Neeraj Chopra’s star turn: From the Tokyo track to a ‘celebrated’ actor

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September 21, 2021 5:24 PM

The commercial for Cred, a credit card aggregator, puts viewers in the Olympic gold medallist’s shoes as he faces a variety of characters — all played by the man himself.

neeraj chopra cred adThe video has racked up millions of views in less than 24 hours across social media. (IE)

India’s Olympic Games hero might seem reserved at first, but a few minutes of conversation are enough to dispel those myths. Director Ayappa K.M. gained first-hand experience of Neeraj’s personality when he spoke to him about a commercial. While he seemed shy at first, he was game after they met him.

The commercial for Cred, a credit card aggregator, puts viewers in the Olympic gold medallist’s shoes as he faces a variety of characters — all played by the man himself. That star turn dispelled all of Ayappa’s worries.

Earlier this year, Ayappa directed former India skipper Rahul Dravid’s ‘Indiranagar ka Gunda’ commercial. He had then told The Indian Express how Dravid, after playing an on-road maniac, would bury his face in his hands.

But Neeraj was the opposite, Ayappa told The Indian Express. He would sometimes break down laughing in the middle of a line. He wanted to have fun and was having a great time.

The commercial delves into the country’s hysteria around its newest sports icon. It follows Chopra’s POV, while the javelin thrower also plays several characters. He is a boardroom brand manager discussing SEO-friendly taglines. A cashier apprising him of gold’s rate. A reporter asking personal questions. A wannabe javelin thrower. And a filmmaker planning his biopic.

Ayappa said the acting-heavy script made them worried at first. He added Neeraj had been thrust into the limelight suddenly and at a very young age. It’s difficult for most people to know how interact with the media overnight.

The director added that his interviews and media presence show Neeraj to be low maintenance and receptive. But the javelin star immersed himself into the characters and there was no ego, Ayappa said.

Comedian Tanmay Bhat and his AIB colleagues wrote the commercial’s script. On the day of filming, Neeraj was with the crew for eight hours, with the makeup and hair for each character taking up most of the time. But the enthusiastic Chopra made things easier.

Ayappa said Neeraj completed each scene in 20 minutes. He asked Ayappa to act out the scenes and said he would imitate him if he got stuck. The director and Tanmay acted out the scenes and he instantly got it and was enjoying himself by the end of it.

The video has racked up millions of views in less than 24 hours across social media, while Neeraj’s acting and the self-referential writing have also got props.

The jostling reporter who thrusts forward the microphone at Neeraj and asks if he had a wife or girlfriend was a nod to the cacophony surrounding the Olympic hero since his Tokyo exploits. Ayappa said Neeraj was restoring the balance through satire.

While adding he personally cringed at such questions, Ayappa said Neeraj came back with gold and these were the questions he was being asked. The commercial was not just trying to make fun of people, but wanting to restore the balance.

Ayappa has directed several commercials with big names, including Shah Rukh Khan.

Neeraj’s acting, however, caught him by surprise.

He said the manner in which Neeraj picked up the facial expressions impressed him. He would perfectly replicate it if a certain line was acted out for him.

Ayappa also believes he knows how Chopra managed the feat.

Apart from being young, Ayappa thinks Neeraj likes cinema, allowing him to loosen up. In the scene with the brand manager, Neeraj recognised an extra and told him which film he had seen him in, Ayappa said. He added that he could see during that interaction that Neeraj was not being a celebrity but a regular guy who’s suddenly realised that he’s in the industry now.

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