Come alive with freshness

Many years ago, Liril came to us through the print ad’s featuring a gorgeous girl wearing a lime green bikini, joyously splashing around in a waterfall. Then we saw it in movie theatres & TV for the next few decades. Karen Lunel, the lady who cavorted under the Kodai waterfall modeled for Alyque Padamsee from Lintas, the great ad maker working to launch HLL’s new soap and was photographed by Surendranath. Remember the simple jingle tune (composed by Vanraj Bhatia) la, laaa laaa la laaa??? …..Oh! How I wish I could see that old ad all over again!!

The year was 1975. Karen did this after her accidental discovery in a boutique by the ad makers. The soap went on to become a top seller and many a rumor killed off Karen at the waterfall by drowning, or was it a mobike or plane accident somewhere? Anyway, she never died, but
continued her work as an airhostess with Air India and now lives with her husband in Bombay. I read also that the Lunel family was originally from Whitefield Bangalore, had a funny egg shaped house there and were Jazz aficionados….

As Karen moved away, many girls moved in to take her place under the waterfall, and the waterfall itself moved to jungles, deserts & glaciers (mercifully I have seen none of those morphs). As time went by the green soap moved on to a blue mint (ad shot in Iceland?) version, then zesty Orange (with Priti Nair at Lowe’s (Lintas had become Lowe’s) taking over the creative mantle from A Padamsee) and finally in 2005, 30 years later, the whole format changed to a daring one showing how bathing with a Liril soap can lead on to other naughty matters…….I have seen that one, looks too firangi actually, I have heard the new sexy tune la era ela… , it seems to be a rage out there in India, but I am still stuck with the simple old tune and Karen, no wonder Karen’s ad ran for 12 years before the other girls came.

Many a girl rose to fame under the Liril waterfall, the most famous being Priety Zinta. Some others who did this ad were Aneesha Dalal, Pooja Batra, Anjali Jathar
Hrishita Bhat, Tara Sharma, Ruchi Malhotra , Deepika Padukone and also a US-Mallu actress called Divya Palat (Was she in the print ad?). Almost all of them ended up in the movies.

As you can imagine, this ad was & is one of the most written & talked about ad’s. There are plenty of mainstream articles and blogs, showing how dear it is to the Indian of the 70’s through 90’s. Also, Padamsee had been interviewed by so many about the how’s and why’s behind the pioneering bikini & waterfall ad. First test marketed as a blue soap in the 70’s ( Padamsee wanted it to be blue and the Englishman Wooller suggested green to add the freshness of lime), it finally got launched as the green marble textured soap, that we knew…created to make bathing a ‘bindaas’ experience.

Let us see what Padamsee had to say, some lines are quite poignant, especially the fact about the average Indian woman (this was discovered after extensive marketing research by HLL) He says - Take Liril soap. It not only offers you freshness but offers you a sense of freedom. It is not just an ordinary bath. The girl in the waterfall symbolises that the bathing experience can be bindaas and free. For the average Indian woman who is surrounded by chaos, in-laws, husband, children, the ten minutes in the shower are her own, where she can day dream. Now that was so compelling that the Liril ad has remained unchanged for 25 years by Hindustan Lever. They tinkered with some ideas but then I noticed that they went back to the waterfall. These long term propositions, these human values are embedded in the brand’s very soul. It overnight made Liril the top selling premium toilet soap in the country and it has retained that leadership till today.

The ad was originally done in Khandala, but did not quite feel right and so was reshot down south –
Padamsee says - The first time, the girl by the waterfall was photographed in Khandala, but something was missing. The production team then ventured South - to the Kodaikanal waterfalls. When Karen Lunel, the water sprite, first stepped into the pool, it was freezing cold. And, instead of the glittering Liril smile, all she could show were her `chattering teeth'. But Karen, being a real sport, braced herself with a few shots of rum and gave a wonderful performance. ``Did the naughtiness in her eyes reflect Liril or Old Monk,'' Padamsee jokes. BTW, the falls where this ad was shot, was called Pambar falls, in Kodaikanal. It has since then been renamed/known as Liril falls!!

Incidentally, the fortunes of the soap started to decline once the girl and waterfall concept was changed.The story does not end here, to boost sales; HLL tried the Indipop medium for support. The original tune was indeed catchy and it so got embedded into Shweta Pandit’s ‘Main Zindagi hoon’ album, at least in a couple of tracks, when it was released in 2002.In a way I am thankful, because I got to hear this great jingle again from that track. The video has Shweta singing the song, with water spray and all….sponsored of course by Liril/HLL.

orange campaign with Deepika – and The newer naughtier Liril ad is linked here for those interested…with it storyline explained frame by frame. Has a South African model, it seems or was it the Pakistani girl Amna Mahmood? I don’t know for sure, maybe Amna was only a print model.

Liril- The soap whose name is a Palindrome!!! Like the word Malayalam, spelt the same forward & backward…

Liril ad images – various sites, acknowledged with thanks

A detailed article on the
soap’s fortunes & ad’s


Pradeep said…
This post took me back in time... How we used to see Karen on Doordarshan... Yes, I remember those rumours too... This ad definitely was one of those I waited for...
Reshmi said…
Good write up indeed.
The topics u write abt is all quite different but never any less interesting. So Mr. Maddy is a man who has looked at everything in life with curiosity and found that facts to get all round info and finally presented it beautifully to readers like me! Thanks Sir:)) A treat to read as always..
Red Soul said…
I know. And even one time.. perizaad zorabian was in one liril ad I heard. they always make bubbly ads that make me happy :P
Payal said…
Maddy you bring awesome topics..
Yes I remembered.. the la la la Lril Promo..
Maddy said…
Pradeep - Just imagine, in those days there were no chain mails or SMS, still the news spread by word of mouth...
Reshmi - nice hearing from u after ages..yup i am still the curious man..hey - i hv not been knighted...
red soul - wow perizaad is one great looker - i saw her pic the other day on rediff, even though it was behind big goggles. yes, u are right, it is the happy bubbly ad's that you always remember..
Payal - thanks, i am a bit surprised, that u recall the original promo tune..
harimohan said…
dear maddy
that was a great one ,i too loved that ad ,my close friend who is a psychiatrist in uk was crazy about it ,we all believed and still do that she died ,nice to hear she didnt ,intresting post ,keep it up
Dr. Bhai said…
a very interesting blog.
keep it up
Dr. Bhai said…
an interesting blog indeed