“Success doesn’t come to a boy or a girl. Success comes to the one with the right thinking,” is the message of a recent TV commercial starring Aamir Khan. The ad shows the Dangal actor as a sweet shop owner, whose business is going very well because his children have figured out how to use the internet to promote it.
He tells an appreciative customer this and the latter assumes that it’s his sons who are behind the initiative. Aamir clarifies and the customer is then visibly enlightened on seeing Khan’s two daughters handling what is presumably logistics and delivery of the orders. He exits the shop and reads the board “Gurdeep Singh & Daughters” with a smile on his face. The aforementioned message is then read out.
Watch the ad here:
The ad, titled Shoon Te Shaan, has been gathering praise for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment. And with Dangal, which traced the unusual journey of the Phogat sisters in a male dominated sport like wrestling, still fresh in people’s minds, it's not surprising that Khan is once again being lauded for taking up such a theme.
However, the ad falls into the same pattern that Pink and Dangal fell into: a well-known and influence wielding male actor leading women’s narrative. In this ad too, while Aamir Khan deserves acknowledgement for lending his voice to dispel the belief that having a son is more "lucrative", his daughters in the TVC remain silent.
The two girls playing Khan’s daughters are not given any dialogues and a total screen time of eight seconds in the minute-long ad is all that they get. Their screen time without Aamir in the frame is a mere three seconds, after which they appear at the end, flanking Aamir Khan on either side.
The ad is a part of the Star Plus brand initiative, Nayi Soch (new thought). Earlier, the channel had partnered with the BCCI to come up with a series of ads featuring MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane. The cricketers describe themselves as sons of their mother, rather than their father, as is the norm.
While the thought behind the initiative may be noble, one wonders how sincere the effort is. Especially when most of the soap operas on the same channel continue to promote varying degrees of regressive ideologies it appears keen to be dispelling through these ad campaigns. Doing campaigns based on "gender equality" is in trend now – Elle and UCB’s recent ads being cases in point - but unless it's a campaign that has been thought through, it makes little impact on social perceptions.
It's good to see an influential person’s support to an important cause like this, but let’s acknowledge the fact that this TVC, like many others, treats women as secondary characters even though the narrative is supposedly about them.
(Views expressed are the personal opinions of the author.)