Over the years, Indian ads have never failed to amuse us with their cringy as well as controversial content. Advertisements have become a way of life for an average Indian. Crony-capitalists have hired eminent stars and superstars to launch their products and left no stones unturned to popularize their products using community and entertainment as propaganda.
Advertisement directors have utilized their artistic and aesthetic talents at their best to invoke the sentiments of the masses. However, with the advent of 2019, under the government of Narendra Modi, it has become evident that there has been a huge prohibition on the expression of art and creativity.
A popular Bollywood actress has openly and blatantly accused the advertisement makers as “creative terrorists” and state machinery, along with social media goons, is trying every possible way to either undermine or completely eradicate creative freedom, freedom of thoughts and expressions through art. This time, the brand that has become their target is much-loved and much-revered jewellery brand among the bourgeois class of India, Tanishq.
It has been observed that for the past few days, the top trending hashtag on Twitter is #BoycottTanishq and various social media platforms are leaving no chance to shame the company and a “controversial ad” that was recently aired. The fault of the ad maker was that they tried to show a Utopian picture of a new India where communal harmony is the way to be. The ad showed a South Indian Hindu bride escorted lovingly by her “Muslim” mother-in-law towards her baby shower ceremony.
It seems as if the country has forgotten its secular roots. The fact that a Hindu daughter-in-law is getting love and care from her Muslim mother-in-law could not be digested by the average Indians who revel in hate-filled communal cringe forwarded via Whatsapp and Facebook university. The Hindutva-wadis have appointed a troll army to polarize the masses by fabricating the whole ad as “promoting love jihad”. Celebrities who use opportunism to make a political career also jumped the wagon and joined the army to criticize the ad back and forth.
Tanishq was finally compelled to take down the ad from all media platforms. The newly-formed internet “Khap” influenced the netizens so much that they could not digest the idea that “inter faith marriages” are and have been a reality in India since ages. Some netizens are asking bizarre questions, such as, “Why is it only a Hindu woman who marries a Muslim man and why not vice- versa? This means Hindus are tolerant while Muslims are not, therefore, Hindu khatre mein hain!.”
Some ‘analytical’ Netizens are also claiming that India follows “selective liberalism”, where it is always the Hindus who leave their religion and marry in different communities, and that Hindus have deliberately become heterogeneous, and that the Hindu identity is no longer thriving, only surviving.
The beautiful ad that showed love and care towards daughters, which is quite rare in India, suddenly became a question of “Hindu identity”. However, netizens must check their facts around incidents of bride burning, female foeticide, infanticide and femicide in both the communities before making a blank statement on social media that spews venom in an already economically and socially struggling society.
Nevertheless, liberals and seculars have shown distress in the taking down of the ad and claimed that India is no longer a “secular democracy”; it’s slowly turning into a “religious autocracy” where freedom of speech would gradually become a distant dream.
It would be surprising to know that the respective jewellery brand dares to show sensitivity, sensibility, communal harmony and egalitarianism in the times of Covid-19 and the rise of the fascist state politics, where murder and rape in the name of religion and caste have become a “new normal”.
According to the company spokesperson, “The idea behind the Ekatvam campaign is to celebrate the coming together of people from different walks of life, local communities and families during these challenging times and celebrate the beauty of oneness. This film has stimulated divergent and severe reactions, contrary to its very objective. We are deeply saddened with the inadvertent stirring of emotions and withdraw this film keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and well-being of our employees, partners and store staff.”
Perhaps this particular ad can be viewed as the only commercial and mainstream ad that has shown that WhatsApp and Facebook university ‘study materials’ are of no worth in front of love and oneness among people from two different faith. We should appreciate Tanishq’s efforts in making India one again, (and not divided) through their products.
As liberal, thinking Indians, we should come up with every possible way to revive the already falsely stained reputation of Tanishq and help the company revive and gain the confidence not only to fight back the communal attack and cancel culture of social media but also fight for the nation and people through powerful, thought-provoking advertisements and campaigns.