Sijoy Varghese recalls how Popy and TV Scaria had revolutionized the television ad industry

TV Scaria, the owner of the popular umbrella brand Popy passed away on Monday. As the person who taught Kerala to choose branded umbrellas bids adieu, noted actor and ad film maker Sijoy Varghese recalls how the brand Popy had not only revolutionized the umbrella industry but also started an interesting war of advertisements in television. The quaint town of Alappuzha had become the battle ground of two of the biggest umbrella producers in the state. It was in the beginning of 1990’s that St George Umbrella Mart got split into Popy and John’s. The television channels continuously aired the advertisements of umbrellas that had catchy jingles and striking visuals too. Scaria aka Baby and his team had discussed for months before launching Popy. Sijoy recalls he had met Scaria whom he fondly calls Babychayan in 1992 – 93. He was then assisting noted ad film maker Mathew Paul.

Mathew Paul

“There is a huge banyan tree at Babychayan’s house in Alappuzha. Bats would roost on that tree and birds made their nests too. The discussions about the advertisement happened below that banyan tree. Mathew Paul, Babychayan and Avarachan of the Jeleeta advertisement company were all present there. I was just out of college when I joined this group. I was skeptical how people would be attracted to umbrellas if children are the models. However, the others didn’t have an iota of doubt about the concept. They were sure that families would definitely come if children are attracted. The concept was wholeheartedly approved by Babychayan. From then till today no umbrella company in Kerala has ever diverted from this concept,” says Sijoy.

Baby Syamily, who was the most popular child artist in South India, had been the face of St George Umbrella Mart. The advertisement, in which Syamily in her sweet voice and enchanting smile asks her father to buy her a new umbrella as she gets ready for school, became an instant hit. Everyone in the company and the advertisement firm were very happy with the immense success of the ad film. Baby had arranged a grant party for the crew at Prince Hotel in Alappuzha. At the party, Scaria had gifted Sijoy a gold coin worth a sovereign to show his appreciation.

To design the logo of Popy, the brand that was to be newly launched, Scaria had flown down renowned artist Moorthy from Hyderabad. Moorthy designed the logo, staying at a resort in Alappuzha. “Babychayan’s professionalism is something worth emulating. He believed that his product would be the best if the most renowned person in each field was brought in. However, the brand wasn’t named then. It was decided to announce a competition in the Malayala Manorama news paper. A post box number in Bangalore was given in the ad to receive the entries so that their rivals wouldn’t know anything about the competition. The advertisement appeared in the newspaper and hundreds of posts came in. However, no one was happy with the names that were suggested by the people,” recalls Sijoy.

“One day, Babychayan’s eldest son Davis told us not to look for names anymore as they had found the name from their home itself. I was shocked when he announced the name Popy. It was Davis’s younger brother Dennis’ pet name. Popy was their beloved brother who made them happy with his innocent laughter and chirpiness. Babychayan didn’t have to thick twice to say ‘yes’ to that name. However, I was doubtful as the candy brand Poppins was already famous. But, everyone loved the name and Babychayan was sure that such a name would become hit,” says Sijoy.

The first jingle of the advertisement had very simple lines ‘Mazha Mazha, Kuda Kuda Mazha Vannal Popy Kuda’. It was noted composer Sharath who tuned that jingle which went on to become the ‘rain’ anthem of the children in Kerala. The advertisement played a vital role in turning Popy into a top brand in Kerala. While the entire crew was basking in the success of the ad, Sijoy received a phone call from John’s umbrella, another brand that took off from the St George family. “They wanted me to do their new advertisement. I was working as an assistant director then and have been associating with Popy. I was confused and went to meet my teacher Mathew Paul. He said I was ready to move on as an independent ad film maker. However, he asked me to talk to Babychayan too. I was scared to meet him. I went to his house thinking that he would be more serious when he is at the shop. He placed his hands on my head and blessed me,” says Sijoy.

“He blessed me that I would make a name for myself in the advertisement industry. But when he said that we wouldn’t meet again, my heart broke. I soon did the John’s advertisement which became a hit too. I could carve a niche of my own in the industry after that advertisement. However, Popy was a great competitor. Mathew sir and Sharath came up with another super hit jingle ‘Vadi knodu thallale sire, Popy kuda kondu thalliko vene’. The monsoons in Kerala soon became the perfect season for colorful umbrella ads too. These ad films have truly revolutionized the television advertisement industry. I am eternally grateful to Babychayan for that. I pay my respects to that visionary,” concludes Sijoy. 

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