51 captures
13 Feb 2016 - 25 Jan 2021
About this capture
Cookies on the BBC website
The BBC has updated its cookie policy. We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. This includes cookies from third party social media websites if you visit a page which contains embedded content from social media. Such third party cookies may track your use of the BBC website. We and our partners also use cookies to ensure we show you advertising that is relevant to you. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies on the BBC website. However, you can change your cookie settings at any time.
Change settings
Find out more
The Indian granny who left thousands teary-eyed
By Sudha G Tilak
13 February 2016
Anushree Fadnavis/Indus Images
In the youthful world of Indian advertising, Uma Tembulkar, 78, is an unlikely celebrity model.
Ms Tembulkar is the lead in the advertisement, British Airways: Fuelled by Love, that has gone viral on YouTube and has Twitter tearing up over her.
The six-minute film, uploaded a week ago on YouTube, has had more than one million visitors and made Ms Tembulkar a welcoming face that's beaming from a billboard at the Mumbai airport.
"Ms Tembulkar brings on a heavy dose of emotion to the ad; meaningful not melodramatic," says advertising expert Vidhya Sankarnarayan.
"It resonates with Indians like the granny who feels dislocated on flights and connects at a human level," she says.
An emotional flight
Ms Tembulkar said the British Airways ad was easy to enact because it had "two strangers who show kindness and compassion to each other, breaking cultural and generational barriers".
A look at the ad would explain why she's spot on.
The film shows a septuagenarian returning home from visiting her son in London.
She struggles while fastening the seat belt and bending over her arthritic knees to pull on her socks. A young stewardess, Helena Flynn, on her maiden flight to India, comes to her help.
The lady wells up, missing her son. The stewardess comforts her and is invited home by the elder woman.
A visit to the south Indian home is full of effusive Indian hospitality, good food and a slice of culture and a high dose of warmth.
"I wanted the ad to debunk the stereotype of the uptight British person and rude Indian traveller and Ms Tembulkar touched the right chords," says director Neeraj Ghaywan, feted recently at the Cannes film festival.
This was the indie filmmaker's first venture into ad filmmaking and he found Ms Tembulkar "just the perfect face of dignity and affection".
And the social media response has been effusive praise for the ad.
Today, Ms Tembulkar gets grabbed for selfies on her morning market run to buy vegetables and milk.
Global granny
"It was an honour to act in the British Airways ad and I thoroughly enjoyed travelling to London," she says.
Ms Tembulkar has been married for 60 years and led life as a homemaker with an enduring passion in Indian classical music that helped her "overcome fear of performing before an audience or the camera".
She now watches over a brood of grandchildren, who are students in Harvard and Carnegie Mellon, travelling frequently to holiday with her scattered family across the globe. "My passport is the fattest," she chuckles with quiet pride.
"My life as a model began at 70," she speaks carefully in English, though she is also fluent in her native tongue Marathi, and Hindi, Bengali and a smattering of Gujarati too.
The actress in her was discovered by young friends at a family gathering and in the last eight years, she has acted in more than 60 advertisements for products as varied as insurance companies, furniture, cooking oils, biscuits and more.
"Look at her: she's the quintessential Indian granny and her predicament while travelling alone is real. That has made the ad work," says Mr Ghaywan.
He praises her as a "super granny" who travels alone frequently to visit her children and grandchildren, and understands the "emotional palette with her restrained, yet powerful performance".
Experts say ageism has never been a problem in India and has always helped in selling products.
"Like the grandpas from India and Pakistan for the Google ad, age never goes out of style in Indian advertisements," says Ms Sankarnarayan.
Unlike an earlier generation, the granny in the British Airways ad travels business class in comfort, though not schooled in global travel; she represents the old setting off alone to connect with scattered families across the world and makes a human connection that makes the ad tick.
Many say the ad helps to debunk the stereotype of the rude Indian in-flight traveller.
"Ms Tembulkar does a fantastic job of giving the contemporary Indian traveller a face," explains Ms Sankarnarayan.
Given the soaring success of the advertisement, the sky is the limit for this granny.
Sudha G Tilak is a Delhi-based independent journalist
Share this story About sharing
Top Stories
Russia faces pressure over Syria deaths
Pressure increases on Russia over civilian deaths in air strikes in Syria, with France and the United States urging greater caution.
13 February 2016
Trident 'lets UK punch above weight'
13 February 2016
Doctors side with Australia asylum baby
13 February 2016
Seeing without seeing
The blind boy who learned to find his way around using echoes
Seeking someone
Seven graphs that show how the search for love has changed
Beyonce gets political
The pop star's journey to 'Black Lives Matter,' in 60 seconds
Dublin in rubble
The story told by rare photos of the 1916 Easter Rising
A nation in panic
Colombia's experience of the Zika virus
Sea change
Why tourists have stopped visiting a beautiful Italian island
Touch of love
Why was St Valentine's finger sent to Coventry?
10 Things
Horses can tell when you're angry, and more news nuggets
London calling
The 78-year-old celebrity model who left thousands teary-eyed
BBC News Services
On your mobile
On your connected tv
Get news alerts
Contact BBC News
Explore the BBC
Make It Digital
Copyright © 2016 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read about our approach to external linking.
NewsNewsSportWeatherShopEarthTravelCapitaliPlayerCultureAutosFutureTVRadioCBBCCBeebiesFoodiWonderBitesizeTravelMusicEarthArtsMake It DigitalTasterNatureLocalMenu