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Akshay Kumar’s PSAs usually hit the spot. But ad on car airbags unwittingly promotes dowry

In a major blunder, the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways released an ad featuring Akshay Kumar that unwittingly promotes dowry instead of road safety. It was also tweeted by Union minister Nitin Gadkari.

The ad is perfectly timed, as it comes on the heels of the devastating news of Tata Sons ex-chairman Cyrus Mistry losing his life in a fatal car crash.

Starring Akshay Kumar as a police officer, the ad aims to promote having six airbags in cars instead of two. But the setting of the 30-second-TVC ends up promoting dowry instead. It’s even more embarrassing that the ad has come from the government instead of a private company.

The ad begins with a ‘vidai’ scene as a father bids farewell to his daughter, who is crying in the car as she prepares to drive away. Kumar then approaches the father. “Aisi gadi mein beti ko vida karoge toh rona toh aayega he (Sending daughter away in this car? No wonder you’re crying),” he says.

The father then gets defensive and counts the many swanky features of the car– it’s automatic, has a sunroof, imported music system and not two but six speakers. Kumar then illustrates the importance of having six airbags in the car too, after which the car is promptly changed and duly inspected by the groom who breathes a sigh of relief. The couple drives away happily.

Rest assured, nowhere does the ad explicitly say the car was a dowry offering, but these days dowry is often veiled as ‘gifts’ that the daughter’s family gives her. Moreover, the groom’s inspection of the car’s airbags adds a nefarious subtext to the script and highlights the ignorance of the makers.

How does a topic as sensitive as this fall through the cracks and go unnoticed? We’ll never know. It’s irresponsible advertising though and calls for better checks before a script is approved.

Also read: Bolne Se Sab Hoga, the Google campaign that’s cool yet warm

Akshya Kumar in PSAs 

Akshay Kumar is sort of the poster boy for Public Service Ads. His previous PSAs have been quite commendable — they have taken on menstrual hygiene, road violence, smoking and promoted Swachh Bharat.

The menstrual hygiene ad, directed by R. Balki, released after Padman the film in 2018, targets two birds with one stone – Kumar denounces smoking and promotes the use of sanitary napkins. It delivers the message is loud and clear. Pads are needed for a healthy life and the fact is not hidden behind the usual innuendos.

Kumar’s earlier road safety/traffic violation ads have been terrific. Shot by the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways and released in 2018, the tagline ‘Sadak suraksha, jeevan raksha’ was used to drive the point home. In a series of ads Kumar plays a traffic cop, and subtly asks violators if the road belongs to his ‘baap’. It’s hilarious, and at the same time rooted in Hindi lingo. The ads land beautifully and make perfect use of his impeccable comic timing.

But the latest ad on airbags was deserving of public backlash and withdrawal calls. In all the calls for Bollywood boycotts, we forget Indians boycott traffic and car safety laws every day.

Views are personal.

Source: The Print

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