There was a time in India when naming or pointing to another’s brand was not a good practice. Even now the other brand is not clearly named. In US, that is not so.
To compare yourself or even ridicule the other’s brand positioning is probably a fine strategy for creating an ad. But is ridiculing the other brand’s spokesperson a good one? I am talking about the ad where Dhoni appears to ridicule Harbhajan Singh and his personal story.
Dhoni endorses McDowell’s No 1, a best-selling whisky from the UB Group that shares its name with a club soda. Harbhajan backs Royal Stag, a Seagram’s whisky from the Pernod Ricard stable that is co-branded with cricket gear.
The controversy is because:
- the ad pokes fun at Bhajji’s personal life – where his dad had a ball bearing unit.
- seems to suggest that Bhajji is staid as he is only concerned with bigger “balls” but isn’t anything different.
- uses the cultural injustice against Sikhs, where they are made the butt of most jokes to make Bhajji look like an idiot. It is very common to portry Sikhs as stupid or crazy in popular humor idiom that has prevailed in India
Yes, there is nothing wrong in making jokes on people, but such jokes use a cultural injustice as their runway. If there wasn’t any cultural thing on Sikh jokes, wouldn’t this ad have fallen flat? Yes, Bhajji is a fun loving guy. But so is Sreesanth. Can we do an ad on his life and make fun of him? Just as Bhajji is a “bit too passionate”, so is Sreesanth.
The fact is that the “punch” for the humor in this ad would have been lost if it weren’t on a Sikh. As a society, that is something sickening about us. It is time that we give respect to and honor every component of our society. Person for person, if one were to look into our history, we would find that ever since Guru Gobind Singh formed the Sikh Panth, the contribution of the Sikhs has been the most substantial. And thankless. The community does without any appreciation or even acknowledgement from others.
I doubt that any Sikh gets up to do his duty hoping this will show Sikhs in good light. He/She does that because that is what s/he believes in. Whether it is to teach, do research, lead a company, play cricket, start a business with nothing but hope and a song on his lips, or fight on the border.
And I am not saying that one starts sending “Thank you” cards to all the Sikhs one meets. But at the very least, it is important for all of us to understand our deep rooted prejudice. The harm it may be doing to the kids is enormous. It is a sheer testimony to the will of every kid, that despite the jokes being directed against them throughout their childhood they grow up without any antagonism or mindset to harm those who hurt them.
If one looks at it a little closely… and honestly, one would realize that is Bullying at its meanest. And socially institutionalized at that! That is the sad part. Even despite such odds, the Sikh kids not only keep their psyche intact, but fight the odds to do better than others. That is no small thing.
Like it is said about Bikini – what it shows is important, but what it hides is critical. It is exactly the same about this ad. What it doesn’t speak of explicitly is the sickening bias against the Sikhs, because that is the vehicle it is riding on. What it speaks of – Bhajji personal story – is distasteful.
Dhoni’s Ad on Bhajji
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