Saurabh Verma on rejecting controversial Layer’r ads: ‘I just used my common sense’

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From celebrities, activists, netizens to even ‘aam janta’, people across the board had slammed the recent ads by the perfume brand Layer’r, which appeared to trivialise sexual violence. It was followed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting ordering the suspension of the ads, and the company rendering a public apology. While the furore over the ads eventually died down, a recent LinkedIn post about it grabbed eyeballs. In the LinkedIn post, ad filmmaker Abbas Mirza said his friend, actor Saurabh Verma refused to be a part of the ad campaign as he found them “derogatory and demeaning for women”. The post went viral in no time and the young actor was called “gutsy”, “sensitive” and “brave” for refusing the sexist ads. However, Saurabh says he declined the advertisement because he did not believe in it. “I just used my common sense. I am right now too surprised at how everyone has been lauding me,” he exclusively told indianexpress.com.

Allahabad-born actor Saurabh Verma moved to Mumbai in early 2018, and has since then been part of ads for McDonalds, Creta, Hero, Mother Dairy and Tanishq among others. It was a little more than a month ago when he was sent the script of the controversial Layer’r ads. “I was honestly a little upset when I read it. I knew I would never tolerate it if a woman was treated like this in real life, and hence I did not want to do it even on camera. I did suggest a few changes but when they did not agree, I politely said no,” he shared.

Saurabh did not talk about the ads, until he bumped into his old friend Abbas Mirza. As they discussed ads, he happened to share how he was offered the controversial Layer’r ads. “Honestly, I didn’t think it was such a big thing. Abbas bhaiya asked me if he could share the story. I agreed and only requested him to not defame the person. I never expected it to blow up this big.”

Given Saurabh Verma is not on social media, he did not know about the viral LinkedIn post about him. He said it was Abbas who told him that Neelesh Mishra had reshared the post, and websites were picking it up. The actor further revealed that it was his parents who had the best reaction to him becoming a social media sensation.

“When I told them about it, they were like ‘sab ads karke popular hote hai, tum reject ho ke hogaye’ (Everyone gets popular doing ads, you got popular after rejecting one),” Saurabh said.

In his early 20s and just four years in the industry, we wondered if the actor was scared to say no to the casting person; given it can always have a domino effect on his future projects. He replied, “Not at all. As I told you, it was my belief and I cannot compromise on that. Also, I don’t think work got affected as I still get calls every day. I have always wanted to be an actor, and I am in it for the long run. So I don’t think I will worry about such hurdles, as I know exactly the kind of work I want to do.”

As he spoke about his passion for acting, Saurabh Verma shared that he wasn’t inspired by anyone in particular but knew Bollywood was his calling. “All I remember is that as a kid, my first role was that of a star in a school play. I stood beside a girl who played an angel, with cardboard cutout. And that just gave birth to an actor in me. After that, I was associated with theatre in school and college. My parents fortunately were supportive and let me come to Mumbai. And since then I am living one day at a time, working hard to make my dreams come true,” concluded the actor.

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