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An Ad Icon: The Amul Girl

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Manju Yagnik, Vice-Chairman, Nahar Group

When a cheerful blue-haired little moppet in a red polka-dotted dress showed up on a hoarding, in 1966, little did anyone realise that this cute moppet would become the face of one of India’s most well-known brand and an ad icon, who continues to be loved by generations of Indians, more than fifty years since her debut. Occasionally controversial but always cheeky and topical, the timely one-liners of the Amul girl have become a commentary on the pressing issues of the time. The Amul girl is one of India’s longest running ad campaigns, probably the only ad campaign in the country with an unchanged theme and style since it was first unveiled.

The brains behind the campaign Sylvester daCunha was handpicked by Dr Verghese Kurien and given the responsibility of the brand. Along with Sylvester daCunha, illustrator Eustace Fernandes and Usha Katrak gave life to the Amul girl while the famous slogan ‘Utterly Butterly Delicious’ was coined, in the same year, by Sylvester’s wife, Nisha DaCunha. An early campaign had the Amul girl kneeling in prayer, with one eye closed and another on a pack of butter with the words, ‘Give us this day our daily bread with Amul Butter’ got an immediate positive response from the public. Another topical ad, in March 1966, focussed on horse racing which was popular. The ad had the Amul girl riding a horse, with the word ‘Thoroughbread’.

The Amul girl has commented on everything — from sterilisation during the Emergency, ‘We have always practised compulsory sterilisation,’ says the Amul girl, holding a salver of butter and with a cunning innocence that would have tied up even Indira Gandhi’s censors in knots, to Aamir Khan’s statement on growing intolerance where the Amul girl offered a golden slice and asked him ‘Aal izz hell or aal izz well’?

The Story Of Revolution Through A Bollywood Movie ‘Manthan’

‘Mero Gaam Katha Parey’, as the strains of melody of this popular soundtrack from the national award winning film, Manthan (meaning Churning) plays, one is transported to tha dairy heartland of Gujarat. Directed by Shyam Benegal, the story for Manthan was inspired by the pioneering milk cooperative movement headed by Dr Verghese Kurien. Kurien, who is known as the ‘Father of the White Revolution’ in India.

The film traces the origins of the cooperative movement through its fictionalised narrative, based around rural empowerment. The film follows the journey of a young veterinary surgeon played by Girish Karnad, a character based on the then 33-year-old Kurien who was the chief of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB).  Kurien joined hands with local social worker, Tribhovandas Patel, which led to the setting up of a local milk cooperative, in Anand, Gujarat. The project also demonstrated the power of “collective might” as it was entirely crowdfunded by 500,000 farmers who donated Rs. 2 each.

The title song, ‘Mero Gaam Katha Parey’ was later used as the soundtrack for the television commercial for Amul. The commercial showed clips from the movie that showcased the economic hardships rural women in India faced after independence, which gave rise to a new co-operative called Amul that was formed to help them. Today, Amul has become Asia’s biggest dairy company, which is still owned by these farmers. A line ‘Mare Ghar Jhanjar Laxmi Ke Baje’ (in my house, the bells of wealth ring) was added to the song, as a symbol of the success of Amul.

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Anam Khan

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