It's a bloody shampoo, it's not rocket science!
Out with moisturizing molecules and herbal hairballs in all their CGI splendour!
In with frogs, mmmuahh! 


video

A tip of the turban to Dan Nainan, for his multiracial, multicultural, self-deprecating comedy. Some neat insights into how we're all different. And more importantly, how we're all the same.



An entertaining take on the major hindu deities. Hindu calendar art meets Stan Lee. Nicely done, and defended by the designer - especially if you understand the simplistic, anti-plural, homogenizing viewpoint of Hindu fundamentalists (oh, the irony! - that this aberration should appear in a religion of 330 million gods). (the screensavers are nicer than the T-shirts.)
East Indian

This extremely irritating (to Indians) term was in common use in Canada and in North America as recently as 1996.
It has fallen into relative disuse but still pops up disconcertingly, from time to time in newspapers or government documents. Its connections to the East India Company's bloody sojourn in India and its direct descent from the world's greatest case of mistaken identity (Columbus declaring his discovery of the Indies) make it unpalatable to the Indian tongue.
Acceptable alternatives are Indo-Canadian or Canadian of Indian origin - if the person or persons described originated from India. The term South Asian is also acceptable though it does not denote Indians exclusively.


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Is multicultural creative getting better?
Or is it merely going downhill fast?
This new commercial for Nationwide Insurance aimed at South Asians in the US is simply not good enough.




Indian English is English with a smattering of Hindustani - and other Indian languages - as the need of the speaker demands.

Hinglish is Hindustani (itself a hybrid of Hindi and Urdu) with a smattering of English.

That's my preferred distinction, and it's the one the Oxford Dictionary folks used to prefer.

It dismays me no end to hear the two used interchangeably, so here is an additional guide.

Indian English is India's English - the Maharani's English if you will. An exotic, richly spiced vibrant variant of the mother form, Indian English is recognized by the Oxford Dictionary. Populated as it is with an aromatic vocabulary of Indian words and quaint, rare and uniquely subcontinental English usage, it is to English what Masala Chai is to tea.

Hinglish on the other hand, being predominantly Hindustani, would be perfectly sensible if written in Devanagari script though it never is. Its quirkiest idiosyncrasy - its defining characteristic - is that it is at heart, an Indian language written fully in Roman script.

Indian English for its part, is mostly English in vocabulary and grammar albeit in a form not always recognizable to Her Majesty.
Imagine this: it's 1936, and a visiting Home Office envoy extends his pinkie, sips his Earl Grey and complains in a tone of mild horror, "My dear boy, it came here as the Queen's English but it's gone dreadfully native, hasn't it?"
Well, the reality is that it has gone wonderfully native; polyglottal India has made Indian English a truly Indian form of self-expression.
Yet, it would be nigh impossible to write Indian English in anything but Roman script.
Indian English is one of the many reasons English can claim more than half a billion speakers.

Here's a line in Indian English.
Hello sir! How is your health keeping? Auntyji is also being okay?


Here's the same line in Hinglish:
Namasteji. Aap teek hain? Aur auntyji?

For a fascinating linguistic journey through this young, extremely dynamic variant of English, click on the links below and hold on to your topees. (And at some point I promise, I will write a post on Indian words that English borrowed - hold on to your pyjamas for that one).

Click here to enjoy the BBC's take on Indian English.

Or here to read a rather thorough linguistic analysis in Wikipedia.

Or enjoy perusing the entertaining Dictionary of Indian English here.

Image via desicreative, by typographer Nabina Ghosh.

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Many people mistakenly use Hinglish as synonymous with Indian English - but like others who approach this linguistically I beg to differ.

There are many different descriptions for this hybridized language. This is mine - as a student and teacher of literature and language (especially in the subcontinental context), I feel compelled to take a more formal approach.

Hinglish is predominantly Hindi or Hindustani written in Roman or English script. When spoken or written, it is driven by phrasings and constructions written or driven by Hindi.


