India Vlog 2005: August 4

Indian Advertising

Ross and I watched a good deal of TV in India (which is strange, considering that we never do that at home, but traveling in India is tiring – sometimes it was necessary just to veg out). As I’ve mentioned before, watching TV is an interesting cultural lesson, especially the advertising.

One ad I particularly liked was for life insurance:

Scene: A middle-aged, prosperous-looking Indian couple at home.

Voiceover (in Hindi): This is Mr. Mehta. His son has done an MBA in America.

Mr. Mehta shuffles through photographs showing his son graduating in cap and gown, with clearly American friends. One photo shows him next to a blonde woman, also in cap and gown.

VO: Mr. Mehta’s son is coming home today.

The Mehtas at the airport, looking anxiously through the crowd coming off the plane. Big smiles and happy tears as son is reunited with his parents.

Son pulls forward the blonde woman from the photograph. The Mehtas are nonplussed as he introduces her as his wife. She bends down to touch their feet, showing respect as an Indian daughter-in-law would do. The Mehtas are still in shock, even more so when the couple wheels forward a stroller with a baby in it. Then big smiles all around.

Final shot on Mr. Mehta’s bemused but happy expression.

VO: Life is full of surprises. So-and-so insurance helps you prepare for the unexpected.

We got very tired of the many ads (both TV and print) featuring Amitabh Bacchan. He was one of India’s biggest stars back in the 1980s, and made enough money to retire very comfortably and let his son Abhishek carry on the acting. However, a business venture with a cousin proved to be a financial disaster, and he found himself suddenly broke. So now he’s making up for lost revenue with film after film, TV shows (hosting India’s version of “Who wants to be a millionaire?”) and ads, and you can’t turn around without seeing his face plastered on a billboard. There is even a cartoon version of him in print for Amul dairy products, and a claymation version (with his voice) for a brand of light switches (we saw that one so many times we could recite it, even in Hindi).

Another person you see a lot of (in billboards) is Aishwarya Rai, recently seen by worldwide audiences in “Bride and Prejudice” (greate movie, by the way!) At least she’s too busy pursuing her Hollywood career to film TV ads.

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