Update: I think I need to eat my words. From what it now appears, to me, that it was indeed a cleverly planned in-film placement and the subsequent controversy was just a publicity stunt.

The Munni cutout from the Dabangg song Munni Munni featuring Malaika Arora Khan
The Munni cutout from the Dabangg song Munni Munni featuring Malaika Arora Khan
What I, for so long, thought of as a brilliant example of in-film (rather in-song) advertisement turned out to be a case of trademark infringement.

Zandu Pharmaceuticals has issued a legal notice to the producers of the superhit film Dabangg over the words, “zandu balm” used in the song Munni badnaam hui.

Munni seems to have earned some real infamy. This is the second legal notice that the producers received over the song. The previous was regarding the alleged objectionable use of the word “Hindustani” in the lyrics penned by Lalit Pandit: “Munni badnaam hui darling terey liye, baat yeh aam hui darling terey liye, leh Hindustan hui darling terey liye….” It was filed by an NGO called International Human Rights Association. How that violates the human rights of us Hindustanis is something beyond my comprehension.

As with most such cases, the timing is very important. We usually see most film-related litigation cropping up just before the release of the movie, so as to extract the most from the producer already suffering from pre-release jitters. But Zandu’s case is a little different, they waited for over a month since the song was first aired and a week after Dabangg started to shatter box office records.

Nip it in the bud is the age old advice, but it isn’t applicable here. Wait for the flower to bloom, is the way they like to do it. Dabangg producers shouldn’t also be worried much, since any publicity is good publicity. Though they no longer seem to need any of that.

For Zandu or Emami (which owns the majority stake in Zandu) it’s a win-win situation. First they got free publicity thanks to the chartbuster and all the buzz around this litigation will also ensure further public exposure for their product, as well as pacifying stakeholders that they have taken appropriate steps to prevent the “sullying” of the brand name.

Munni [song promo] – Dabangg

Even if the “offending” words are removed, it is unlikely to be erased from the public consciousness. The CDs have been sold, the MP3s downloaded, enough to ensure the Zandu balm continues to blare from speakers for a long long time, increasing the possibility of a pain-pareshan insaan to ask for a Zandu balm instead of an Amrutanjan or Iodex.

By the way, I think that the word used in the Munni song is not pronounced zandu, but jhandu (the way most people utter the name of the balm as). And as Zandu Balm ads indicate Zandu calls itself zandu and not jhandu. Don’t know if this argument can stand in court.