After coming out with diverse products for men and women, Patanjali recently launched its latest beauty product. Instead of finding its way to the shelves of cosmetic shops, the product has become an object of contempt, especially in the eyes of women. As if turning women’s insecurities into a butt of jokes in the society was not enough, the product’s latest advertisement measures a woman’s identity through her choice of beauty products and good looks.
The ad begins with two sisters, Saundarya and Aishwarya and the narration describes them as: Saundarya — “paramparaon ka paalan karne wali (follows old traditions and cultures)”, Aishwarya — “bindaas, wannabe type girl”. The voice over further goes on to say that Saundarya uses the Patanjali product while Aishwarya goes for chemical make-up. The chemical cosmetics destroy Aishwarya’s skin and her face is filled with acne, while the herbal essence of Patanjali keeps Saundarya’s skin glowing. The state of her skin makes her college mates poke fun at her beauty.
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If the classification of women according to their taste in beauty products was not cringe-worthy enough, the advertisement promotes mockery of women just for their beauty or looks.
Constantly told to take care of their looks, women have been slammed for it and retorted with statements like “koi shaadi nahi karega (no one will marry you)” and compared with other girls of their age who are prettier or slimmer than them. And this ad takes that concept to dizzying heights. The major problem here is the portrayal of the word ‘bindaas’, which is usually a colloquial Hindi term for carefree, as something negative.
Sure, Baba Ramdev’s company wants to take on the chemical cosmetics industry with sanskari herbal creams (the jeans battle will happen later), but to imply that being carefree and associating it with ‘being wannabe’ or as something negative is ridiculous. So, basically just because Saundarya follows traditions – which can only be equated to using Patanjali products – she’s beautiful, while her ‘carefree bindaas’ sister becomes a pimple magnet just because she wants to live life on her own terms, and that means not using Patanjali products?!
There are so many shades of wrong in this ad. Right from suggesting that being cool and carefree would end badly to the just the product being advertised… yet another cream to make sure your skin glows. As if we didn’t already have a range of fairness products and their corresponding ads that prey on the socially planted insecurities of women who feel that they need to be fair to be beautiful.
When the sanskari paramparik Saundarya predictably comes to the rescue of the bindaas Aishwarya, making sure she uses Patanjali products and does away with the ‘harmful cool’ life, the ad gives us enough reasons to question whether we have even moved an inch away from the centuries-old ideas of judging women.