Alia Bhatt Kanyadaan Ad: Here’s Why We Need More Such “Controversial” Advertisements

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Alia Bhatt Kanyadaan ad sparks controversy: Actor Alia Bhatt recently featured in an advertisement for a bridal wear brand, which questions the age-old tradition of Kanyadaan. As it is with any ad offering a fresh take on traditions and rituals, this too has sparked  widespread conversation on social media. While some feel that the advertisement is on point, sending a positive message, according to others the ad was another attempt to erode rituals and practices, in the name of making them suitable for modern times. Even women themselves feel conflicted about the advertisement. Is it too woke? Is it pathbreaking? Does it demean rituals that are revered by many? Or is it simply meh? However, the one area where this ad scores is in starting a relevant conversation.

In the past few years, we have seen social media uproars over advertisements to an extent that they had to be pulled back. Last year, jewellery brand Tanishq had to pull down not one, but two ads for its Ekatavm series. While one of its advertisements, featuring Neena Gupta, Sayani Gupta, Nimrat Kaur and Alaya Furniturwala, advocated a cracker-free Diwali, another one showed a Muslim family holding a godbharai ritual for their Hindu daughter-in-law.

In 2017, a condom brand had to take down hoardings across Gujarat, that was put to encourage safe sex. The problem? The theme used to promote condoms revolved around the festival of Navratri and included promotions by actor Sunny Leone. Read more about advertisements that were pulled down due to outrage here.

Coming to the Mohey ad, the backlash against it doesn’t make sense, as nowhere does it reject the practice of Kanyadaan. It only asks for a daan of the groom too. Parents are shown offering their children to each other and to the opposite family – a house gains a daughter, another gains a son, thus making for an equal exchange and level of commitment in a marriage. This seems to be the message. However, trolls seem to have made up their minds that the advertisement demeans Hindu rituals.

Now check out some polarised reactions to Alia Bhatt’s Kanyadaan ad:

However, not all controversial ads are etched and backed by good intentions. Some expose the commercial mindset of advertisers, who are simply trying to milk on a trending issue. Despite the hit and miss, advertisers need to continue pushing the boundaries. Because the controversies surrounding these ads force us to have crucial conversations and offer us a peek into the mindset of Indian society. If a Muslim family holding a godbharai for their bahu outrages us, if we feel miffed about an actor advocating equality for women in marriage (Kanya Maan) then that says a lot about us.

We have a long way to go. We are not an equal society. Religious and communal rifts are at an all-time high, there is not a single section that doesn’t feel targetted by others and while a group of social media users might want to paint a different picture, its reaction to such ads exposes the volatile times that we live in. Unless we address this hostility and deepening divides, we will never find a way to overcome them.

You can check out the full ad here:

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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