Bunshah and the Biscuits

From being a struggling student of medicine to becoming the mascot for Parle-G, influencer Zervaan Bunshah is the talk of the town. We find out where he started and where he plans to go.
The ‘Bunshah-G’ packet
The ‘Bunshah-G’ packet

Don’t worry if you wake up one day to find the mascots of your favourite brands missing. There is a good chance that they have been replaced by Zervaan Bunshah, a 29-year-old social media influencer, who is being featured on some famous snacks, one after another. He has most recently been featured on the packet of the Parle-G biscuits, one of the oldest brand names in India.

It all started with his video in which he humorously pondered, “If you meet the owner of Parle-G, do you call him Parle sir, Mr Parle, or Parle-G?” The video gained over a million views last month, catching the brand’s attention. In response, they replaced their well-known girl mascot with Bunshah’s image, introducing ‘Bunshah-G’. During a chat with TMS, Bunshah, who lives in Mumbai, says he “teared up” when he saw it and that “they were very smart to create a campaign out of the viral video”.

Bunshah’s previous collaboration was with Lays. It happened after he uploaded a video ranting about how it had changed the flavour of its magic masala chips. “I won’t lie; I was triggered the way a child would get at their parents. How dare a brand I was so loyal to change the flavour without asking. The next thing I know, it went viral,” he says. “Many people didn’t like the new magic masala flavour either, I just happened to be the first person to upload a video about it. Ranting – without using swear words – always works on social media. The Instagram algorithm pushes your content.”

These organic collaborations are not just for fun. Bunshah’s ‘impromptu’ outbursts and sudden rants are driven by a plan. “I want to show brands that they don’t have to always go over the top and spend all those budgets to make a smart marketing campaign,” he says. He wants content creators and brands to work with each other. “The aim is to create a more genuine space for advertisements, as social media is filled with disingenuous advertising,” says the influencer even though he “never wanted” to step into the digital world in the first place.

Medicine to media

Bunshah has flirted with various disciplines and professions– from medical to marketing, political science and international relations to a stint with the CSR wing of TATA—but stuck with none. A self-confessed “attention seeker”, he also dabbled in theatre till he “realised that he had to embrace social media to stay relevant”.

Before the lockdown, he had worked with British director Melly Steel in the play The Mirror Crack’d that was staged at the Royal conservatory of Wales in 2019 and was hopeful that his acting career would take off. Lockdown put an end to it. Bunshah then got on social media to showcase his talent in singing. “During the lockdowns, my earnings came from social media,” he says. After a year, he reached over 12,000 followers on Instagram. But things became stagnant soon after. His luck turned when he met his girlfriend, who now helps him with his scripts and the brand management. Currently, Bunshah has over one lakh followers.

In a theatre production
In a theatre production

Saved by comedy

When not collaborating with brands, Bunshah seamlessly transforms into his online fictional characters like NoBo aunty, SoBo boy, Parsi uncle and matchmaker—they are a hit on social media. “Comedy became a massive fixture in my life when I was clinically depressed. I even attempted suicide because medicine (studies in medicine) became overwhelming for me. During this time, comedy kept me sane,” he says.

Though social media gives visibility, how does he deal with its flip side – the trolling? By laughing it off, he says. “After struggling for years, I have got this little fame. I feel glad that someone is interacting with my content. Trollers are basically people who are frustrated with their lives or are going through a bad phase. Also, the hate men get on social media is nothing in comparison to what women get. So, I cannot be the one cribbing.”

Meanwhile, he has also been getting work as a voice artist. In 2020, he contributed backing vocals for the soundtrack of Disney+ Hotstar’s Aarya Season 2. “Let’s say I got this because my voice complements my sister Delraaz Bunshah’s, who has worked on all three seasons of Aarya. The sound engineer wanted a male voice, which complements her pitch and tone.”

‘I want everything’

Bunshah has learnt to take the highs with the lows. One big blow in his budding film career was when his only scene from the recently released Vicky Kaushal-starrer, Sam Bahadur—he plays the field marshal’s sibling Jemi—got edited out before its theatre release. However, he will appear in the OTT cut.

What’s the end goal? The answer is quintessentially Bunshah: “I wish to be everything. My idols are Priyanka Chopra, Prajakta Koli, Adarsh Gourav, and Irrfan Khan. These are the careers I want.” Looking back at his journey thus far, he says: “You have to keep at it. Don’t put yourself in a box; keep experimenting. You never know what clicks.”

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The New Indian Express