A paragraph of text written in Hinglish may be peppered with English words - especially such terms or concepts as "mobile" or "weekend" or "internet" - in this it does have commonalities with Indian English but the dominant Hindi movie titles are typically written in Hinglish - as in the example shown here. Hinglish and Indian English are both commonly used in advertising in India.

But for obvious reasons (its Indo-Aryan Hindi origins, Hinglish simply doesn't travel as well as Indian English does). Perhaps the best distinction between Indian English and Hinglish is summed up as follows:
an educated Keralite or Tamilian whose mother tongue is an Indo-Dravidian language, would not be able to follow or understand the Indo-Aryan linguistic and syntactical choices made by a Hinglish speaker.
Whereas both would understand Indian English perfectly - inserting words from their own languages into a syntax that is essentially Anglophonic.

Bollywood poster image from http://www.oldindianarts.in/
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ABC is an acronym for American Born Chinese. It has much the same provenance as CBC or Canadian Born Chinese, and has similar pejorative nuances depending on the circumstances in which it is used.


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A CBC is a somewhat less than complimentary acronym for Canadian Born Chinese. CBCs themselves often refer to more recent Chinese with the pejorative FOB (Fresh Off the Boat). Many CBCs do not speak Chinese and are often in conflict with their roots as they try to define their own place in the Canadian multicultural landscape. Some CBCs may even be bananas but not all bananas are CBCs. A large portion of Gen2 Chinese are CBCs. From an ethnographic perspective, CBCs have a great deal in common with ABCs - their cousins south of the border - than just a couple of initials.


The CBC logo shown above is a trademark of the CBC (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

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You've seen the print ads, and read the hype (in my earlier post on Bheja Bazaar).

Now take a look at the TV spot. Remember, this is 1990 we're talking about. It's worth a laugh if nothing else. Click here to see the spot at agencyfaqs.com


Aamir Khan stars as the new spokesperson for Titan Watches, India's biggest watch brand. Unlike many other Bollywood stars, Aamir Khan is a real actor. A well crafted script + a well crafted spot = a great celebrity endorsement.

Not Cannes territory but a whole lot better and smarter than Aish in L'Oreal's formulaic blather, breathtakingly beautiful though she is.


I'm torn.
Here's a brand new campaign from At&t advertising its global roaming capabilities. I've been watching it unfold in the pages of the New York Times over the last few weeks.

It's beautiful, visually lush.
I believe it is a precursor to multicultural advertising of the future; i.e., it is cross-cultural and therefore, truly multicultural.
At the same time, it picks up cues, graphics, icons, that are specific to individual cultures/locations.

That's the good part.

The bad part: where's the insight?
This is not a multicultural campaign of course, but to be honest it fails utterly despite the stunning art direction.
A campaign for global coverage running in the US is surely targeted at global travelers from the US visiting or working in the world's largest countries and fastest growing economies.

C'mon guys. It should have hit you like a brick.
The sum of all things Chinese is not the Great Wall.

India is not all caparisoned elephants or the Taj Mahal.

You have to rise above those hackneyed images.
Get with the times, cause they're a-changin'
Why do people want better coverage in India or China?
Because they're doing business there.

Think Shanghai, not the Great Wall.
Think Mumbai or Bangalore, where the money is made and your software is written.
Find a symbol that isn't the same damn symbol that everyone has ever used.

This campaign probably starts in some feebly educated American mind, wherein the rest of the world must be reduced to cliches, so as to effectively communicate with other feebly educated American minds.

No? Am I oversimplifying?
Have I offended some American friend or colleague who resents my generalization, and doesn't like me reducing Americans to a cliche?

Ads via Ads of the world.
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A while ago I promised I would feature great ads on this blog from the major multicultural "home markets".
By that, I meant ads from India, Hong Kong and China to start with. Ads that show exactly how high the bar is in those markets and how sophisticated those audiences are. The Nike ad from JWT India I posted a while ago is a good example.

