Indian television isn't exactly known for its political correctness or progressive mindset. TV shows and ads stick to the same tropes and settings that were on when Doordarshan was the only available cable entertainment, mostly portraying women as commodities or simple individuals who only dream of getting married to someone their families approve of. Certain companies and brands have taken the risk of trying something different however, shedding the tried and tested settings for modern and progressive portrayals of Indian women.
Here are 10 Indian ads showing women in a positive and progressive light.
1. Forest Essentials ayurvedic cream
Combining great visuals with a strong female lead, this 2015 ad for face cream shows a woman getting ready to ride into battle and seeking the blessing of her father. According to the makers, this ad is a tribute to the most powerful woman of all, Mother Nature.
2. Wedding Jewellery by TBZ garlands
This ad has an undertone of progressive thinking and marketing seldom seen on Indian TV. A bride tries to put the maala on her husband to-be, following which the two indulge in a playful exchange where more than a few things come to light, not least of which is the fact that not only are the two already lovers, but also that the woman has her own personality and sense of identity, something very unusual for Indian ads.
3. Dabur Vatika Hair Oil
Dabur Vatika's 'Brave and Beautiful' campaign focused on the struggle of cancer survivors, especially women who lose their hair during chemotherapy, and the social negation they face in the process. This ad depicts one of these women foregoing her head-scarf to go to work, and the support she receives from the people around her, regardless of how she looks.
4. Fab Alley's 'What the fuck should I wear?'
Stand up comedian Radhika Vaz lent her signature don't-give-a-hoot style to the Fab Alley fashion ads, and the end product went viral. The piece depicts her delivering a hilariously scathing monologue on the troubles of conforming to fashion standards, all the while being butt naked and proud. If that's not badass, I don't know what is.
5. Ariel Washing Powder
Ariel Washing Powder put out an ad questioning the ingrained belief in a lot of Indian households that women should be the ones doing the laundry. It starts with a guy asking his wife (?) why she didn't wash his clothes, and then proceeds to show a bunch of dudes having a ball while washing their clothes. The ad really brings out the fact that doing the laundry is a normal thing regardless of gender, and the tune playing in the background gets stuck in your head as well (don't know whether that's a good thing though).
6. Titan Raga 'Woman of Today'
This little short sees a woman bump into an old lover at the airport. As the conversation turns nostalgic, the guy claims that they could've worked out as a couple, if she'd only quit her job. Suffice to say, this doesn't go down too well with the woman, who makes it clear that she'll do whatever she damn well wants to. According to Titan, they celebrate the woman who is modern, progressive, confident and passionate.
7. Havells coffee maker
This one takes a dig not just at the insitituion of arranged marriage, but also at the reasons why people indulge in it. A mother who wants her son to get married complains about not having anyone to make coffee around at home, to which the prospctive wife promptly gives her a Havells coffee maker and proclaims that she's not a kitchen appliance. Yes! Stick it to the man (or woman)!
8. Tanishq Jewellery
Tanishq put out an ad in 2014 that proved that even the oldest and most traditional members of a family can learn to accept change and progress. Freeing up the issues of arranged marriage, gender inequality and regional identity at one go, this ad really got it right. Watch out for the sly grandma's snappy performance!
9. Havells Fans
In 2013, Havells put out yet another social relevant ad that brought out the little things people are doing these days in an effort to counter the blanket of patriarchy prevalent not just in India, but the world over. The video shows a man deciding to take his wife's last name after marriage, and the surprised but satisfied look the female registrar gives the couple proves that little things go a long way!
10. Femina Generation W
Femina took a regular TV trope and completely turned it on its head. The ad depicts a typical scene from the day of a wedding, and Minissha Lamba plays her role perfectly, right up to the twist at the end. Major props to Femina for supporting the need to change India's mindset regarding these social issues!
11. Lloyd Unisex Washing Machine
This one features a couple going shopping for a washing machine. The man stands around, stares at his phone and boldly proclaims that the store clerk should show his wife the machine, as it's her 'department.' The next few scenes make it clear that doing the laundry is, in fact, nobody's department so to speak, and expecting women to stick to these roles is not just sexist but is also massively regressive.