The new Vicks commercial presents an unconventional mother-daughter story. The viral ad has already got nearly 6 million hits, and it’s not even been a week. Two of our writers post their thoughts on it. Do share yours, please.
What consists of a family? One might ask. A mother, a father, one or more children, along with a set of grandparents might seem like an ideal image of a family. But does that necessarily have to be so? A family of two sharing a beautiful bond, nurturing each other’s lives with their love and affection, is as complete as the one filled with more people. It doesn’t even matter if they aren’t related by blood.
The new video from Vicks highlights this aspect and in fact much much more. In just a few minutes, the video touches upon a number of issues – the definition of a family, adoption, educating the girl child and teaching her to be independent, and lastly the vulnerable issue of all, the rights of the LGBT community and their acceptance into the mainstream society.
The girl in the video wants to defy her mother’s wishes of her becoming a doctor. She wants to be a lawyer instead, for she can’t understand that when the constitution gives equal rights to all, then why her mother has to face so much discrimination? Her mother’s only so called “crime”, she had a different sexual orientation. Because of that, her family disowned her and she had to face ridicule, criticism and many other hurdles at every step of her life. All she needed was a little love, a little acceptance and a little respect. People like her have been fighting for their rights since a long time.
It is time that the society wakes up and welcomes them with open arms and give them the respect that they deserve.
~~~ Durga ~~~
a friend, an ex-colleague who’s also a copywriter, had posted the ad on facebook. it was from publicis singapore, and my friend seemed very impressed. i clicked on the link, quite prepared to switch off halfway through the commercial and run away. i am jaded i guess, too much of this brave new slick quick world coming at me.
when the almost forlorn voice over started and one could see a city passing by from the window of a bus, i thought, oh, that doesn’t look like singapore. almost at the same time, i noted the accent, the “mummy” with the “mm” stressed… the ethnic touch, i frowned. another pseudo commercial with some suitably noble cause being turned into the advertiser’s tool, time i left, i thought. but i hung around, not exactly sure why. maybe i just wanted to see what the story was, and it was from vicks. i remembered growing up with the blue bottle with grey squishy vicks in it, to be rubbed all over one by a most no-nonsense mother, if the slightest cold dared to come by.
later, the triangular little vicks cough drops that one had just because one wanted to. they were delightful, long before wasabi, the zizz up your nose. have you seen that old old commercial with a little girl and her dad whose throat has “khitch khitch” that interrupts the bedtime storytelling? “vicks ki goli lo.. khitch khitch door karo…” goes the jingle. take a tablet of vicks and get rid of that irritation, “khitch khitch” being the “cute” little onomatopoeic word for irritation/irritant.
i was thinking of all that in a distracted way as i listened to the little girl here tell her story. all about mummy who was not her ma, for ma had died. and then the shots of her mummy without revealing her identity came along. it was fairly clear it wouldn’t be your “usual” mother.
then came the “reveal”. through a much used image… the clasping of two hands. the voice over went, “i feel scared… but when mummy is around, i don’t feel scared.” i felt something. was someone very scared in the story? your subconscious possibly notices things, or unconscious. the hand was different.
pan to the little girl’s mummy. a strong sculpted face, dusky skin, black hair pulled back, well defined lips with lipstick, a large maroon bindi. almost noble that face.
then she broke into a big naughty smile and bent toward her daughter. “this is my mummy… isn’t she lovely?” asked the little girl.
by now, i had perhaps even expected mummy to be a transgender woman. i hadn’t thought however that i’d break into a smile myself and at the same time feel tears come rushing.
i am not the only person who has felt like crying while watching this commercial. it’s a complex tale told with a radiant simplicity. a girl and her mother. a mother and her overwhelming feeling of love for an orphan child she considers her own. a daughter who would like people and the law to treat her mother right. for she is like everyone else a human being.
this is an ad for vicks, one of p&g’s major brands. “where there’s care, there’s family,” goes the tagline. this is an established family brand’s fresh take on family. p&g hopes to get mileage out of it as it should, since they have paid for it. many companies are chasing a more positive image by espousing “causes”, i have no real opinion as to whether they are right or not to do so. i also know one ad can’t change perception. at best, it can make you think a bit, maybe even talk about the issue. but i almost wish this ad could alter our way of looking at people we now call transgender.
hijra. that’s the word everyone used back when i was growing up. they were strange people, you whispered about them and if they visited during weddings or births, you gave them money quickly and bid them adieu. at traffic signals, they begged, always in garish sarees and loud make up. their midriffs were exposed, they tried to attract attention. men, were they that? you never got an answer. they wore sarees. if you didn’t pay them, horrid things might happen.
we’ve never been comfortable with this gender, have we. yet there is shikhandi from mahabharata. the brave warrior who would slay bhishma. shikhandi who was woman and man. there was no slur attached to this character if i recall right. no sniggers, no shivers. there is also mention of the third gender in our ancient books.
things have been changing, though very slowly. maybe gauri sawant and gayatri’s story will make us pause. maybe they will help us assess our own feelings once more, get rid of that “khitch khitch” lodged deep in our mind, our gut.
must say, though the film is well directed and scripted, around a strong core idea that cuts across, what made it really work for for me was the star. gauri sawant. she has screen presence and plenty style. she comes across as gutsy beyond words and i love the way she wears her saree.
wonderful commercial by publicis singapore. director neeraj ghaywan, who made masaan, tweeted on 29 march he was “extremely chuffed to share this commercial”. i’m glad i saw it.
~~~ indi ~~~
a television serial is trying to access and understand the world of transgender people in its own hindi soap way, you can read about it here.