Now, my kid brother Russell (he's a Creative Director/Writer at Leo Burnett Mumbai) has given me more material for the series.

A campaign of his for Luxor highlighters won 2 Gold Lions and 3 Bronze Lions at Cannes and a One Show Gold pencil to boot.
And a NY Art Director's Gold, and 2 Silver Andys...
And got into the D&AD annual - which is surely the toughest award show in the world to crack.

Is it multicultural in any way? No.
Does it exploit an insight into the way Indians use highlighters? No.

I'm sharing it simply because it's a great campaign with a great idea behind it, and it truly demonstrates the power of the product. Nothing more, nothing less. Nothing else matters.

Enjoy the ads.



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Bollywood is a phrase the west uses to refer to Indian movies, though in reality it only applies to movies from Bombay (now Mumbai) - hence Bollywood.

Bollywood is Singing In the Rain meets Indiana Jones. In a Bollywood movie, the good guy beats the bad guy and always wins the girl and gyrates through some pretty difficult (for Westerners) dance sequences along the way.

Bollywood is an escape from reality as is almost every other kind of movie out of India's massive film industry. It’s the largest film industry in the world because it allows a billion people a way out from the everyday struggle of their lives – three hours of fantasy.

Movie plots are fairly easy to predict.

A low-caste boy with a heart of gold falls in love with a rich upper-caste girl and they have a secret wedding. And the movie is their love story.

Or it’s about an unlikely hero who fights against the tyranny of a local feudal landowner with the help of the simple feisty village girl he loves. There’s never any sex, and in most movies there’s not even any kissing. However there’s an awful lot of sexual tension.

Or it's about twins or siblings separated at birth and raised by others. One grows up to be a rich underworld don and the other becomes a poor, idealistic cop. They battle to the death before the eyes of their distraught birth mother who finally tells them they are brothers as she herself dies thanks to a ricocheting bullet (after at least six song and dance numbers mind you).

Sure these premises are kitschy. But the movies are made and watched with a great deal of affection. People even throw money at movie screens when they watch a scene with some great dialogue or get right into a song-and-dance number.

The music from Bollywood is India’s pop music and great lines of dialogue enter everyday speech. (think "Luke, I am your father.").

Bollywood characters are clichés, stereotypes. Bollywood acting is usually over-the-top and campy.

The key characters are usually The Hero, The Heroine, The Vamp (the bad/villain’s girl with a heart of gold), The Villain (who has no redeeming features), The Daku (trans: the Bandit, or the villain’s henchman), The Jester/Sidekick (usually provides comic relief to the hero.)

The advertising for Bollywood movies is as gaudy, loud and melodramatic as the movies.

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What are those motivations?

Multicultural marketing is even more critical for grocery stores because food is central to the lives of S Asians and Chinese.
Among Canada's other immigrants groups, only the Italians and Portuguese place similar emphasis on food, and on meals.

S Asians are heavy eaters and have large, multi-generational households - they buy groceries in large amounts.

Among S Asians and Chinese alike, meals are family affairs, rituals that mark the gathering of elders and children.
Meals are rarely eaten front of a TV. Children are taught to never waste, to respect their elders at the table, to treat the food itself with respect.

Recipes are inherited and passed down, generation to generation.
Short-cuts in cooking (like mixed frozen veg.) are tolerated as a guilty convenience but meals from a box or TV dinners are completely verboten.

And while both groups may be budget-conscious, food is invested with a cultural significance beyond its nutritional value.

When I lived in Hong Kong, a common Cantonese greeting was "sic fan?" which is akin to saying "have you eaten?" because if you've eaten, then surely you're doing fine.

