This current contemplation on brands
and their on-screen associations was sparked by a recent news report on how Apple does not allow bad characters in films to use its iPhone. Rian Johnson, the writer and director of the whodunit Knives Out (2019), recently revealed this in an interview to Vanity Fair. In the film, starring Daniel “James Bond” Craig, characters who are suspects are seen carrying the phone. “Apple, they let you use iPhones in movies, but, and this is very pivotal, if you’re ever watching a mystery movie, bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera,” Johnson said. “Every single filmmaker who has a bad guy in their movie that’s supposed to be a secret wants to murder me right now.” Of course, next time you are watching a mystery, you might want to eliminate suspects by checking out who is carrying the iconic device.
Brand associations of this nature can have an everlasting effect. For instance, the Aston Martin, which every James Bond — from Sean Connery to Craig — has driven. The car made its debut as 007’s favoured mode of road transport in Goldfinger (1964) and will be seen in the 25th Bond film, No Time to Die. The source of this are the novels written by Ian Fleming, where he let the super spy drive this particular brand. My favourite Bond car has to be the invisible one — described as “the ultimate in British engineering” — that Pierce Brosnan drove around in Die Another Day (2002).
As VAT 69 ceased to be the preferred drink of Bollywood villains thanks to Liberalisation, Coca-Cola made a re-entry into the country and into the hearts of Bollywood aficionados. A brief detour: In his last film, Agantuk (1991), Satyajit Ray, who had begun his professional career as an ad man, acknowledged the growing popularity of soft drinks with a brief exchange of dialogues on Thums Up. Manomohan Mitra (Utpal Dutt), the stranger of the title, is offered a glass of the drink on arrival at the home of his niece Anila (Mamata Shankar). “A replacement for Coke, is it?” he asks, adding to his grandnephew: “I hope you don’t spell thumb like this.”
Film director Subhash Ghai seems to have a close relationship with Coca-Cola: The popular drink served purposes of the plot in his films Taal (1999) and Yaadein (2001). (During the #MeToo Movement, which swept through Bollywood in 2018, Ghai was accused — anonymously — of spiking the drink of a woman and raping her; he has categorically denied the charge.) In the early years of this century, barely 10 years after liberalisation, drinking Coke was still cool; now, more health-conscious consumers are reluctant to have a carbonated soft drink.
Its popularity in Hindi cinema, however, remains undiminished: The 2019 Kartik Aaryan and Kriti Sanon starrer Luka Chuppi even had a popular Coca-Cola song. The fate of the film at the box office though reflected the diminishing popularity of soft drinks in the country.
The writer’s novel, Ritual, was published earlier this month
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