By Nikita Azad:
Oh yes Abhi! Abhi ke Abhi! Live it Abhi!
Each one of us remembers these punchlines of Pepsi, which enchanted almost the entire middle class by relieving it of the tensions of life, family and career, and refreshing them. Recently, Pepsi has again ‘refreshed’ the nation by a new advertisement, mocking striking students, one of whom breaks his hunger strike by not being able to control his thirst on seeing Pepsi. When everyone turns towards him, he comments, “Pepsi thi, pee gaya.”
This ad reminded me of a Limca ad, sponsored by the Coca-Cola Company, another multinational firm in India. This ad featured Kareena Kapoor, who missed her train because of the irresponsibility and laziness of the station master who was busy gossiping over the phone. She tried to catch the train but fell on a street vendor, a woman selling vegetables, who grabbed her when she accidentally ruined her stock. Then, she saw a man selling Limca, bought it and the song began, “Sar jo tera chakraye, hai safar pe jab tu jaye..aa ja pyare pas hamare, limca tujhe bulaye…” (when you feel dizzy, or sad, come have a Limca), to which she felt extremely relaxed.
This advertisement encouraged us to drink Limca on encountering corrupt officials and consider those vendors as lunatics who toil every day in scorching heat and chilly winds to make a two-square meal a day for their families.
Coca-Cola targets a section which is critical of the state’s policies, highly discontented with unemployment, dissatisfied with the standard of living; and plays the trump card over it by diverting the answers towards the so-called dirtiness of toiling masses, with its ‘Keep calm and Live long’ attitude. It consciously plays with the insecurities of people having high aspirations and hopes.
Both these advertisements have mocked those who demand something in return for their sweat, blood, taxes, resources, and votes from the governments. They have given an injection named, Live it Abhi! and sidelined the grave concerns of society.
The present year is a year of student politics which is reflected in the choice of the theme of the advertisement. The students of FTII have been protesting for nearly four months now, against the communal nomination of five FTII society members. The students of Pondicherry University have protested against the appointment of their VC, and were beaten up and dragged by the police. The students of EFLU are fighting against gender discrimination and violence inside the campus. Students of the University of Hyderabad are protesting against police patrolling on campus, militarization, and UGC guidelines on setting up of a police station inside their campus. The students of DU, JNU, Jamia, Ambedkar University, NLSU have launched a campaign named Pinjra Tod: Break the hostel locks, against the sexist atmosphere of their campuses. The students of MANUU have also collaborated with the Pinjra Tod wave, and are protesting against gender discriminatory practices in campus. On one hand, students of Delhi are facing threats from ABVP goons, and on the other, MANUU administration has lodged complaints against their students.
Earlier, this year the Ministry of Human Resource Developement (MHRD) imposed a ban on an Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras because of its so-called ‘anti-national’ activities. In a similar manner, Prof. G.N. Saibaba, a 90% physically challenged person, involved in pro-people politics, whereby he consistently fought for the rights of tribals, was arrested on the charge of having links with Maoists. Last but not the least, this very week, students of JNU, DU, JAMIA are protesting in front of the UGC office, Delhi against UGC’s decision to do away with the non-NET fellowship.
The year 2015 is certainly a year of commercialization and communalization of education on the state’s part, and that of vehement opposition to it on the students’ part. It proves to be the year of students’ politics, demanding fair, scientific, and an equal education system. This is reflected in the Pepsi advertisement too, where a girl can be seen holding the poster, ‘Roll back Fee Hike’ which loses significance as soon as one student drinks Pepsi. Perhaps, the drink might not break the students’ determination, but the market culture that Pepsi is trying to create, might be able to depoliticise students.
Through this advertisement, Pepsi has revealed the character of all giant international corporations, i.e. to commodify every human asset. It has exposed the big corporate-government’s nexus which liquidated all trade barriers during liberalization in 1990-91. Although we were so much impressed by Pepsi at that time, now we know the actual meaning of ‘Yeh hai right choice, baby!’, being that of sucking up the last drop of political consciousness out of youth.
Also, there is a lot of debate centering around the effects of Pepsi on human health. Some say Pepsi is a toilet cleaner, but right now, I think it is a thought cleaner.
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