Raghu Rai, a seasoned photographer for the last 50 years, is a wise man who knows which side to adjust the sail when the wind blows in the wrong direction. That’s why he wrote an email to Sanjay Garg requesting him not to release ‘Zooni’, the ill-fated campaign by Raw Mango, some parts of which were shot by his daughter Avani.
In his email, Rai cautioned, “Since Avani and I have been documenting the ongoing happenings and agony of the state for the last couple of years, it would not be a wise idea to be involved in any kind of activity that is influenced by glamour or commercial events.”
Garg replied to Rai’s email: “Yes, the situation in Kashmir is affecting all of us and is indeed sensitive. Both your and Avni’s work is part of the reason why we decided on the shoot, aside from the immense respect I hold for you. As a result we have postponed our campaign release the last two months and above all, it is unfortunate that the Kashmir issue does not seem to be changing.”
Clarifying further on this, the designer told Deccan Chronicle, he had already allegedly shot the campaign a year ago and had twice delayed its release already. He never thought there was any reason to worry till the storm took him by surprise and forced the brand to withdraw its online campaign.
“The collection was ready and the campaign was shot much before the ongoing lockdown in Kashmir. Whereas we stand by our collection, it is clear to us now that the decision to release it on October 2 was not the right time, and we immediately took down the campaign, Garg said. ” Raw Mango’s Instagram account saw women in pherans — which many called “cultural appropriation” (a point which Garg defends and says he used in 2015 also) with the caption, “Kashmir’s tree of life remains resplendent… an abundance of history, beauty and warmth…” However, the campaign was swiftly removed after the massive controversy it generated, which included bashing of both Avani and Garg.
The campaign was termed as “insensitive” to the Valley, which has been in turmoil since August 5 when Article 370 was removed. People have accused Raw Mango of trying to sell clothes at a time when there is a lockdown, which in turn is a reflection of how callous the brand is. But others believe that the designer has in fact, tried to help the people of Kashmir by bringing the attention back to them using clothes as a vehicle of communication even though there is no denying that the timing was rather inappropriate. As one Insta user comments, “The campaign may not help the political situation but it may help to redefine the identity and plight of Kashmiris as not just a political conflict, but a humane one, with a lot more than just a political identity at stake.”
Meanwhile, explaining her association with Garg and the brand, self-taught photographer Avani Rai says, “I have been going to Kashmir for the last five years and it is a place where the camera finds a story in every nook and cranny. We met Sanjay Garg at the screening of the film I made on my father and his work, and he showed interest in Kashmir and our work done there.”
This is not the first time that campaigns have faced public ire. Gucci’s blackface turtleneck as well as men in turbans faced severe flak while Dolce & Gabbana showed a Chinese woman eating pizza, spaghetti and cannoli with chopsticks that made them lose millions.
Closer to home, Kolkata’s wonder boy Sabaysachi Mukherjee faced a massive uproar when he put up a picture of a curvy girl on Women’s Day. On the issue of controversies, Sabya says, “People have the right to think what they want, but the fact that my intention was right is what matters. When you are in a public space, you should be prepared for reactions; people have a right to their opinion even if it may be different from yours.”...