eering down billboards all over the country for over the last four decades is the Amul girl in a polka dotted frock with a matching bow in her hair. A brainchild of Sylvester DaCunha, she is perhaps second in popularity only to the Air India’s mascot Maharaja created by Bobby Kooka. Like him, no subject is taboo to her, no individual beyond her jibes.
The moppet made her first appearance in 1966 – long, long before I saw the first billboard. I think it was in the Readers’ Digest that I saw the first ad featuring her – at prayer, genuflecting, with one eye closed and another on the pack of butter with the words, ‘Give us this day our daily bread with Amul Butter.’ There has been no looking back.
There was this lovable sign-off line – ‘Utterly Butterly delicious’. Purists frowned. ‘Butterly’ is not grammatically correct, they cried. But, by then, the tagline had become so hugely popular that a solescism on the part of the impish and lovable mascot was not considered a serious transgression. It was perhaps a sign of things to come – she could get away with blue murder as long as she could tickle your ribs.
No mean achievement this, if you recall that this is a country where a sixty year-old cartoon reproduced in a textbook can spark off a political crisis and a professor distributing cartoons lampooning the Chief Minister is sent to the cooler, making us wonder what we are coming to.
There is no sphere that the tongue-in-cheek humour has not touched – be it cinema,
Like, at the dawn of the millennium, when the wired world feared a collapse, Amul girl interpreted the Y2K phenomenon as 'Yes to Khana'. The first escalator in Mumbai in 1979 was celebrated with a slogan 'Automatically Amul'. In the early '90s, when Coca-cola was getting popular after its re-entry, she twisted their slogan ‘The Real Thing’ to 'Eat the Real Thing'.
‘Indian Airlines Won’t Fly Without Amul’, the national carrier was not amused. It threatened to cancel all orders unless the hoarding was taken off.
Congress was heckled when she wore a Gandhi cap. The plea the High Command took was that the Gandhi cap was a symbol of independence and one could not take that lightly.
Not everyone was that stern. Known for flaunting his obsession with Madhuri Dixit, the bare-footed artist liked the ad ‘Heroine addiction’ featuring him so much that he requested for a blow-up to be put up in ‘Gufa’, his art gallery in Ahmedabad, designed him and famed architect B V Doshi.
It is not as if she is always seen in the polka-dotted frock. In an ad in the late 60’s, she was seen wearing a white apron in the 'Taste Tube baby' ad, referring to the developments in medical science. When the Bollywood blockbuster Khalnayak's 'choli ke peechhe kya hai' song created ripples in 1993, she dropped her frock and appeared in ghagra to sing, 'Roti Keniche Kya Hai? Amul, Asalnayak'!
There were times when Amul hit below the belt. Like, it ran the ‘Cadbura’ campaign when worms were reportedly found in Cadbury’s chocolates.
The best way to sign off this post, I guess, is by stringing together a mosaic of a few great Amul hoardings of the past.