Amidst the India-Australia match, Akash Ambani’s wedding and the announcement of election dates, a hashtag urging people to boycott a popular detergent brand started trending on Twitter.
The brand’s recently released commercial has invited the wrath of the Twitteratis who wasted no time in terming it as anti-Hindu and promoting love jihad. The minute-long commercial features a young Hindu girl, dressed in a white t-shirt, choosing to get stained in Holi colours in order to protect her young Muslim friend who has to go to the nearby mosque to pray. The advertisement ends with its classic tagline: Daag acche hain. While some netizens tried to question the gender selection of the kids in the film, others egged on the brand to make a similar commercial based on a Muslim festival.
The controversy comes hot on the heels of the heavy backlash against another commercial that was set in the Kumbh Mela. The conglomerate had referred to Kumbh Mela as a “place where old people get abandoned.” This didn’t go down well with many and after a furore, the company issued a statement saying, “We do not intend to hurt the sentiments of people, and have modified the tweet which could have been inadvertently misconstrued.”
When asked about the flak that commercials have to face nowadays, well-known ad film director, Prahlad Kakkar attributes it to an agenda. He says, “I don’t think people are getting offended, it’s the fringe lunatics, who are ultra-fundamentalist. It is a very active body on Twitter and most people don’t bother to reply. Right now, the only voices that you hear are people of political leanings, and they think they are going to get mileage by polarising the population through Twitter.”
While trolls sitting behind the computer screen feel that the ad was anti-Hindu, many praised it for its creativity. Sharing his views, ad filmmaker Gaurav Panjwani says, “I don’t see anything wrong with this advertising film, it’s an apt narration of friendship and a sincere effort to promote peace via the brand which is used widely in almost every home.”
Although trolls don’t need a reason to bash a certain post on social media, ad filmmaker Sneh Nilhani urges people to see the other side. “I think they could have used the content in a different way to show unity. If they’d shown a boy going for namaz with the Holi colours on his kurta, it could have shown more unity and togetherness,” she says. And although she personally doesn’t think the ad is wrong, she feels the political situation is making people more sensitive. “It might seem like Holi colour stains are making you impure; this can be sensitive to some people because, in the present political scenario, anything is possible. Whatever message they are trying to give through this ad may be sensitive to some people for sure,” says the filmmaker.
Ad filmmaker Milind Dhaimade, who has made several ads for Pepsico, says, “I think the group is trying to create some good values about caring and respecting each others’ thoughts and beliefs and that’s what they are trying to associate with their brands, so what’s wrong in that? It’s just that few people are using this to create a ruckus and make noise. Just because someone is from another religion, they are trying to make a fuss about it.”
Meanwhile, many have gone ahead and endorsed it. While celebrities such as Vir Das and Swara Bhaskar have tweeted in favour of the ad, their voices have gotten overshadowed by the number of trolls criticising the ad. According to Prahlad however, the number of trolls is not high but the people who liked the ad are not speaking up. “Five hundrde people in one million people have not liked the ad, so does it really matter?” he asks and continues, “Before the elections, we should either manifest it in the election and say what we think or we should turn out and have a voice.”
Expressing his views on the ad, he says, “I think it is the right message and it gives the right impression to everybody as it calls for peace and harmony, which is what we need in this country today.”
— With inputs from Priyanka Chandani...