#AtoZChallenge – Letter L – Remembering Lalitaji


The Indian middle class woman of the 80s was never quite brand conscious. The ad agencies did try to address this anomaly but did not succeed to a great extent. The mid 80s gave birth to an iconic ad on TV, for the Surf detergent brand. This was the ad in which that lovely Lalitaji, epitomizing the Indian middle class woman, appeared clad in a clean, white saree jingling ‘Surf ki kharidari mein hi samajhdhari hai’ which meant Surf was the better and sensible choice. The ad was targeted at Nirma which was selling detergents at roughly a third of the price of Surf.

Ad wars on detergents aside, the Lalitaji commercial gave a new dimension on the Indian middle class to TV viewers. The sense of appearing in clean, white clothes probably did not appeal to them before. The whiteness displayed in the ad deeply influenced their minds into thinking ‘my saree/my husband’s shirt should be whiter than her saree/her husband’s shirt’. What better way to make clothes whiter than Surf? Of course, the face of Lalitaji appealed to them immensely as well. The viewers were being reminded that there’s more than Hema Malini to models. A middle class model was being cast as Lalitaji. Even the name suggested simplicity. This detergent ad was such a standout that it adds to the other nostalgic moments of that time. It was created by Alyque Padamsee, the same man who played Jinnah in the movie ‘Gandhi’!

Kavita Chaudhury played Lalitaji with aplomb in that TV commercial. She would go on to portray Kalyani in a memorable and inspiring soap ‘Udaan’ (Flight). Lalitaji was the face that launched millions in sales for the Surf brand across the country. It was the face of the Indian middle class woman of the 80s. A mention of India of the 80s will be incomplete without Lalitaji.

Written as part of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge – http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/