Is Brand Bose Too Hot To Handle?!

23 Jan,2021

 

By Avik Chattopadhyay [updated]

 

His surname is a popular first name in all the states in South India.

People say that there are more statues of him across India than those of Gandhi.

Politicians of all hues and shapes have attempted to appropriate him for their own benefits.

People are more bothered about how he died than how he lived.

And today is his 125th birth anniversary.

 

Today will set off a year of “celebrations” both by the central government and that of West Bengal. The Prime Minister has decided to rechristen the day as “Parakram Divas”, the day of courage or power. The state government, never to be outdone, has declared the day as “Desh-nayak Divas” or day of the national hero.

It is actually his 124th birth anniversary, being born in 1897. But the country is celebrating it as the 125th! Why? Because the elections in West Bengal are due this year. So, it makes perfect sense for both the central and state governments to make the most of the situation and be seen as ‘closer’ to the man. So, what’s in a date!

Bose is one of the most powerful yet enigmatic brands that India has seen. The enigma about his ‘death’ magnifies his appeal. Also, the fact that he became a ‘rebel’ in the freedom struggle and charted his own path increases the adulation and magnetism. He has left us a legacy filled with intense patriotism, adventure, intrigue, controversy, and action. He has given us coinages like “Jai Hind”, “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Chalo Dilli” that are in use every day.

 

Yet he is a brand too hot to handle. No political party really wants to ‘own’ him. Sadly, Forward Bloc, the party he had founded is just too small to be of any consequence. The Congress has kept him at arm’s length for obvious reasons as he had a voice that did not match that of the supreme leader’s forcing him to leave the party even after winning the election as president. The Left Front, though absorbing Forward Bloc, did not openly espouse his persona as he had controversially aligned with the Axis powers. The BJP did play the ‘Netaji Files’ card merely for political gains but that did not seem to work, and they let him be. The Trinamool Congress really does not know how exactly to appropriate Bose.

 

If one were to read the writings and speeches of Bose over the years, one would see his clear disrespect for certain political parties, the religious fundamentalists, and armchair thinkers. His open love for Urdu as well as the Bhagwad Gita is a delightful co-existence that many find difficult to fathom today. Giving the INA the motto of ‘Ittehad Itmad Qurbani’ while naming two of the battalions after Gandhi and Nehru is a paradox not witnessed in India’s history. Bose is an extremely ‘uncomfortable’ concept to grapple with. Thus, all have played him as a card and nothing more as they do not wish to align with his thoughts and beliefs. So, thankfully, he is still the “rebel” with no political masters.

 

The world loves rebels, be they persons or products. As human beings we have this deep-down urge to challenge convention and have no ‘holy cows’. Rebellion is a subliminal trait, mostly suppressed due to overt constraints and pressures. Therefore, the average person has a certain level of respect for anyone who challenges authority, establishment, ritual or convention.

 

Bose is the eternal rebel. The classic challenger brand.

 

Clear in purpose. With a strong point of view. With the ability to question the higher powers. And have the capability to walk the talk. Challenger brands, with increasing popularity and following, are vulnerable to becoming mainstream and leader brands. The moment they become so, they lose the charm of the rebel. And are targets for the new challengers.

 

Rebel politicians lose their appeal and charm when they join the mainstream. Challenger products and solutions lose their ‘clan’ or ‘tribe’ the moment they try increasing their base across customer segments.

 

So, a challenger has to be conscious not to become mainstream in both appeal and acceptance. Its following should be intense but not necessarily large. Its purpose, promise, personality and philosophy should be adopted by a few committed followers who have the same action orientation.

 

Does that mean that a rebel can never become an icon?

 

Surely does as people love the act of challenging or rebellion more than the cause. And evolve into ‘pop’ icons. People across the world wear Che t-shirts and berets more because he looks ‘cool’ than ever supporting his cause of “perpetual revolution”. It is similar to wearing a Jim Morrison or an Undertaker t-shirt. The philosophy or profession does not really matter as long as the person is known to challenge the establishment.

 

Bose has not become a pop icon as Che as yet, even in India. I do not know whether that is good or bad. Some ‘purists’ might object to putting Bose on a t-shirt and demeaning his image. The contrarian might argue that having more Bose t-shirts being worn might lead to more people wanting to know about this man and his life. I choose to be with the latter as I strongly believe that the cause of the rebel needs to be amplified as much as possible, across age groups, regions and countries. That will actually protect the rebel from misappropriation.

 

Thankfully, the sudden collective euphoria around Bose that starts today will last till the West Bengal elections are done and dusted. Whoever wins will silently consign the man to pages of history and a statue at the Shyambazar crossing in Kolkata. Rebels are too hot to handle, be they persons or products. They take risks that the average will not even think of. They live lives of tumultuous adventure and uncertainty, not in line with the comfort and peace most of us crave for. They remain in the hearts and spirits of only a committed few. For the larger population they are but a holiday, milestone, or case study in a management institute.

 

His unfinished journey on August 18, 1945 has ensured he remains the eternal rebel. One can never say what would have happened if he would have returned to India, disclosed his identity, and joined mainstream politics. Guess the man knew the pitfalls very well.

 

As Bose himself once said, “Life loses half its interest if there is no struggle…if there are no risks to be taken.”

 

Jai Hind!

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