Groundbreaking TV ad challenges conservative India’s opposition to divorce, remarriage

A TV commercial for an upscale jeweler, Tanishq, is creating quite a stir in India. I know the jeweler, too, as they are based primarily in Bengaluru (Bangalore to some), Karnataka district — the area where I spent much of my time while in India.

(Nice wares, but quite pricey for sure. I did most of my jewelry shopping at Navrathan on M.G. Road.)

It’s a simple ad, showing a lovely Indian woman getting ready for her wedding, putting on an elaborate necklace which she clearly values as a gift from her husband-to-be. Soon, a little girl shows up — her daughter — looking for a bit of attention.

The commercial is absolutely ground-breaking (and somewhat subversive) in two important ways for this rather culturally conservative nation.

The first might not seem like much, but it does, because the actress breaks with the usual modern Bollywood model of women actresses having extremely pale, almost Caucasian skin-tone. To my eye, although quite beautiful, she looks like a genuine Indian woman. What one account I read described as ‘dusky skin,’ I termed ‘realistic.’

Advertisement for Tanishq jewelry - featuring an Indian bride and her daughter

Advertisement for Tanishq jewelry – featuring an Indian bride and her daughter

Together, the woman and girl go to the mandap — the place where the wedding will happen. The girl is set down with an older couple, presumably grandparents and told to hush.

The second detail is even more remarkable: At the end, the little girl, fidgeting and clearly a little upset, asks if she can join the wedding for the pheras or pradakshana phase, when the couple together are supposed to circle the puja fire. The groom smiles and gestures the girl to come. Finally, the girl asks her mother’s new husband if she can call him Papa. He gladly picks up the girl, and the new family comes together. (With what to my eye is an undeniable expression of happy relief on the mother’s face.)

"Remarriage" -- a revolutionary concept for Indian culture

“Remarriage” — a revolutionary concept for Indian culture

Why does this matter? Because second marriages in India are all but unheard of. Divorce is very, very rare, and women who are widowed almost never remarry. A step-father (and a darned gorgeous-looking one at that) accepting a woman’s daughter as his own? Even more amazing.

The closest analogy I can come up with is it would be like Tiffany’s here in America showing a major network commercial featuring a gay or lesbian couple — and doing so 10 years ago.

Anyway, the news from India is the ad is ‘mesmerizing’ the country — it’s 90 seconds long and appears below, do check it out.

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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