Stars of MP Tourism's ad that's wowing social media are Mumbai boys

The stars of MP Tourism’s new ad that’s wowing social media -- 41 3D-printed wind-up toys -- are all Mumbai boys

Our first thought when we see the dolls in Madhya Pradesh Tourism’s latest ad film is an obvious one. How can we get one? One of those ADHD monkeys perhaps, and the women dolled up in Chanderi or the bobbing-heads monk-set?

(L-R) Dharam Valia, Vijay Sawant and Vipul Indulkar with Madhya Pradesh Tourism ad’s toy-cast. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
(L-R) Dharam Valia, Vijay Sawant and Vipul Indulkar with Madhya Pradesh Tourism ad’s toy-cast. Pics/Sneha Kharabe

Vipul Indulkar raises our hopes. “There is some talk of MP Tourism developing these dolls into their merchandise. Perhaps then,” he says, as he carefully unwraps the rest of the toy-cast. Indulkar is part of the team at Vile Parle-based production house Hungry Films, which was commissioned by the MP department of tourism and advertising giant Ogilvy and Mather for the ad. Indulkar has been fending off similar queries since the ad aired on national television last week, and Hungry films shared it on social media.

Prototype sketches and the final tiger
Prototype sketches and the final tiger

On June 15, MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan unveiled the new tourism ad, which, instead of featuring scenic locales and picturesque sweeps of landscapes, made do with 41 toys tottering to a jingle that starts with “MP mein dil hue bache sa” (In MP, your heart becomes childlike). It takes on the state’s tourism tagline — the heart of Incredible India — and features eight major tourism spots, Orchha and Bhedaghat among them. To deviate from the set norm of tourism ads has been a hallmark of MP, which has formerly used hand-shadow puppets and darting eyes (yes, just eyes) for its ads.

Representative of MP’s national parks
Representative of MP’s national parks

“It started with Azazul Haque and Mahesh Gharat from O&M telling us the first line to the song and the idea that we will use toys in the ad,” says Vijay Sawant, director. Seated across a contemporary handcrafted table (made of a log sourced from Byculla market) and under a lighting fixture — both designed by him — Sawant takes his work as seriously as his coffee. “Poured over, slow filter, hot decoction,” says the JJ School of Art graduate. It is no surprise that the 60-second-long film has
been six months in the making; that Sawant, instead of sourcing the toys, went on to design them from scratch.

“We didn’t want to use plastic toys; that wouldn’t translate into the feeling of nostalgia we were trying to recreate. That would have been fake.” Six months ago, he set out to design each toy, right from the tiger to represent Kanha National Park to the gourmand (whose shirt buttons just won’t fit) for Sarafa Bazaar. These designs, some broken down into parts, were then taken to 3D-printing specialists at Imaginarium. “For most of these toys, we had to do trial prints multiple times, each lasting up to 48-72 hours, to get their functioning right,” says Sawant. 3D-printed out of polyamide powder but resembling tin (the material used to fashion stationery-boxes and toys for pre-millennial kids), the parts were assembled.

“3D printing and wind-up toys — it was a meeting of two different times. Nostalgia and new-age technology come together in these,” says Sawant.

Explaining the process, Dharam Valia, ad producer at Hungry Films, says that the MP tourism toys “belong to one family but are of two kinds — those that move with wind-up and gravity, and those that have a little computer chip inside them to help them along.” We’ll leave you to watch multiple runs of the ad to figure which one’s which.

Now, after all that work, there’s a bratty little Mowgli, who makes a repeat appearance in MP’s tourism ads, who climbs down a snake to the chatpata voice of 12-year-old singer Rashi Harmalkar. Valia leaves us guesstimating the budget for the film, but says that each 3D print cost them Rs 3,000. Sawant calls it a passion-project; in the last six months, this is all they have done. Additional expenses have been incurred on a trip to Bucharest, where these toys were filmed, for want of a steady, state-of-the-art motion-controlled arm.

With the help of about 15 artists, which included JJ School students, the toys now bear little details, all of which may not be appreciable in the ad. They carry designs, reminiscent of the markings that Gond art, the indigenous art form from MP, is famous for. There is also a 14-ft-by-8-ft map, embedded with wildlife and Gond designs, on which the toys move. What the ad doesn’t have are Khajuraho’s erotic sculptures. Sexy toys — now that would have been a little too much, right?

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