The Innocent Nostalgia of Old Indian Ads

The lockdown has become a bit stale – the initial excitement of more screen time and no commute to work has faded. Now, for me, it’s about a lot of dog and cat videos to take my mind of the endless stream of bad news that filters into our lives each day.

Along with that, it’s about watching snippets of old shows like Friends, Big Bang Theory – and interestingly, old Indian advertisements, which are a minefield of memories and emotions.

Here’s a list of few that stand out for me.

Mile Sur Mera Tumhara, Hamara BAJAJ and Ek Anek Ekta

These were magnificent campaigns that give me goosebumps even today. The message was simple – we are diverse, rich but are part of one nation. The song ‘mile sure mera tumhara’ celebrates this rich cultural heritage, the various masters of their crafts and the faces of ordinary Indians.

It reminds me of a more innocent time when religion and community didn’t divide us, but brought us together. Maybe nostalgia makes you look at things in a different light or maybe it was a different time back then. I really don’t know.

However, we do live in a more politically divisive society and I miss those days when believing in the notion of an inclusive India was what it meant to be patriotic.

Onida: ‘Neighbour’s envy. Owner’s pride.’

I remember seeing this ad for the first time when my parents and I would go to my Bua’s house to watch Mahabharat and Ramayan. We didn’t have a TV back then and visiting Bua’s house was a weekly event I eagerly looked forward to.

This ad made quite an impact back then with a devil selling a television. More than that, there was an element of seeking pleasure out of someone’s negative emotion, as was evident with its tagline: ‘neighbour’s envy, owner’s pride’. While you’d find this tagline at the centre of most prime time television debates, it was not something you would speak of – even in your drawing rooms – back then. It wasn’t polite.

A few years later, we ended up buying an Onida TV – our first television set and I was so excited about it. We too jumped on the bandwagon, clearly trying our best to keep up with the neighbours.

We too were not so polite after all.

Jalebi ad Dhara Cooking Oil

For every 80s kid, the line, “mummy ne garma garam jalebi banayi hai” is enough to throw you back in those days. In the ad, a young boy forgets his anger when he thinks of his mother’s cooking. This notion stayed with our generation. Your mother might not be the world’s best cook, but her cooking will always make you feel comforted and loved. No wonder this ad has aged well.

VIP Frenchie Macho Man Ad

A man jumps off of the balcony in his bathrobe flashing his VIP Frenchie to save a damsel in distress. The helpless woman, in a short red dress, is thus saved from the gel haired villain.

This is my first memory of a ‘sexy’ ad. Although the ad intended to appeal to men, it backfired because some say that women were buying it more than men – as they couldn’t imagine men wearing something like that.

Eveready’s Give Me Red

This ad was the talk of my class when it came out. It was stylish and had sex appeal (before one actually fully understood what the term meant). We know that it was a battery ad but, for us, the passion shown on screen meant something more than that.

To us, it connoted something illicit, without actually giving away what it was. This made it exciting and thrilling. I think that no child today would look at this ad the way we did and would maybe even see it as corny or goofy. It shows how much things have changed.

Amul Doodh Hai Wonderful

There was a time when I was obsessively trying to learn the lyrics of every song on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill album including ‘Hand in My Pocket’. A time when I was trying to (and failing to) rap the lyrics of the remix version of ‘Roop Tera Mastana’. A time when every school class party had us dancing to ‘Gur Naal Ishq Mitha‘.

At this time, came out the very simple and melodious Amul ad: “Doodh doodh doodh doodh. Doodh hai wonderful. Pi sakte ho roz a glassful”.

Looking back, I don’t remember if it made me love milk any more, but it certainly made me dance a bit and sing along every time it came on television. It’s been more than 20 years to this ad, and I still remember every word of it. A testament to great craft.

Cadbury Dairy Milk and Cricket

It was the early 90s – a time when you interacted with boys, but kept a ‘safe’ distance. You walked around being conscious of the male gaze in public spaces. So you certainly couldn’t dance with abandonment in a stadium full of people, celebrating your boyfriend’s victory shot.

One chocolate bite breaks the spell and the woman in the Cadbury ad starts dancing without caring what people thought. This, back then, meant a lot for a girl growing up, who was constantly told to behave ‘properly’ at school. This ad, in its own small way, created another notion/space for how a young girl could behave in public. The iconic ad spoke to me in a personal manner.

Going through these ads not only makes you aware of how much you have changed on a personal level, but also how much India has changed. Today’s ads speak to different sensibilities and value systems. The journey from yesterday to today makes me appreciate all the battles we have won, the comforts we have gained.

Is it just me, who thinks we have also lost something in the way? Or, maybe nostalgia clouds my memory.

Ritika Goswami is an experienced marketing professional, who works across brands and categories.

Featured image credit: YouTube/Edit: LiveWire