Anil Thakraney’s Hard Knocks: No country for funny men

19 Sep,2011

By Anil Thakraney

 

There are many reasons I quit the ad world a long time ago. One of them being there’s no place for irreverence in desi advertising. Not even fun irreverence. And that’s because Indians lack the ability to laugh at themselves, and take offence at the slightest mischief. We people take ourselves too damn seriously. Which is why most advertisers panic when wicked storyboards are presented to them. And this issue, for me at least, is just too depressing.

It is in this context that I have been keeping a hawk’s eye on the new Tata Docomo campaign. I sort of knew this wickedly humorous stuff would sooner or later get into trouble. ThatIndiais not ready for it. This is the ‘No Getting Away’ campaign. There are many ads on air, but the one I found cutest is where a maid, while cleaning the living room, lucks upon a carelessly left cell phone instrument. Because no one’s watching, she grabs it and hides it inside her blouse. But the memsaab manages to nab her. Because the phone starts buzzing inside the blouse. Yup, no getting away! I loved it, because it’s tongue-in-cheek, wicked communication. Meant for a few good laughs.

[youtube width=”300″ height=”225″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWsGT63dAUU[/youtube]And yes, the commercial is in trouble. Not only is the maids’ union up in arms, Raj Thackeray saab has got into the act. Saying this ad denigrates the Marathi manoos, since the maid looks like a typical Mumbai bai. And once Raj bhau raises his voice, the ad is as good as dead. There’s no getting away from him either!

Now here’s the deal: I would have laughed equally hard if the maid was Bengali, Punjabi, Muslim, Tamil, Christian or Sindhi. And I would have laughed even harder if they had featured a corporate CEO stealing a phone at an airport (and some do!). Because the dirt, the bias, is in our minds. We want to laugh at others but not at ourselves. I don’t know who wrote the Docomo script, but am absolutely certain that dude or dudette was not out to trash any community. They were having fun, and will now have to face the music.

And the pity is this: After this incident, the rest of the already worried advertisers will kiss irreverent advertising goodbye for many more years. And I suspect the alarmed Docomo guys will swiftly revert to their stupid Ranbir Kapoor talks shows. Sad.

Anyway, I am glad I no longer play the game. I don’t do safe.

 

[youtube width=”300″ height=”225″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbqBjnBy-1s[/youtube]PS: Watched the Listerine ad. And strangely, funny man Cyrus Sahukar acts so serious, it’s like Raj bhau sent him a hot memo too. What’s the point of casting the mad-cap Cyrus and running a clinical ad? It’s as corny as casting Narendra Modi in an ad where he talks of peace and brotherhood! (Peace, Motabhai, peace!)

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