Monday, May 4, 2009

'Inspired': The Anu Malik-ization of Election Ads

Back in November after the U.S. elections were over, I was leafing through an India Today with Barack Obama on the cover when one of our department's staff remarked wonderingly "Wow...look at that- Obama on the cover of India Today." Mixed with the optimism and relief we all felt in early November (remember that?) there was bemusement in her voice: indeed, the persona of the US President went almost overnight from being the object of derision and ridicule to one that people around the world celebrate and even emulate...suddenly American politics is glamorous again. Move over Carla Bruni, Michelle is here.

Of course, the election of the US President is a pretty big deal in general and not just because of the (admittedly rare) Obama factor. US politics is so damned entertaining. Think about the last elections-the drama of Hilary vs. Obama, the Palin spectacle, the showmanship of the conventions, the side characters like Ron Paul or Joe the plumber. There were holograms on election night. I rest my case!

So maybe it's only natural that some of this glitz transfers to the ongoing elections in India (insert obligatory line about worlds largest democracy and world's most powerful one). While, there are no Obama's on the horizon- I've been interested and amused to see the message of 'get the vote out' lifted almost directly from the US election discourse. In a country where 'chalta hai' (a combination of 'whatever' and 'let it be'- what do you think of that translation, fellow Hindi speakers?) is a way of life, there's a new, discernibly pious sense of duty evident amongst the 'glitterati' and upper classes (who tend to be less electorally active than poor, rural citizens). Getting 'inked' on election day is cool in a way that I don't recall it being before. I can't help thinking that the language of 'rock the vote' and 'make a difference' is familiar but somehow inorganic. My nagging intuition got confirmed when I saw this:

Lets see...

Full of hot stars? check
Slickly shot? check
well meaning? check
earnest? check

slightly holier than thou and annoying? check.

WHERE have I seen this before? Hmmm...

I KNEW it!!! There's less swearing in the Indian one, which is also mercifully shorter but there it is...continuing a fine tradition of bollywood copying stuff it likes with its own je ne sais qoui. Ah, the triumph of American packaging- they make even Indian elections sexy.

Now lets just find our Obama...


Heather said...

Hi light light,

Just wanted you to know that even though I haven't been commenting lately, I have been reading and enjoying your return!!!

I know you're busy these days so will accept if you have to take a break from posting. But don't you think for one moment that your readers have vanished... we're still here and we love you as always!

prpriya said...

What an annoying ad! The more serious they tried to look, the more I wanted to laugh!
I liked the way you compared the two. And yes, 'holier than thou' perfectly summarizes the tone of the ads.
I'm impatiently waiting for the next post!
P.S. - I loved your 'Spring' article - what beautiful pictures! In fact, it was a lot like a sideshow in the NY Times...made me want to be there!