Jewellery advertisements have traditionally been corny. You could have a sixty-year-old bride being walked to the mandap by her daughter, or a dusky bride getting married for the second time, or a woman being gifted jewellery by her retired husband on their daughter’s wedding day because gold and diamonds will fill the vacuum left by the daughter’s departure. The “innovations” and the accompanying maudlin and fuzz have reached such proportions it would almost be a relief to see a jewellery advertisement that takes its cue from the 1990s. Old wine in an old bottle for a change.
When Tanishq signed off on the interfaith marriage ad that stirred such a controversy it has prompted the likes of Amit Shah to weigh in, they had probably hoped a few people would speak about it, and that someone with a lot of followers would retweet it and praise it for its “broadmindedness”. This was the effect their remarriage advertisement, featuring a groom carrying his bride’s daughter as they do their pheras, had. Of course, the advertising agency that came up with the idea would have been hoping for an award, and that is now pretty much a certainty.
Tanishq might have been apprehensive that Muslim conservatives would accuse them of offending their religious sentiments by portraying a Muslim woman and her daughter-in-law participating in a Hindu ritual. They would not have expected to be accused of promoting Love Jihad, particularly because the mother-in-law seems to be in greater danger of conversion than the daughter-in-law.
While goons threatening staff is not the ideal situation, the big bosses at Tanishq must be quite pleased with the fallout from the advertisement. Although the ad has technically been taken down from YouTube, it has been shared on social media more fervently than before, and is still available for viewing.
Some offended conservatives have gone on to lodge a complaint against the advertisement, which will naturally be dismissed. But this has made the liberals even angrier, and has kept everyone talking about the ad for nearly a week now.
The best outcome of this for Tanishq would be for all liberals to start buying their jewellery now. There is a fair chance of this happening, because the ranks of the Twitterati are occupied quite equally by people who don’t have to work for a living and people who are incapable of holding on to a job because they spend all their time raging about nothing.
But for politicians sporting all colours, including saffron, to be engaged with an ad is a triumph in itself. Chances are that the international media will take up the issue too, if they haven’t already, and speak about how a poor little jewellery brand is being hounded by right-wing goons and forced to take its advertisement down (from YouTube alone).
A couple of days after everyone began to breathe fire about the ad, a new issue cropped up on social media. A couple who had done a risqué post-wedding photoshoot was being bullied on Facebook and Instagram. The couple and their photographer refused to take down the photographs, and Liberal Twitter threw its weight behind them. Journalists rushed to interview them, and they got far more attention than they had initially sought.
The problem with outrage is that every issue is relevant for only as long as it is trending.
The Hathras rape and murder is now last week’s issue.
The Sathankulam police brutality case is close to being last year’s issue.
And the relative magnitude of events is lost because there appears to be equal outrage against everything, whether it is nepotism in the film industry or a horrific sexual assault.
Twitter is not without its power. Often, it is the only way to get service providers of any kind to respond to complaints. When one has a lot of followers, it can be even more effective, as was evidenced by the Me Too hashtag.
Liberals have, however, begun to feel that their job is over once they have tweeted about something, and have little hesitation in moving on to the next issue. We have forgotten that no one’s hand can be forced in anything unless we stay with the issue.
Back in 2012, when Twitter was younger than it is now, and the government was not considered conservative, the outrage over the Delhi bus rape wasn’t limited to social media. It spilled on to the streets. Seven years later, the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act did find their way to the streets, but they were almost an offshoot of the social media rage and were treated as such. And now, the Hathras rape and murder case has only elicited a whimper compared to 2012.
It has been replaced by outrage over a jewellery ad and a wedding photoshoot, because our attention spans are 280 characters long.
Nandini is the author of Invisible Men: Inside India's Transmasculine Networks (2018) and Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage (2013). She tweets @k_nandini. Her website is: www.nandinikrishnan.com