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Absolut screen magic

Top brands want to keep some Bollywood magic for themselves



Richa Pallod and Anupam Shyam star in Mulit — Photos: Murali Kumar K.

WHO NEEDS Dawood and Chhota Rajan anymore? Mega brands are stepping into pour huge money into films and play financier. Subhash Ghai made product selling in Bollywood famous when he roped in Pass Pass, Hero Cycles and Coke. Film costumes have sold under the Pantaloon banner, toys so prominently displayed on a heroine's bed have been retailed by Hallmark and producers tie up with mobile phone producers to popularise their films through MMS and downloadable ring tones.

Using tinsel town

Cashing in on Bollywood's stranglehold over Indian audiences is top-end vodka brand Absolut. After three films, they are now screening their first film with an all-Indian cast — Mulit, directed by Czech director Ivan Zacharias and starring Raja Vaid, Richa Pallod, Vijay Raaz and Anupam Shyam. Envisioned as a tribute to Bollywood, the film is an over-the-top telling of a bizarre story. The prime minister's (Anupam Shyam) daughter (Richa Pallod) falls in love with her hairdresser (Vaid), much to her father's chagrin.

Song and dance sequences, in true Bollywood-style choreographed by Saroj Khan, run riot through the film. Richa Pallod reveals that despite seven years in Bollywood, films in four languages, and having learnt Kathak for 12 years, she underwent five auditions before she landed the role. Shot in Mumbai and Jaipur, this 12-minute film has been screened sparsely; in India the Bangalore screening is only the third stop.

Four new flavours

The screening coincides with the launch of four new labels from the Absolut brand: Peppar, Kurant, Mandrin and Citron. Launch parties centre around the screening of the film. And the film centres around the bottle. As with the ads, Absolut retains the habit of keeping the physical shape of the bottle central to all their advertising. The bottle is a leitmotif through the film: as a pendant, as a tikka and so on.

Using the film to promote the brand makes launch events refreshingly different from the usual fashion show promotions, say Absolut representatives. Although the reach of the films has so far been restricted to festivals and special events, this premium brand is looking to create a value-add product rather than a popular hit; perhaps attempting a cult following around the brand — as other brands have merchandise and accessories, Absolut will have films. The films aren't any cheap ad films. Earlier directors have included Tarsem Singh and Spike Lee, and Mulit too is looking to be regarded as a serious entry on festival circuits.

Southern siren



Richa Pallod: `I love shooting in Bangalore.'

STARRING IN Mulit is Richa Pallod. In case you're thinking "Richa... who?" Pallod was the child star who debuted with Pardes. She took a long break to "enjoy her childhood" and got back to films and modelling when she was 16. Her first film, the Telugu Nuvve Kavali won her a Filmfare award. "I was so surprised... I asked my producers, `Are you sure?' But I guess the biggest challenge is to be yourself," she says.

Abrupt end

Soon she did Shahjahan co-starring Kollywood heartthrob Vijay and Kuch Tum Kaho Kuch Ham Kahein with Fardeen Khan. But the ride to box office success ended abruptly and so you wouldn't be blamed if her name doesn't ring an immediate bell.

Richa has been working mostly down south, and her clutch of 13 films includes Hindi, Telugu, Tamil and Kannada films. The film controversy affected the shooting of the two Kannada projects she has on hand as well; including the much-hyped Chappale with Sunil Raoh. "This has affected people's working; even Kannada producers suffered a loss," Richa points out. "But I love shooting in Bangalore," she says. "My schedule is very hectic and I'm never even given time to breathe, but working in Bangalore is the easiest. I have relatives here who I can stay with, so I can eat home food and even if I do have some time off, I can be with someone I know."

Model-actress

Pallod has modelled for ads, music videos and done an English play in Mumbai when she was all of 16. But now she's looking to concentrate on Bollywood. "Being in front of the camera you can play with your eyes," she says, "you can never really do that in theatre."

"I wanted to do advertising or my MBA," she sighs. "But although I tried to divert myself, destiny didn't allow it, and after so many projects I can't think what else I'd be if not an actress!"

HEMANGINI GUPTA

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