place. The shoot happened on the 4th/ 5th Day.
But there was a drastic change made to the script and casting in the evening before the shot. Mustafa had planned to start with a kid and show him growing into a man who had reached 30 years (the whole time taken for all the World Cups across the years). The cast needed to have a kid and a man. Suresh felt that it had to be one person only, starting at 18/19 and growing older. Mustafa agreed.
The production was wrapped up. On the night of February 7, the team at Star decided to first upload the commercial on the Facebook page out of necessity (Instagram was not that popular then). Not a Rupee was to be spent to market it on Facebook. They did not know that life was going to become hectic.
On February 8th, all hell broke loose—there were more than a million views, but more than that, there were 150000 shares!
It capitalised on the interest of its audience. In addition to being factual, amusing, and inspiring a feeling of pride without being unpleasant to the opponents, the notion was also on a human level.
There was a Mauka to extend the concept.
Then came the South Africa match. India had never beaten South Africa in the World Cup. So this time, Mustafa and Suresh decided that we would make fun of ourselves. Nitin and Gayatri agreed. They could recognize a good idea when they heard it.
And then every week, a new match and a new mauka of an idea. A match would get over on a Sunday, get a new idea for the next match on Monday, Tuesday was for approval, prep on Wednesday, shoot on Thursday, edit on Friday, and upload on Saturday. Super hectic times!
Then came another problem. Before the India-West Indies match, warning bells were sounded that the budgets were exhausted. But the whole Star team was in this together. Rohit Khanna got Yepme to do a product placement in the commercial, and lo and behold, the brand gave the budget to produce the film.
Finally, the Mauka man arrived in India and visited the Star Studio. The shoot was to be done on Suresh’s birthday. Celebrations started the night prior. The Star Creative and Bubblewrap teams partied till the early hours of the next day. In the morning, Mustafa, due to the combination of many sleepless nights and the after-effects of the party, slept through even through the multiple calls of Suresh, who had gone home, showered, and got back to work.
The teams decided to end the Mauka series with Apple Singh (Sanjay Mishra) to tie in the earlier campaign with him. This was at the semi-final stage.