There's so much more. There's food-lore and foods for rituals and cultural understanding of family structure - all of it food-centric.
Then there's what I call the "value families/family values" phenomenon - these are budget conscious food-savvy consumers who know how to buy quality fresh foods using taste, smell, heft and family knowledge, and for them, placing an excellent (not just adequate) meal on the table is paramount.

It's a shocking mistake on the part of grocery stores to delay or avoid communicating with this market any longer.
The first movers will win a loyal following.

It's the reason why T&T has been so successful - the Chinese consumer was ignored for so long by the big grocers - and T&T is the real deal, a genuinely Chinese supermarket chain.

My advice to grocery stores would be, "speak now or forever lose your piece of the pie-chart."

A 2006 study (I think from Manifold Data Mining) showed that S Asians in Toronto spent $12.6 billion on retail goods and services and the Chinese spent $12.3 billion.

In terms of purchasing power that's pretty hefty clout.

Add to that the fact that by 2017 about half of all visible minorities in Canada will be either S Asian or Chinese according to Stats Can and these markets suddenly aren't merely impressive, they're critical for business.

Maybe it's time the grocery stores went shopping - for better ideas, and better ways to connect with the new Canadian consumer.

Food for thought for food.

Burp.


Photography by Desi Zavatta Musolino, via Flickr.
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I was talking to Marina Strauss, the Globe and Mail's retail reporter just the other day, and we circled around for quite a bit trying to identify what the issues were with the marketing of grocery stores to multicultural markets.

As is typical, the lightbulb went off much later.
The issue is that there is none.

I think first of all the major grocers are doing very little other than bowing to the demographic realities of multicultural Canada and stocking ethnic foods on their shelves. They have no choice. It is simply good business to do so.

Those are market dictates and if they sold no ethnic foods, well someone else would do so and take that business away.

Whether you go into lower end stores like No Frills or Food Basics or into a Loblaws or Dominion (more on that later in this post), you will find ethnic or international aisles.

In a No Frills or Food Basics, you can be sure that the main focus is the ethnic or multicultural customer.

However, very little is being done to communicate that these S Asian and Chinese foods are available to those markets.

That's like a bank offering retail-level service in Punjabi or Cantonese, but keeping it a secret from their Punjabi and Cantonese customers - TD Canada Trust would never do a thing like that - they take some pains to let their customers know that such a product/service exists.

That's why they are consistently rated the top bank in the multicultural market - not just because they offer a product or service but because they take the trouble to communicate and carve a clientele for themselves; as a result, they don't just have a share of the market, they lead it.

When there has been an attempt to advertise directly to these markets, the low-end stores have tried to do it on the cheap.
It's why huge mistakes occur - mistakes like a TV spot marketing specials on beef (offends Hindus), pork (offends Muslims) and cranberry juice (is not on a S Asian's grocery list at all) to a S Asian audience on Omni.

It sounds unbelievable, but it's true.

In higher end stores, ethnic food aisles exist mostly for hip Caucasians who have adventurous palates - it's like the "world music" section at a music store. Yes, some S Asians and Chinese shop there but most shop at No Frills or Food Basics (there is new research from Solutions Research Group that confirms this, Marina tells me).

Furthermore, most of the marketing/advertising in a higher end store - say of Loblaws new PC butter chicken meal is aimed at Caucasian Canadians and largely delivered through flyers. Guess what language those flyers are in - yup, it's my own weapon of choice: Ye Olde Anglo-saxon.

There is little or no effective marketing or advertising to the two largest and most important (in terms of purchasing power too) visible minority markets: South Asians and Chinese.

Why? Partly because few self-respecting South Asian families would buy a meal in a box - those cool butter chicken and chicken tandoori meals are really meant for the Anglophone Indophile. It's pretty much the same for Chinese food and the Chinese audience.

So if the exotic-menu-meals-in-boxes aren't right for South Asian and Chinese palates, should Loblaws and Dominion and Sobeys start marketing to S Asians and Chinese? Absolutely. They need to buy apples and oranges and rice and milk and eggs like every one else. They just do it in different ways and with different cultural motivations and marketers at those stores would do well to begin figuring out how to connect and activate those motivations.

