Ashton Kutcher's gig as Indian male in chips ad termed racist

May 03, 2012, 15:46 IST | PTI

An ad for a patato chips company featuring actor Ashton Kutcher dressed up as a dark-skinned Bollywood producer Raj and talking with an Indian accent has been slammed for being racist by social media users

In the ad, Kutcher appears as four different characters looking for a partner in a dating show. One of Kutcher's appearances is as the 39-year old Raj, a "Bollywood producer looking for the most delicious thing on the planet," the actor says with an Indian accent.

Ashton Kutcher in a still from the ad

Kutcher's face is done up with heavy brown make-up. He is wearing a blue embroidered sherwani, sports a mustache and is wearing a big gold watch and a ring. The dark-haired Raj also has a black mole on his cheek.

The ad shows kutcher in three different get-ups - as a British 'Nigel', tattooed Southerner 'Swordfish' and pasty fashionista Darl. However the ad does not appear to have gone down well with people, who flocked to social networking sites to term it as racist and bad in taste. The ad has been pulled off from some sites after viewers called it racist.

City-based entreprenuer and writer Anil Dash calls the ad "hackneyed, unfunny". "Don't watch it. Naturally, a bunch of us started complaining about it, and a number of like-minded allies also registered their offense as well," Dash wrote in a blog post.

He said, "The advertisement features Kutcher in brownface talking about his romantic options, with the entire punchline being that he's doing it in a fake-Indian outfit and voice"

"I think we can attack the process by which these broken, racist, exploitative parts of our culture are created. The people behind this ad are not racist. They just made a racist ad, because they're so steeped in our culture's racism that they didn't even realize they were doing it," Dash said.

Later CEO of the chips company Keith Belling issued an apology. "Our team worked hard to create a light-hearted parody featuring a variety of characters that was meant to provide a few laughs. We did not intend to offend anyone. I take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended," he wrote in a blog post.

Dash said that he spoke with Belling over phone, who was "sincere and contrite" and offered an apologetic response. He said the company should not pull down the ad but instead should give an explanation of how their process failed and resulted in "this racist ad being created".

"The firm which made this ad, should name the team members who participated in creating the ad and should let its staff own the mistake and talk about how they can prevent it in the future", Dash said adding that Kutcher should also "personally apologise."

"There are things any celebrity shouldn't do, regardless of the paycheck. Because he's of unusual prominence in the tech space, and because so many of those technical companies have key employees or founders of South Asian descent who've given pieces of their own company to Kutcher, the onus is on him to respect his business partners.

"This begins by communicating specifically about what he did wrong. But frankly, Kutcher's apology would be the easiest and most obvious part of this process, and thus the least valuable," he said.

Dash's blog post received comments from scores of people. While some said the ad was "indeed tasteless", others felt it should not be taken too seriously and people should watch it with a sense of humour. 

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