Grand Kerala Shopping Festival is going grand. Selling this festival is one Loknath Sharma and one Major Mahadevan. Do not scratch your heads if the names are not very familiar -- they are characters from a Malayalam film titled Kandahar.
Nothing new about this. Having sponsors, models or "brand ambassadors" selling products and services is common practice. But what makes this one interesting is the fact that it has cleverly undone a policy decision taken by the Kerala government a few months back.
[Old news in brief: The government of Kerala decides to make Amitabh Bachchan the brand ambassador for Kerala tourism; This move faced opposition from within and outside the party as Amitabh was the brand Ambassador for Gujarat; (Mid-Day: CPI-M against making Big B as Kerala tourism brand ambassador, Statesman: Stiff opposition to Amitabh Bachchan as Kerala tourism ambassador) Succumbiong to these pressures the government backtracks on the decision.]
We also got to hear that Big B was not very happy with the whole episode. (Not made Tourism ambassador, Bachchan slams Kerala : Indian Express, 2010 March 25).
That was about nine months back. Now we see the same Amitabh Bachchan disguised as Loknath Sharma and selling another business initiative of the same government. All major newspapers carry colour advertisements on their front page every day, featuring images of Mohanlal and Amitabh Bachchan. Huge hoardings in all big cities of Kerala. The bigger ones have the Government of Kerala symbol of two elephants prominently on them. To make sure we don't mistake the face to be that of Amitabh Bachchan, there is a small script below (smaller than the "Cigarette smoking is injurious to health" in the old cigarette ads) that says: "Major Mahadevan, Kandahar" and "Loknath Sharma, Kandahar". Intelligent.
Those who opposed the earlier move to make Amitabh our brand image appears to have been done in by this trick.
[Images: (i) Ad on the front page of The Hindu, December 25; (ii) A hoarding in Kozhikode city]
[A Malayalam version of this note was carried in Countermedia. The images were removed for some technical reasons.]