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Thursday, October 5, 2023

‘India’s Amulitary Head’

Amul topical’s genteel take on General Bipin Rawat’s inauguration as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff

K. G. Sreenivas

As Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, took over as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff on 1 January 2020 amidst a flurry of controversy, Amul came out with its topical interpretation of the moment.

Gen. Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff.

Briefly cut back to 1966. It was two years after Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, had passed away and the year his daughter Indira Gandhi had taken over as Prime Minister. Sylvester da Cunha, then Managing Director at ASP (Advertising, Sales and Promotion) was asked by the legendary Dr. Verghese Kurien, then Chairman of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF), to come up with something that would endear the Amul brand to every Indian household. da Cunha wanted to replace the then tagline “Purely the Best” with something peppier. With a little help from his wife Nisha, da Cunha came up the since iconic “Utterly Butterly Amul”, a line that has since lasted nearly half a century.

Alongside came the famous Amul girl — the Moppet — illustrated by da Cunha’s Art Director Eustace Fernandez. The mascot had passed into history.

The Amul Moppet

In 1993, da Cunha’s son, Rahul DaCunha, took over the creative charge of da Cunha Communications, which was founded by da Cunha Senior in 1969, and, today, along with co-writer Manish Jhaveri and artist Jayant Rane have churned out hundreds of topicals. They are literally ‘topical’ because it’s a spin on some event — social, political, or cultural — of the preceding or current week creatively interspersed with the key brand message of Amul.

The Amul topical has been, in another sense, a running commentary on the social, political, cultural, and even sporting discourse of the country. An unbroken, humorous, often satirical, take on the events of the day.

Talking to this writer in 2013, Rahul says, “we needed to comment on much more, in fact, decisively. I felt we need to be more edgy, which meant if we were to make a point about politics, then we needed to make that point. What was the Amul take on it? It can’t be a loose, sitting-on-the-fence observation. Now’s that’s cheeky, because then we are suddenly dealing with all kinds of sensitivities. But then we have for 20-odd years flown close to the wind.”

Amul ushering in the New Year.

The topical featured above is a straightforward take on the event of the formation of the office of India’s first Chief of Defence Staff and has chosen to steer clear from the controversy surrounding the comments — unusual for a serving general of the Indian Army — made by Gen. Rawat on the ongoing mass protests against the Narendra Modi government’s proposed National Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Population Register. Yet, riding on the moment it captures the Amul brand salience, although the Amul topical has not in the past shied away from directly taking on issues of the day with that creative edginess it is known for.  


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