Remember a time when we used to look forward to the Deepavali advertisements on television? It probably began with the epic Petronas ad. You know, the one that made everyone start calling each other Muthusamy Karupiah. Ever since, each year, corporations would outdo each other with the most sentimental or comedic Deepavali ad.

For the last decade or so, however, there has been radio silence. Sure, there were a sprinkling of watchable ads, but the ones that we enjoyed were few and far between.

Until the Deepavali of 2019, that is! This Deepavali was an extra special one, not only because of the long weekend, but also thanks to the numerous ads that were released in conjunction with the Festival of Lights.

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There were so many incredible ads this year, that we decided to launch our first ever Varnam Deepavali Advertisement Awards. Here goes!

BEST ACTRESS

Komala Is Cursed – KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital

Komala is the classic Malaysian Indian aunty – the one who assumes that Indian men who aren’t doctors are either useless, or drunk all the time. Then something strange happens, and she rushes to KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital to seek help.

The actress who plays Komala excels in this ad, she effortlessly embodies all the evil aunties one has encountered in their lifetime. As for the doctor who has dipped his feet into acting, you did well with the Rajinikanth-shawl-flip using a stethoscope, but it might be best to stick to your day job, bro.

BEST ACTOR

Arvin’s ReDeepavali – CIMB Bank Berhad

This CIMB Bank ad was a brilliant take on how Deepavali has evolved from one generation to another. The actor who plays Arvin has done a wonderful job playing the obliging nephew who doesn’t say no to his Atthe. Although, we do wish the script had incorporated a reply to her nonsensical declaration that the art of kolam a girl’s duty!

Here’s a public service announcement to all the haters who commented negatively, because cast was not conversing in Tamil: Some Malaysian Indian families converse only in one language. That language may be English, Malayalam, Telugu or Punjabi. Speaking in any of these (or any other) language doesn’t make them any less Indian. Stop judging, we all embrace our culture differently.

BEST COMEDY

Diya’s Deepavali – Inti International University & Colleges

Something was amiss from the time we heard that Diya’s mother cooked buffalo meat on Deepavali day. It is only then we begin wondering where this story is leading!

Diya’s Deepavali by Inti International University & Colleges should win the best comedy AND best background music award. The filmmakers have done really well incorporating the instrumental tunes, including the strings of Rajesh Vaidhya in the background.

The cast did an excellent job, and we couldn’t get enough of actor Joshua, who played Suriya. #KirrukzforMurrukz

BEST STORY

Soya Cincau – Enrico’s Malaysia

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This viral Deepavali ad is probably the most Tamil movie-esque one of them all. Depicting a tale of interracial love, Soya Cincau subtly questions the true Malaysian spirit within us. Are we really as accepting as we claim?

Add a dose of comedy, action and the appa sentiment, and you have a beautifully packaged Deepavali ad along with a theme song that will play over and over again in your head.

Read our feature article on Enrico’s Soya Cincau here.

MOST SENTIMENTAL ADVERTISEMENT

Strength to Rise – RHB Bank

Probably one of the only serious Deepavali ads this year, Strength to Rise by RHB Bank features Dr Muraly Arumugam, the founder of Tamilar Uthavum Karangal, a non profit organisation that conducts numerous charity projects. They also help the differently-abled to ascend the 272 steps of Batu Caves.

Thanks to RHB Bank’s heavy advertising budget, this ad has raked in 6.4 million views on YouTube. More power to you, Dr Muraly and team!

BEST APPEAL TO YOUTH

Style Mannavan – Tenaga Nasional Berhad

This hilarious Deepavali ad by Tenaga Nasional Berhad will have a special place in the hearts of all of us who have been forced to dress in gaudy, brightly coloured clothing on the morning of the Festival of Lights.

MGR’s outfit even came with a pink thalapa (headgear) that we assume had to be custom made. The unhappy teenager obliges his parents, because well, they’re his parents, and we Indian youth ALWAYS listen to our parents! He even goes on to make a quick, comical vow as he enters the temple, before he is met with the most beautiful surprise. Well done, TNB!

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Thanggam – Petronas

Finally, a Deepavali ad in the estates! Petronas’ Thanggam features an iron lady who is in charge of an entire masyarakat majmuk (racially diverse group of people) in the estate, all of whom look up to her, with one exception – her grandson from the city. How does she end up his Thanggam, then?

We loved the rural reality that was infused into this ad, along with the on screen chemistry between Patti and grandson.

BEST DEEPAVALI AD OF ALL TIME

Boyz In Da Hood – Petronas

No ad will ever reach the level of Petronas’ 2003 Deepavali ad, Boyz In Da Hood. Sixteen years later, this ad still makes us laugh, because of how relevant it remains to this very day, with plenty of Muthusamy Karupiahs calling themselves Sam.

SPECIAL MENTION – ALMOST THREE DECADES LATER

Deepavali Advertisement 1992 – Dunhill

Yes, there was a time when cigarette brands could be advertised on the television. This is where the infamous Dunhill tagline of Gaya, Mutu, Keunggullan came to be. This 27 year old ad features dancers and musicians from the Temple of Fine Arts, and is a fine example of the national perception of Indian culture back in the day.

Well, would you look at how far we have come. From being represented by Bharatanatyam and the sitar to coming up with western nicknames to sound cool, we have seen it all. What hasn’t changed, however, is the love and respect we have for our elders and each other. Deepavali wishes to all!