Amul Butter's iconic brand identity, the Amul girl, has turned 50 years young. The edgy, “utterly” punny “butterly” girl was created by Eustace Fernandes in 1966. She has graced hoardings and print ads for nearly half a century, with witty takes on political happenings or films. Dressed in a polka-dotted dress, with chubby cheeks and without a nose, a glint in her eye and mischief in her smile, she continues to be a part of the Amul campaign, now spearheaded by the D'Cunha agency.
She poked fun at the government when it messed up in scams, cried along when beloved personalities passed away (Raj Kapoor, APJ Abdul Kalam), and cheered India's achievements. She conjured up puns to celebrate new hits (and flops, like Amitabh Bachchan's Mrityudaata). She even commented on world issues, sports victories and losses, and festivals. Her cheeky takes have caused controversies, but also called a spade by its name, much to the chagrin of politicians, usually. While cartoons, films and other forms of creative expression face the possibility of ban nearly every day, Amul's sneaky little girl has managed to keep her chin up and slip by unnoticed.
Here's a quick look at 10 times when she stood by India during the ups and downs over the last two decades:
When Buddha smiled again in 1998
India surprised the world by conducting nuclear tests, famously dubbed Pokhran tests, in 1998. The tests were carried out at Pokhran in Rajasthan over five days, and raised India's international standing. The Amul ad said “Arms janata ka favourite,” with the tagline, “No sanctions needed,” referring to the risk of global sanctions.
When India was engaged in a war with Pakistan in 1999
One of India's most important wars against Pakistan took place in 1999 along the Line of Control and Kargil district of Kashmir. The Amul ad featured Atal Bihari Vajpayee and George Fernandes along with the Amul girl, urging Pakistani soldiers to “Pak up and leave”.
When India touched the moon in 2008
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched India's first unmanned vehicle to the moon in 2008. It touched the lunar surface on November 14, and was scheduled for a 310-day mission. The Amul girl, dressed in a spacesuit wielding a buttered knife, is seen floating, with the tagline, “Over the moon”.
When Mumbai was under a terrorist attack in 2008
Dubbed the 26/11 attacks, these Lashkar-e-Taiba-led attacks shook the nation. As the 10 terrorists took over key public places in South Mumbai, the siege lasted four days, with 164 deaths and over 300 casualties. Amul's ads, besides the one that says “Will the real terrorists please stand up?”, also include later ones on the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, the reopening of the Taj, Headley, and the first anniversary of the attack.
When the Radia tapes exposed the 2G scam in 2010
The 2G spectrum scam was a major blow to the UPA government. In the scam, certain government officials and politicians undercharged telecom companies for frequency allocation licenses for 2G spectrum. The Amul ad is a word play on the Radia tapes that exposed the scam: “Radia-active disclosures”, with the tagline, “In leak-proof packs”.
When India won the cricket World Cup in 2011
In 2011 World Cup, India defeated Sri Lanka. Amul has never lost a chance to celebrate India's victories in sports, be it the Olympics, hockey or cricket (this one's their favourite). The witty ads also commented on the various match-fixing controversies, India's losses on the maidan and relationships among the sportspeople (Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik, for instance). Among the cricketers that the Amul girl cheers for, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar are frequent.
In the aftermath of the Nirbhaya rape and murder
In response to the Delhi rape and murder of 'Nirbhaya', Amul's December ad features the Amul girl with two other women in saris, with anger wrought on their faces. “Please remember, it's Mother India!”, says the ad, with the tagline, “Nirbhaya bano”. In August 2013, another ad for women empowerment featured the girl dressed in a karate suit, saying, “Raksha undone?” possibly alluding to Raksha Bhandan. In March 2014, “Insaaf shakti se milla” celebrated the introduction of fast-track courts for rape cases.
When Modi was sworn in as prime minister in 2014
In Amul's ad celebrating Modi's landslide victory, the girl is seen taking a selfie with Modi—which could be an indicator of the Modi government's tech savvy skills. For his swearing-in ceremony, Modi invited heads of SAARC nations, including Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif. Amul's ad in response to this said “Bharatiya SAARCar?”, taglined “Invite neighbours”. Other ads include “Accha din-ner aaya hai!” (with the tagline “In all cabinets”) and “Modison Square Garden, The Big Appeal” (about his speech in New York in September).
When Arvind Kejriwal became Delhi chief minister in 2014
Following Kejriwal's landslide win in Delhi, the Amul girl featured alongside Kejriwal, who carried a broom in one hand and a slice of buttery bread in the other. “Clean sweep,” it said, along with “Always AAParajit”. Included among Amul's numerous commentary on the election fever, was one that highlighted Modi's embroidered jacket, and when Kiran Bedi joined the BJP to contest the elections.
When India conducted the 'surgical strikes'
The much-publicised covert attack by the Indian Army along the LOC in Pakistan was a proud moment for the nation. The Amul ad features the girl in an army outfit, sporting rifles. In September, amid the call for boycott of Pakistani artistes (particularly Fawad Khan) from working in Bollywood, Amul issued an ad questioning, “Going Fawad or thinking backward?” with the tagline, “Soft target for bread”.