0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Backstory: When Karen Lunel launched a thousand Lirils

Mini

A model in a bikini, cavorting under a waterfall wasn’t about a new soap but about an attitude and a worldview. Liril, the soap, went on to become a monstrous hit and Karen Lunel with her electrifying smile swept her way to collective oohs with a heady mix of freshness and sheer energy. The accompanying jingle — 'La, lalala, la, la, la' — became the sound of a new India.

Backstory: When Karen Lunel launched a thousand Lirils
In 1974, Karen Lunel stepped into the Pambar falls in Kodaikanal and became the face that launched a thousand soaps. The vivacious Lunel, an Air India stewardess by profession, was modelling for a lime soap being launched by Hindustan Levers. Liril, the soap, went on to become a monstrous hit and Lunel with her electrifying smile swept her way to collective oohs with a heady mix of freshness and sheer energy. The accompanying jingle — 'La, lalala, la, la, la' — became the sound of a new India where some of the inhibitions of old were being thrown out of the window. A model in a bikini, cavorting under a waterfall wasn’t about a new soap but about an attitude and a worldview.
The ad was the brainchild of Alyque Padamsee under whom Lintas (now Lowe Lintas and Partners) created brilliant campaigns like the Cherry Charlie one for Cherry Blossom shoe polish, the Lalitaji one for Surf and Hamara Bajaj for Bajaj Auto. His inspiration was Tarzan and Jane who in the comics were often shown bathing under a waterfall. But that came later. First Lintas commissioned a consumer survey to figure out what the targeted women really wanted from a soap. The survey revealed that the only time the typical Indian housewife had to herself was when she went for a bath. That’s when she had the luxury to daydream about her favourite Bollywood actor. This insight led to the escapist fantasy that the ad depicted replacing the shower with the waterfall.
It wasn’t an easy ad to shoot. Since the waterfall was at its best only in Winter, the shoot had to be done with temperatures touching 5 degrees. Reportedly, Lunel needed swigs of brandy in between takes to ensure she didn’t freeze. Eventually, it appeared on Doordarshan and in cinema halls and had an instant impact as Liril climbed the sales chart to become the highest-selling brand for HLL in the year it was launched.
For the next 10 years, Lunel was the Liril girl, a role that would later be played by Pooja Batra, Preity Zinta and Deepika Padukone, among others. In 2005, the campaign finally came to a close though in 2015 it returned, this time with Brazilian model Anabelle as HUL relaunched the soap. But it was clear the magic had long been lost.
Lunel moved on even after a serious accident which needed 60 stitches on her face. After her marriage, she moved to New Zealand.
The Pambar Falls where the ad was shot have since been renamed Liril Falls. One measure of the popularity of the ad is that on Youtube, the original ad has over the years notched up more views than songs from Sholay which was also released the same year.
—Sundeep Khanna is a former editor and the co-author of the recently released Azim Premji: The Man Beyond the Billions. Views are personal
next story