Almost a tradition now, the 2018 Auto Expo saw the king of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan grace the Hyundai pavilion. The Korean car brand has almost mimicked the actor's journey in films with its 20 years of presence in India. As he completes two decades of endorsing the brand too, SRK acknowledges that makes him the longest-running brand ambassador in the world, in the automobile sector at least. It was a trip down the memory lane then as the star recalled his early days with the brand. From learning about a lesser known South Korean car maker 'Hyundai' to being approached by BVR Subbu, the then marketing head of the company, to become the brand ambassador for the compact hatchback Hyundai Santro. In fact, the first series of advertisements involved a Hyundai executive called Mr Kim trying to convince Shah Rukh Khan to endorse the Santro in India. SRK then filmed the launch commercially with a red Santro and a labrador!
The Raees actor shared a little trivia revealing that the 180-degree turn shown in the ad was done by the Santro itself and not a stunt car. If that amazes you, it was only awe-inspiring to know that the stunt was pulled off by the actor himself. More respect to you sir! SRK has featured in multiple Hyundai ads since, and many have also featured in his home productions. The first was once again a red Santro in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani - also his first film as a producer.
"We had this whole ad where Mr. Kim from Korea had to come to tell me what Hyundai means and how do you say Hyundai, and I still discuss it. Some people say it Hyundaai, Hyunday. So we have different pronunciations for it [Hyundai] and it didn't start like that and how he shows me what it stands for.
"There's a stunt I'm so proud on two counts that the Santro does it itself, it's not a stunt car. So I've done a 180 [degree] turn it in. I was driving it and we tried it the first time and it worked. We do the handbrake and the turn and we just turn. I still remember there was a little light in front to light up Juhi [Chawla] and it fell down and it started smoking upon her dress and we thought she'd catch fire but nothing happened."
The TVC is a reminder of how times have changed not only in the filmmaking arena but also in terms of the cars being filmed. Electric mobility, in that case, can be termed as an equivalent to what VFX and CGI are for the movie world. Not only does it make technology more accessible, it's more environment-friendly as well in the way that it reduces manual labour. With concerns for the increasingly deteriorating environment, the need for electric mobility is larger than ever and Mr. Khan certainly agrees, saying, "One of the biggest things you can do for the environment is to have electric vehicles all around." He adds that it's not just with vehicles but also through smaller actions that we can make a difference. As he put it, it starts with the house, the community, the locality and then the city. It's a rule you need to apply everywhere right from saving electricity to keeping the city clean. A father of three, the actor said it is his children that have helped make him more conscious and responsible. It is also the reason why he takes wearing a helmet and a seatbelt a lot more seriously now and encourages everyone to do the same.
"Something I say it now in the capacity of a father and in the capacity of someone who loves driving himself whenever I get the opportunity and there's no traffic. Please do wear seatbelts. I think it's really cool and macho to wear seatbelts. It takes a little while but it feels very nice and I have a five-year-old kid and I'm 50 [years] myself and we all take great pride in wearing seatbelts because it's just very cool. So, wear seatbelts even in the back seats if you can. if you have kids with you, please use it, it takes a moment and it's just nicer and also legal.
The Chak de India actor also had a special message for two-wheeler riders,
"And to all the two-wheeler drivers I keep saying to please wear helmets. Please wear helmets even if it's for 10 feet away or 20 feet away. I've been in situations where having worn a helmet even while shooting for a little stunt has been extremely helpful and life-saving. I know hair gets spoilt and it troubles you and sometimes it's hot, but I do think life is much more than a little bit of discomfort and discrepancy."
In more recent years, Mr. Khan has been pushed to a new role as that of the corporate brand ambassador for Hyundai. A role he jokes is more like retiring him from the Santro. However, with the small car slated to make a comeback soon, we just might see that association being brought back.
Well, the new generation Hyundai Santro has been spotted testing on a number of occasions in the past year, and we even saw the model going through its test cycle in Europe. The car will rival the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Alto, Renault Kwid, Datsun redi-GO and the likes, and will be a big step-up from its predecessor, which continued to be a strong seller even at the end of its lifecycle.
Both SRK and the Santro were outsiders in their respective fields but went on to conquer so much more, an association we hope to see again soon, so here's hoping for a fresh series of films maybe?