How unrealistic and asinine “standards” of manhood make life difficult for the average Indian male
A few days ago, I watched a video by a Bollywood film actor ( hero is not a word I’d like to use) that was created for an ad campaign around 7-8 years ago. Before the video started, I was quite optimistic because I actually happened to like this actor and figured that a video titled “On being Mard” and captioned “Mardangiri”, similar to his erstwhile performances of Gandhigiri, would possibly highlight relevant issues in a humorous manner. But seconds into the video, I found myself desperately wishing that it was sarcasm, and a minute into it, it was anything but funny. Watch it and you will (hopefully) understand why.
The video begins with said actor saying how all Indian men need to unite against an enemy that has emerged in recent times. For all my rational male friends out there, no, it isn’t rape or violence against women and children, it isn’t discrimination based on gender, colour or caste. The problem, apparently, is hair. The abundance of it on your heads and the lack of it on your body. Yes, and it is extremely self-sacrificing of this actor to put himself into the firing zone to point this out, given that he was an icon for long hair in the 90s when I was growing up.
He further moves on to describe how men are behaving more and more like “behenjis” which is basically to point out how more and more men today are stepping up to take equal responsibility at home in terms of cooking, managing the household or helping raise children, children they helped create in the first place. If you are to believe this gentleman, the only contribution a man should have in his child’s life is to provide the sperm at the inception of it.
Oh yeah, and while you’re at it, boys, you’re forbidden to wear any colour except blue, black and grey. Other ways to lose your manhood include driving a Scooty and dancing Salsa. Sorry, Ranbir, Mr. Dutt thinks you’re not man enough to play him in his biopic because you endorse a Scooty brand. And apologies, Mr. Bruce Lee, because apparently being the Cha Cha dancing champion in your day has eliminated your “gift of manliness”. Not to mention, how an entire country has been emasculated in one go just for eating Thai food. The point of this long wound-up drivel emerges at the very end of this video where the gentleman holds up a bottle of Haywards 5000 soda “for men” while there is applause in the background.
The fact of the matter is that this actor and this brand are not alone in creating an idea of the “Man” that is imposed on most contemporary, ordinary males, especially ones belonging to lesser educated sections of society. “Mard ko dard nahi hota” , i.e. “A true man feels no pain” is a famous dialogue that was voiced by an individual who is undeniably one of the most iconic figures representing Bollywood and India at a global level. The “Men will be Men” campaign of a parallel brand is more subtle and even funny in parts but caters to a similar idea. And let’s not even get started on the underwear brands that endorse a specific version of macho-ism and cast women only to hang off the arms of all our favourite male film stars and gaze up at them adoringly.
With an ongoing debate on how “an actor is not the brand he/she endorses”, I agree that an actor cannot be expected to bear responsibility for information they do not have or commitments that the company does not honour. However, for campaigns such as the Haywards 5000, and other ones like Fairness Creams, every actor is well aware of the fact that millions of viewers shall watch them, and thousands of their fan base shall imbibe it, and that is no small responsibility. And in circumstances such as these, Mr. Dutt, you are very much the brand that you endorse, and I’d only like to say, “Get well soon”.
P.S.- On the subject of avoiding anything “floral”, Mr. Dutt, your mother Nargis would hardly be proud.