“Liril has completely transformed my life,” said Liril’s former daughter Karen Lunel Hishey

By Kashmeera Sambamurthy How driving a foreigner waiting for a taxi resulted in one of India’s most iconic commercials being created for Liril soap One rainy day, Kailash Surendranath was driving to St Xavier’s College

By Kashmeera Sambamurthy

How driving a foreigner waiting for a taxi resulted in one of India’s most iconic commercials being created for Liril soap

One rainy day, Kailash Surendranath was driving to St Xavier’s College in Mumbai when he came across a woman waiting for a taxi. After offering her a ride, he was informed that she wanted to go to the Lintas advertising agency which was located at Express Towers, Nariman Point. While asked about his trade, Surendranath told the woman that he had just started doing commercials. In return, she expressed a desire to see her wallet.

Over the next few days, Surendranath would be roped up to work on land for a soap that would promote freshness. He was tasked with leading the auditions to select an appropriate face for the product and find an ideal location for the advertisement. The co-passenger with Surendranath on that rainy day was Mubi Ismail, film director, Lintas.

And the advertisement he would eventually achieve was a soap of freshness, Liril. “Mubi made a big contribution to the visual aspect of the ads. During those years, computers weren’t invented, ”Surendranath explained. Woodham (commonly known as Woody), who was the art director and designer, adopted the conventional method of cutting, pasting and drawing by hand.

“When I met him he showed me the illustrations of the packs he was working on. There was splashing water, there were lemons, and there was a mottled effect on the body of the soap (which people hadn’t encountered). It was the first time that a lime soap had been launched in Indian markets, ”recalls Surendranath, who believes the pitch was inspired by an international“ Fa ”brand. He performed a screen test with 20-30 girls in the sea at Juhu Beach who were seen playing with the waves. He shot the first images on the beach because the location of the waterfall had not yet been finalized.

At the US Club in Bombay, Surendranath met 18-year-old Karen Lunel (who is now Karen Lunel Hishey). His liveliness and exuberance earned him a commercial for a juice brand “Dipy’s” which was commissioned by an advertising agency, Interpub. In this movie, Lunel was seen running in a bikini and Surendranath felt she was ideal for the Liril commercial. “The team had chosen a girl and the sea was considered ideal to shoot the film,” said Surendranath.

The filmmaker did a Bharat darshan (tour all over India) and traveled to Khandala by road and took flights to Kerala, Kodaikanal and Ranchi. It took him ten days to travel all over India and he captured the images of the waterfalls with his Super 8mm camera. While on his way to Kodaikanal, he came across a waterfall that was not on the road. The filmmaker filmed the scene and found the area accessible and natural thanks to its greenery. But there was a glitch. “In Kodaikanal, the waterfall was not full until December and January. The temperature was around three or four degrees and the sun only came out three to four hours a day. Difficulties would arise in the logistics of the shoot, ”said Surendranath. But Surendranath had decided that, if he was in charge of shooting the commercial for Liril, the Kodaikanal filmTiger Falls‘would be the place.

When this was discussed with Ismail, she agreed. Thus, the images of the waterfalls and the screen tests were superimposed in order to present it to the client. The designs on the packs created by Woodham have also been layered. He explained, “I had another set of thoughts that worked with a bit of splash. So we took lime and soaps and poured water on it. Then it would splash and help cool. Visually, he was ahead of his time.

Late Vanraj Bhatia was asked to compose a musical track for the audiovisual presentation and he composed a twenty minute track. The background music had the sounds of Sitar and Tabla mixed with western music. Surendranath explained, “During this period, there was no reference to foreign advertisements.” He added: “We used to look at soap ads and study how they were shot, followed by how they were edited.” The piece, Laa lalala laa lalala laaa laalaalaa was sung by Preeti Sagar.


Alyque Padamsee (pictured), then CEO of advertising agency Lintas, presented the presentation to Hindustan Lever’s marketing manager, Shunu Sen. For a one-minute ad, the presentation turned out to be about 20 minutes. Once the pitch was accepted and the shooting confirmed, Surendranath recommended Lunel to be the model for the ad. He showed Dipy’s commercial to Ismail and it was finalized immediately. Lunel’s life has opened many doors of opportunity to him. She attributed this to her connection with Liril (she smiles). “In 1973, they (Lintas) were still looking for a face to throw in the soap. The day before the advertising team left for Khandala to shoot it with the model, Naju karani, the model contact casually asked me to join them as a backup (I guess), ”Lunel shared. “Afterwards, they told me to jump in the water and clicked on pictures of me splashing around under the waterfall. I didn’t think about it until two years later, when I found myself on every billboard in town. I was amazed by the positive response, ”explained Lunel.

The means of communication (then) was the cinema. After the ad came out, Tiger Falls was renamed Liril Falls. The first commercial came out in the early 1970s. What looked like a movie to audiences was visually quite different. About eight to twelve visually different versions of the commercials were shot for eight consecutive years. Lunel explained, “The photos were taken in Khandala by the late photographer Gautam Rajadhyaksha, Vilas Bhende, and Adrian Stevens over the years.

In Lunel’s settlement plan crossing the water wall, she must have stood behind the waterfall. There was a ledge where she had seen a snake a few times.

Since the sea water was not cool, I suggested the waterfall. We never thought of making a set because it would be too expensive and unrealistic

–K Surendranath

When “action” was called by the team, they made sure to get it right to avoid too many retakes.

Before the team left for the scene, Padamsee would invite Lunel over for a cup of tea and say, “We have total confidence in you. Go ahead and be your energetic self. You have this inner music, listen to it ‘. “Strangers would whistle or hum the jingle madly when they saw me. At the movies, people would rush to buy their popcorn during intermission to see the commercial. All this adulation when you’re twenty is overwhelming, ”recalls Lunel.

Lunel feels lucky to have been the original daughter of the stunt. She believed the audience just saw the freshness and the allure, and viewers were ready for it. “That green bikini was pretty much my launching pad! Exclaimed Lunel. Lunel was never interested in films as her goal was to join an airline and see the world.

A misconception is that I had a lot of brandy during the shoot. But the truth is, it was a few sips to ward off hypothermia

–Karen Lunel Hishey

“Quite often, I would stand at the door of the plane to greet the passengers and they would do a double take, and check with my colleagues if it was really me. Because I was supposed to be dead, “Lunel pointed out.” Around 1976 there was a rumor going around that I was dead, and I admit that bothered me. I found myself looking over my shoulder.

In 1980, I had a car accident and while I was lying in the ER with my face sutured (with serious head injuries), I felt the rumors were coming true, ”said Lunel .

According to Surendranath, the excitement that could be seen on Lunel’s face was not only good acting, but also the fact that she was freezing to death from the inside out. Lunel, who is currently a teacher in New Zealand, was proud of her privilege to have worked with most of the creative minds in the industry. “If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing,” said former Liril.

—Brand Capital, Economic Times