If you have been watching a lot of television lately, you must have come across the new set of Vodafone commercials featuring an elderly couple doing all sorts of cool things like parasailing, dancing on a boat and getting a tattoo. Six Vodafone SuperNet 4G ads featuring the couple are out and they have won the hearts of millions with their zest for life. Asha and Bala are actually a real-life septuagenarian couple, Shanta Dhananjayan and V.P. Dhananjayan, from Chennai.
Shanta, 73, and V.P. Dhananjayan, 78, are Bharatanatyam dancers and Padma Bhushan awardees who teach dance in Chennai. This isn’t their first advertisement. They have appeared in ads for Nerolac Paints and Kumaran Silks. How did this seemingly traditional couple land a cool Vodafone ad? “Nirvana Films (production house) approached us to do this campaign. When I heard that Prakash Varma is directing the Vodafone ads, which are written by Ogilvy, we ventured into it,” Dhanajayan told afaqs.
“They wanted a real-life couple, not a pair of actors. And for us, the decision was easy. We finally had a reason to take our long-awaited Goa trip,” Dhananjayan tells The Hindu. That explains how natural and comfortable they looked on screen.
“I don’t know how to ride a scooter. I had a tutor but that didn’t work very well. Then, we came across a person who resembles me closely. He came to our rescue – a real God-sent”, said Dhananjayan about their scooter ad.
Shanta, however, had no body double for her parasailing video. Moments like, “How do I come down?” are people’s favourite moments from the 30-second ads. “People wait for those moments to come,” says Shanta with a laugh.
Did the dancing on the boat come naturally to these trained dancers? “That was quite challenging because though we are dancers, this was a different take completely. I enjoyed it. Every moment was so enjoyable and the whole unit was so engrossed in everything that was happening there. It was very hot and uncomfortable at times and we were sweating it out, but all that was worth it,” says Shanta.
With these ads playing continuously on television and hoardings featuring the couple, the Dhananjayans have attained celebrity status. They tell afaqs that people have started recognising them on the streets now and they are getting calls and emails from all over the world with people telling them how cute and natural they are.
Will we see this star couple in a few more ads or even a film? “If it’s an award-winning role that I like, maybe!” says Dhananjayan. A movie featuring this couple? Sounds like a sure-fire blockbuster.