What are those motivations? More on that in my next post.


Photo by Pinprick/Amanda via flickr.
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Cantonese. White devil. Pale ghost. White demon ghoul.

You get the gist.
It has lost some of its derisive sting due to its extremely popular, colloquial use in Hong Kong, by English and Cantonese speakers alike. Used in much the same fashion as gora.

Which is to say, descriptively, to distinguish.
Or, when dipped in chilli-garlic sauce, to ridicule. Consider:
Bloody gweilos! When will they learn how to eat rice with chopsticks.



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White dude. White man. White folks. This catch-all South Asian word is typically used to separate and distinguish, like the Native American paleface but add some spice and it takes on a bad-ass attitude and can be used to effectively serve a dollop of cultural befuddlement, sprinkled with a garnish of derision. Consider, for example:
Bloody goras! How come they're always in debt?



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Putonghua is quite simply Mandarin Chinese for "mandarin chinese."

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Guangdonghua is simply Chinese for Cantonese.

Guangdong is the Chinese word for Canton.
Which itself is simply a European fumbling of Guangdong.


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In trade, it's freight on board. In multcultspeak it's fresh off the boat.
It's an insulting pejorative term, used much in the same way as hick, redneck, and the now archaic "rube".

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Click on the title of this article to view an excellent interactive map illustrating immigration and mother tongue data from the StatsCan report on the 2006 Census. (Courtesy the Canadian Press, via CBC.)

While checking it out, keep in mind this interesting fact from the 2006 Census:
93.6 per cent of Canadian immigrants can speak either English or French.

It tends to rather put things in perspective.
Not such a tower of Babel, eh?


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The 2006 census shows that between 2001 and 2006:

58.3 per cent of all immigrants came from Asia,
including the Middle East.
16.1 per cent came from Europe.
10.8 per cent came from the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
And 10.6 per cent hailed from Africa.

The foreign-born account for 19.8 per cent of Canada's population,
the highest it has been in 75 years.
Australia is the only country in the world with a higher percentage,
with 22.2 per cent not born in Australia.
The United States' foreign-born population by comparison
is just 12.5 per cent.



Source: StatsCan, Census 2006
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More than 200 different ethnic origins were reported in the 2006 Census. 11 ethnic origins have grown beyond one million in population. The largest group was composed of the 10 million people who reported Canadian as their ethnic ancestry, either alone (5.7 million) or with other origins (4.3 million).

Approximately 5,068,100 belong to the visible minority population accounting for 16.2% of the total population of Canada.

Due to the increasing number of recent immigrants from non-European countries, the visible minority population grew faster than the total population. The visible minority population grew at a rate of 27.2%, five times faster than the total which only only grew at 5.4%.

75.0% of all immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2006 belonged to a visible minority group.

South Asians are now Canada's largest visible minority group, surpassing the Chinese. Both groups are over one million.
An estimated 1,262,900 individuals say they are South Asian, representing one-quarter (24.9%) of all visible minorities, or 4.0% of the total population in Canada. The Chinese accounted for 24.0% of the visible minority population and 3.9% of the total Canadian population. The chart above shows the composition of Canada's visible minorities - the numbers shown are percentages, rounded up.

In the census metropolitan area of Toronto, 42.9 per cent identified themselves as a visible minority and a total of 27.8 per cent of the visible minority population was born in Canada.

South Asians account for 684,070, followed by Chinese 486,325 and black 352,220.



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No, it's not Lucy's husband.

Hindi in origin, desi literally means countryman and is used to refer to people and things that are of South Asian origin. If you belong to gen HipHop think of it as the South Asian equivalent of homeboy or homie. It's a derivation of the Hindi word desh which means country. Used between South Asians in much the same way that Italians refer to each other as paisans. It's a handy word because, when used colloquially, it crosses boundaries and groups various South Asian nationalities together.

