August 13, 2016 12:50:35 am
Title: Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles: India Through 50 Years of Advertising
Author: Ambi Parameswaran
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
Price: Rs 599
My instinct with most advertisements, when I’m not clicking the “Skip Ad” button on YouTube, is to dissect and disembowel them. As far as I can tell, there’s no cold drink or mobile service or washing bar that can make us happier, and that’s the truth. Which is why, perhaps, Nawabs, Nudes, Noodles: India Through 50 Years of Advertising came as a bit of a surprise. Written by ad industry veteran Ambi Parameswaran, the book is packed tight with factoids and trivia, most of which are fascinating, and will force even the most cynical to hold their misgivings in check and go back in time to look at how advertisements have shown us who we truly are, with the occasional, well-meaning foray into showing us who we can become.
The hook that reels one in is the undeniable element of nostalgia, as the book harks back to iconic ad campaigns of Complan and Rasna, and lines like “Mummy, bhook lagi” (Maggi), which immediately conjure up the aroma and taste of certain favourite after-school snacks. This may be why, despite being dense with information, the book is a fast, undemanding read.
Rather than do a straight history of advertising in India, Parameswaran has wisely chosen to break it up into four sections: People, Products, Services, Ad Narratives. This gives the author the scope to explore a specific theme in advertising across mediums and years. For example, in the chapter titled ‘Jo Biwi Se Kare Pyaar…’, he examines how spousal relationships have been depicted over the years, while in ‘Meri Khubsurti Ka Raaz’, he looks at how, despite a relatively late start, celebrity endorsements grew deep roots.
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Some of the information he offers is truly insightful. For example, not many outside the related industries know that the Indian trait of relying on home remedies has made it uncommonly difficult for pharmaceutical companies to sell orally ingestible OTC medicines. Or that even with topical applications like pain balms, companies switched to “ayurvedic labelling”, when camphor was sold as karpoor and menthol became pudine ka phool, in an effort to appeal to the Indian consumer’s innate trust in Ayurveda.
However, one can’t help but wish that Parameswaran had pursued certain ideas all the way to their logical conclusion. For example, he writes evocatively about some of the most memorable tunes used in Indian advertising, from Doodh Doodh Doodh Doodh to Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor which became known as Titan music. But he stops short of exploring why the jingle, except for a few notable exceptions, has stopped being an important part of advertising.
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