Why Deepika Padukone looks superficial in "My Choice" video

You could mistake the video for a shampoo, hair oil or skin care product ad.

 |  4-minute read |   29-03-2015
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When I first saw the viral video "Ladke rote nahin Hai/Boys don't cry", it gave me the chills. The message cut across sharper than the killer gaze of the creep in the last segment who had evidently bashed up a woman and looked smug about it. Violence against women, from swank condos to dilapidated slums, speaks the same language. Especially when the message/copy is simple. "Teach our boys not to make anyone cry." Just a reminder that men and women are equal stakeholders in this fight for empowering women. You cannot hope to change one without changing the other. For a daughter to be treated well, you need to talk to the parent of a son. Simple. Vinil Mathew. Bravo.

Cut to Deepika Padukone, reciting a long verse that covers everything from mother earth to mother figures, babies to bra strap. The third film in the campaign by Homi Adajania fails to make the kind of impression that the previous one made. Here's why.

You could mistake it for a shampoo, hair oil or skin care product ad. The lush, sensuous images say nothing more than what you see. Just a stylised collage of well-styled good-looking women, some celebrities, some random villagers and tribal women. Especially Deepika, with her Parachute hair, smoky eyes and that curious expression towards the end that is a cross between agony and ecstasy. For a moment one thought it is an empowering ad for a sanitary napkin or something more ornamental, like say diamonds. But equally empowering for the wearer we guess. Yes, it is too much of Tarsem Singh with a purported social message. Lot of style, lot of hair flying, lot of skin and spunk.

Now what exactly is the message here? The copy writer tries to cram in way too many ideas in one video - from serious stuff like adultery and negative body image to more adolescent worries such as curfew hours and revealing clothes. The gravitas, if any, is completely lost in the jumble of messages and images: "Sex before marriage/sex outside of marriage… "

The bindi on my forehead, ring on my finger, your surname my ornaments that can be replaced… halt expansion of the universe or capture sunlight in the palm of your hands and some lofty philosophical utterances such as 'I am the universe, infinite in every direction."

Deepika's deadpan delivery. We are totally in love with Deepika, the actress. She has finally been able to tap into her inner artiste with powerhouse of performances in one film after the other. But her delivery in this video falls flatter than soggy papad. Her voice makes the trying-too-hard-to-be-cool script, sound yawn-inducingly boring. You could watch it on mute. It would sound the same.  

Who are they talking to? Who are they talking about? A bunch of women born to certain privileges, who are empowered in any case, talking about the importance of what they enjoy don't really make the cut. The blink-and-you-miss images of rustic women, interspersed with the blow-dried and waxed silken lot, may be the director's way of injecting a shot of reality into the narrative. But does it really work?  (With due apologies to a friend whose idea I borrow here.) The film comes across as the kind of stuff that is conceived at a brainstorming session at a sprawling Alibaug getaway, where a grassroots campaign is more about walking barefoot on the manicured lawns in your Malini Ramani kaftans and inspiration comes in tall glasses topped with "desi" nariyal pani. Give me an acid attack victim who speaks of being ostracised and dares you to look her into the eye without flinching. Give me an ordinary woman who does not need to conform to this idea of coolth with strappy clothes and silver arm bands who makes her own choices and is proud of it.

A beautiful, successful, popular actress who has dated some of biggest stars in the country and has created a fortune for herself (kudos to her), talking about how her choices, well…are her own…don't make much of a difference to those who don't even have the option to begin with.  

Choice is a powerful idea. But it is also a privilege. Some women are born into it. Most Indian women have to earn it the hard way. Merely addressing the YouTube audience from the frame of a slick video in a language that fails to register, is missing the point by the whole nine yards.  

We wish Deepika had been equally vocal about being part of a certain AIB Roast. Or come out in full support of a colleague who was endlessly heckled by men who could not handle losing in a game played by "gentlemen". Now that would have been as empowering as it would have been cool.

The film's heart is in the right place no doubt. But its head is rather directionless.

Writer

Chandrima Pal Chandrima Pal @captainblubear

You are a figment of my imagination.

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