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Blessed are those who see but do not jump to believe. Click the article title to play this provocative spot by Avion Films' Mike Thompson.

My favourite magazine covering Toronto is Spacing and writer Robin Chubb's excellent series on "Mapping our Urbanism" is a treasure trove of facts and intelligence.
In an article about the GTA's diversity, what caught my eye, though, was the map accompanying it (shown above).
It was created by Catherine Farley and Damian Listar and originally published in the Toronto Star.
It's called "The Language Quilt". You can see why.
Click on my article title to read Robin Chubb's article at Spacing.ca


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When I was still a child, I was asked to write the relaunch campaign for Red Eveready, India's biggest battery brand. (Shown with this article: an ad from that campaign.)
I don't know why.

The campaign ran for 13 years.
I don't know why.

It was apparently very successful.
I don't know why.

It appears they teach it in business school in India.
I don't know why.

DesiCreative.com recently wanted to interview me about this campaign.
I don't know why.

But I do know where the interview is.
Click on the article title to read it at desicreative.com, which by the way is an excellent site for anybody interested in the new wave of Indian creative talent.

The art director who worked with me on this campaign was Sharad Nigvekar and he did a splendid job.
Kasa aahe Sharad?



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Once again I am in debt to Harper's, without a doubt the best damn magazine in the world.

In the February 2008 Harper's Index I discovered that Shaadi.com, an immensely popular matchmaking site for South Asians (or "matrimonials site", as we beige folk like to say) allows listees to choose from no less than six skin tones and 275 castes.

I poked around the site and discovered they also offer a menu of 28 communities and 67 mother tongues.

Does this make it impossible to choose a mate? Far from it.

Shaadi.com estimates it has made between 800,000 and a million successful "matches".
It has over 10 million members, numbers that make it one of the most successful and most admired online companies in all of Asia.

It even lets you search for matches in the USA and Canada.

Now you know where to look if you're in the market for a wheaten complexion male Iyengar Brahmin MIT engineer with a green card or a very fair, tall Sikh lady doctor coming from a very respectable family based in Malton, Ontario.

And oh, every single shaadi.com page is in English.


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photo of mehndi at Indian wedding: by Riffat, via flickr
Some rights reserved.
Cantonese pop music.
Dominated by the Four Kings (Jackie Cheung, Leon Lai, Aaron Kwok and Andy Lau) in the 90s.
Current stars include scandal-tainted Gillian Chung.


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Meaning Chinese outside, white inside.

Pejorative.

Usually employed by Chinese-Canadians to describe some second generation (or, occasionally, first generation) Chinese-Canadians (or -Americans or -Brits) who are thought to have lost too much of their culture or language.

Like coconuts, a banana typically hangs with other bananas, and often does not speak any Chinese.

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Meaning brown outside, white inside.

Pejorative.

Usually employed by Indo-Canadians to describe some second generation (or, occasionally, first generation) Indo-Canadians
(or -Americans or -Brits) who are thought to have lost too much of their Indianness.

A coconut typically has few Indian friends besides other coconuts, and often does not speak any Indian language.

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Welcome to a new category in this blog.
The world's first Multicultural Glossary.

A handy-dandy web guide to meanings of mots multicultural.

Jibes, jive talking, jargon.
Patois, politically incorrect perambulations, pejoratives.
In jokes, insider speak.
I hope to cover it all.
A sort of baatcheat sheet.

And now, before we move on to the first word, some politically incorrect comic relief, just to show you how serious I am about keeping promises. Also, I think it rather makes the point about the need for a glossary.




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Multicultural TV work done by Barrett and Welsh.


A Bollywood villain runs up against a far greater power than himself: a remote control. A TV spot for Rogers Bollywood Oye! video on demand service from Barrett and Welsh. Directed by Robert Maya of Mad Films for Barrett and Welsh.

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