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‘Can I call you Daddy from today?’

November 04, 2013

This is an advertisement I don’t want to fast forward or place on mute. It’s an ad that I want to see (and listen to) over and over again.

It begins with a young woman decking up for a big ceremony, to which she is accompanied by a little girl. The “pheras” (wedding vows around the fire) make it clear that it’s a wedding.

Watching the ceremony, the little girl pipes up: “Mamma, mamma, I also want to go round, round.”

As the ad for jewellery brand Tanishq, owned by the Tata group, comes to an end, you are left with no doubt that the woman is getting married, possibly for the second time.

Aaj se daddy bulaoon? (Can I all you daddy from today?),” the little girl asks the man in the frame.

Gauri Shinde, who has directed both the commercial and the much-acclaimed film English Vinglish, said about the punch line:

Actually, we debated the line used at the end of the commercial 'Daddy bulaoon?' quite a bit internally. We were a group of fairly intelligent people and we weren't sure how it would sound; should we end with them walking off with him carrying her, etc. So, we actually went out and tested it on people who were not our average media, advertising circles and we realised that it was necessary to drive home the fact that it was a remarriage. Some people might have assumed it was a renewal of vows. So, we used that ending to drive the point home very deliberately. We didn't want to leave it ambiguous.

In India, divorce and remarriage is very much part of the social landscape, but is rarely discussed in the public domain. It’s a very hush-hush affair, which families and individuals choose not to discuss.

The ad takes these issues smack into the public arena of debate, something that challenges the stereotype that a woman, who has a child from a previous relationship, can’t or shouldn’t get married again.

As pointed out previously, I live but a short distance from khap land, where small cabals of caste groups decide how women should dress, whom they should marry and whether or not they can carry mobile phones. Those couples that violate the code can and do get killed.

If the khaps and their codes are at the extreme end of the spectrum, mega Indian cities do lend anonymity and privacy to relationships of different kinds, but these are rarely discussed in the spirit the ad has adopted.

“The ad is certainly unusual and perhaps there’s hope yet. It also goes to show that it takes so little to do something different, and I wonder why advertisers are so scared of going beyond the given easy options,” Urvashi Butalia, publisher and author, feels.

The ad is a departure from the corporate norm, where selling, selling and more selling is both the heart and soul of most campaigns. The Tanishq ad, while peddling Tata jewellery, tells us that it’s possible to be creative at the same time.

Most corporate ads end up reinforcing stereotypes – the woman cooking, man being served the latest version of edible oils – is something that is etched in my mind.

And, of course, do remember that nobody would buy cars in the world if a pretty girl was not showing off the latest model.

For me – marrying or not marrying, once or twice, or more than twice; living together without marrying, having children or not having children; marrying a Hindu or a Muslim – are all individual decisions.

Society doesn’t get to decide the rights and wrongs of these relationships. Actually, there are no embedded rights and wrongs in relationships – it’s only a matter of choice.