Kaatru Veliyidai, Ray-bans, and product placements.

I just came back home after watching Kaatru Veliyidai. I liked it very much. I know some people tend to say that they love the movie just because they don’t want to admit that they exercised bad judgment when deciding to spend money to watch that movie in theatre instead of waiting for the TV channels to telecast it for Deepavali. I am not one of them. I say it as it is. Really! I like this kind of cheesy, crazy kind of love where you find yourself in a dilemma as well. I mean I liked Punch-Drunk Love(2002). So it’s as bad as it gets.  Perhaps, I liked how messed up the story was because that’s how real-life romance is. We, humans, are complicated creatures. Maybe because I can understand and have seen that kind of dilemma that Leela is in, I could better appreciate the movie? I don’t know. Regardless, I think each movie gives us a fresh new experience and you should watch the movie to experience it yourself. We need to stop expecting to be spoonfed with all the details and explanations. They need to make us think like how most English movies do. They need to make us discover something new each time we watch that movie. They need to keep us curious(see what I did there? Haha)! This is not supposed to be a proper review; this is just some thoughts after watching the movie. Trying to see why I liked this movie which people find so hard to comprehend. Update: I think this article by Pavitra Selvam does an excellent job summing this movie up. You should give it a read! Oh btw, Ray-bans play an important role. Kind of like the role toothpicks played in Anjaan(2014). Great lead into what I am about to write about. Generally, when a product is featured in a movie with a visible brand name, there’s a chance that it’s a paid “advertisement” called product placements(aka embedded marketing). I am really not sure if that’s the case for this movie. Nevertheless, I think it would be interesting to talk about it. It’s actually a very subtle form of advertising. They do not talk about the product attributes of the sunglasses. Neither do they talk about why you should buy those sunglasses. Instead, they just have Karthi wear it in almost the entire movie. It also took a lot of screen space in some important scenes. So what if Karthi is wearing those Ray-bans? You already think that Karthi is a cool dude, smooth with girls and well-liked by his superior and is even able to joke with him. (He has his issues but let’s not go there now.) Then you notice that Karthi is wearing those Ray-bans. What marketers hope to achieve is that you see Karthi as someone that you want to be. Next, they want you to see that Karthi is all that because of his sunglasses. In marketing, they usually come up with a persona of their target customer and list down their needs which would include being cool and smooth with girls and they personify the product to have those attributes. Then by showing it visually, you’re manipulated into wanting those sunglasses for you see it as a symbol of coolness. Does this all sound like bullshit to you? Maybe you should read this. No one’s denying that there’s a legitimate reason for him to wear them but to show the brand in so many instances is what makes it more like a product placement. Trust me, this is not the first movie to do this. They have been doing this for a while and it makes its appearance more in songs. Perhaps, even Jithu Jiladi could be that. The lyrics say colouru kannadi(coloured glasses) and in the song, even before Vijay makes it appearance, the first thing they show is a Ray-ban. But that’s a bad product placement because I think the way the song is and the way the glasses are shown, it might probably only encourage kids to buy Ray-bans. Maybe that’s just it. There are product offerings for kids and this could be part of their product campaign. There are some older songs with product placements too.

Shakalaka baby in Mudhalvan(1999) is a good example. The lyrics explicitly romanticised the idea of drinking Coca Cola with the partner with two straws. It seems funny and unromantic now but I think back then many would have actually done that. That’s the power of Tamil movies and actually media in general. They play a huge part in shaping perceptions and even values. I am not sure if movies before Mudhalvan had such product placements. But to make sense of things, India’s trade liberalisation was initiated in 1991 and these corporate giants would have started to enter India after that. I wish I could say that I knew this because of my general knowledge but no I actually wrote a paper on Trade Liberalisation in India for one of my modules in NUS and that’s why I know this. Haha! I am not saying that only Multinational companies(MNCs) engage in product/brand placements. That’s not true. However, I think they are the ones who were actively engaging in it and big local companies would have followed them later. This is likely to have changed the way movies make money.

