Creating a comic persona is serious business for Boman.
One of the gurus of American advertising, Claude C Hopkins, had once said “People don’t buy from clowns.” He was staunchly opposed to the use of humour in advertising – but that was way back in 1923… a long time ago. Things have changed a lot since then. The media scene has changed. The competitive environment has changed. Audiences have changed. And humour is now a highly effective marketing tool. Brands like Swiggy, Flipkart, Mentos, Maggi and Make My Trip have made humour an integral part of their brand communication strategy.
It’s also an added advantage when the endorser of the brand has a natural flair for comedy – someone like Boman Irani, for instance. He is known for his versatility, his ability to wear many faces and his brilliant comic timing.
Creating a comic persona is serious business for Boman. He divides this process into two parts which he calls the “Externals” and the “Internals”. He begins by reading the script several times to soak in the essence of the character. He then begins creating the physical aspects of the character – these are the Externals.
For the highly memorable role of Professor Viru Sahastrabudhhe in 3 Idiots, he started with the face: the exaggerated hairdo, the sparse scrappy moustache, and the arrogant sneer which – interestingly – was created by wearing a prosthetic gum under his upper lip. The next eternal element was the costume: the baggy trousers pulled up to his belly, the staid ties and the clunky shoes. And finally, he developed
the behavioural aspects and mannerisms: the scowl, the swaggering walk and the lisp.
Boman says that once the externals are established, the internals fall in place effortlessly. He believes that even in the ad films he does, comedy can play a vital role in driving recall and engagement. Comedy helps in making people connect with the brand message in ways that straight-line messaging cannot achieve. That’s why Boman views comedy as an important marketing tool.
In the latest campaign for P Mark Mustard Oil, Boman extensively leverages his natural flair for comedy by creating as many as three zany characters: a boxing coach, a chef and a translator. The development of each character went through Boman’s tried and tested process for developing the externals, resulting in some really offbeat personalities. Acutely aware that the tight duration of a television commercial does not leave much room for dialogues and punch lines, Boman use his skills in physical comedy – without resorting to cheap slapstick tactics.
Vivek Puri, the Managing Director of Puri Oil Mills Limited (the manufacturers of P Mark Mustard Oil) points out: “In many of his most memorable roles, Boman Irani has always excelled in making audiences laugh. For our ad films we decided to go the comedy route, letting Boman do what he does best. We believe that laughter and happiness create a receptive audience and this – in turn – enhances the way people respond to and recall our ads. We are overwhelmed by the way audiences have responded to this campaign: they loved the ads!”
Interestingly, Boman used his process of creating the externals first to bring to life another fascinating character in an earlier campaign for this brand. He conjured up a tabla maestro replete with a quirky wig, a sparkling costume and grandiose mannerisms. He even took several lessons in playing the tabla, just to get the body language and performance style right. People still remember that character. Boman believes it should be a part of an actor’s ethos to always go the extra mile in creating characters. “Comedy is hard work”, he says.