Hands down as emotively powerful as the epic Impossible Dream commercial for Honda by Weiden+Kennedy’s London office, Royal Enfield’s Indian-produced Handcrafted in Chennai is a visual masterpiece of storytelling in slow motion. Seriously, I got goosebumps watching this thing. Every scene is so perfectly framed that I had to edit down my shots for the gallery. If it sounds like I’m smitten, that’s because I am.
Usually, when discussing a motorcycle commercial, it’s easy to develop talking points that play off the strengths and weaknesses of what generally contains one of the following: cheesy soundtrack with bad rock, Eurotrash techno, flashy graphics, the perfect road, the baritone voice-over demanding to get to the dealer now, woman as accessory, man as ape, old people acting inappropriate for their age, all of the above.
The Chennai commercial doesn’t use a single one of these tactics, instead playing like a multifaceted narrative with the lens naturally capturing the daily rituals of an assembly worker at the Royal Enfield plant in Chennai, weaving in scenes from surrounding community. The roads are narrow and gritty, the elderly crowd the sidewalks. There is no voiceover, no overt call to action. The music matches the pacing and plays like a film score for a Satyajit Ray film.
We’ve all seen a similarly dramatic day-in-the-life slant in advertising, usually from some innocuous insurance company or bank, shot on multi-million dollar budgets that always fail the second the cute old couple looks at the camera and smiles while fading off to their utopian retirement golfing community and the faceless gentle voice tells us to empower our lives with their products. That a tiny company like Royal Enfield was willing to let their agency create a story so visually dense Ridley Scott would be proud, without any compromises by nagging brand managers, is incredibly refreshing.
As a result, Royal Enfield’s Bullet 500 may not be the bike for me now, but stories like this make me think it could be.