Another song which had too many brands and product placements is “Why this Kolaveri di” from Moonu(2012).

Before you read on, maybe you should watch the video and try to guess how many brand/product placements are there in this video. You can actually see brand placements of Vasanth&Co, AirAsia.com, Aircel, Lawman Pg3, Lalithaa Jewellery. That’s 5. The shirts worn by the dancers in the song are of the Lawman Pg3 brand. Did you see that? Also, the longest product placement was the Audi car which Dhanush and Shruti Hasan were awkwardly lying on. I have never seen anyone do that in real life. Have you? I mean I have seen people sit on the front of the car. But put their face on the car so that they can have a closeup of the logo was funny, to say the least. Surely their backs would have hurt while doing that awkward position. Songs from I(2015) like Ladio and Aila had many brand and product placements but the entire movie was revolving around ad models so that’s understandable. But why did they overkill in this song? Why this kolaveri? Well, this song was named one of the world’s top songs in 2011. Hence, I think all these brands would have jumped at the movie’s director(Aishwarya Dhanush) asking to be featured in this international hit. Or it could have been the other way round where they decided to capitalise on the song by approaching them and asking if they want to be featured in the song. Actually, does that even matter? I actually expected this song to be very fun and interesting but I just found it plain boring and cluttered. I think they should have reduced the number of brands and products featured in this song. It didn’t have the kind of impact that product placements usually have. Oh well.

Another recent song is Senthoora- I like this song for the singer’s voice and the beautiful lyrics. Thamarai(the lyricist) is awesome! Being a woman, I think she brings out the female perspective very well. Did you know that the lyrics for “Injerungo Injerungo” from Thenali(2000) was also written by her? I just found that out today. Did you see the two product placements? First, a Fair and Handsome tube and a box. Second, two rings in a Lalithaa Jewellery box. The message is that if you want a girl like Hansika, you need to be a man like Jeyam Ravi. How does Jeyam Ravi achieve that? By using Fair and Handsome of course. Sigh. The second message is that every beautiful marriage betweeen two beautiful people would be made perfect with rings from Lalithaa Jewellery. While I can see through this, not many people can. They usually fall for it.

Anyway, so what if songs have such product/brand placements? As long as it does not affect the aesthetics of the song, it should be fine? The thing is that these advertising makes us aware of our needs or sometimes creates wants that we did not have in the first place. I think this quote from Fight Club(1999) says very well the problem with advertisements. I read the book by Chuck Palahniuk before watching the movie. You should give it a read too. You would definitely be mind-blown! Even if you don’t read the book itself, you should read some good quotes from it.

“Man, I see in fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

“The things you own end up owning you. It’s only after you lose everything that you’re free to do anything.”

Such advertisements either manipulate us into believing that if we use a particular product, our love/belonging and esteem needs under the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs would be satisfied. They make profits on our insecurities. They make money by making us feel inadequate. It’s just quite sad that some people don’t see this as an issue. Everyone’s just constantly running after brands after brands, products after products to satisfy their higher level needs. They use these products to seek external validation. Most people are wasting money on brand labels rather than experiences, and are losing themselves while at it. It’s a constant chase for materialistic things or a significant amount of insignificant things. That’s it! You should read more on Book of life.

It’ not too late. Be more skeptical about what you see on TV and movies. Stop overly idolising celebrities and imitating them. Don’t fall for it. Live freely. Don’t burden yourself down with all that products. Be minimalist. Stop chasing for status. You don’t have to show your personality or attitude using things that you own. You are more than that. I should stop the preaching now.

Wait, one last bit from Fight Club again.

“This is your life and its ending one moment at a time.”

Stop scrolling through that online catalogue of products. They are not going to complete you. DO SOMETHING WITH YOUR LIFE! IT’S ENDING ONE MOMENT AT A TIME. I should go do something significant too. But before that, I should go study for my tests tomorrow and the day after. Sigh.

Thank you for reading and stay curious!

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