Mumbai Diary: Thursday theme

May 14, 2015, 06:19 IST | Maleeva Rebello, Vidya Heble

Among the many Mother's Day tributes that were seen over the weekend, one would not expect a purely commercial production such as an ad to stand out

The touching ad...
Among the many Mother’s Day tributes that were seen over the weekend, one would not expect a purely commercial production such as an ad to stand out. After all, the ad is ultimately selling a product, even if it espouses a good sentiment in the process. In fact sometimes it ends up being irritating that something nice has been used to - well, just to make sales.

Deepika Padukone

But one ad made us revise that opinion, or rather keep it on hold. It was a television commercial for a jewellery brand. And it stars actor Deepika Padukone (right), who recently made waves with her “It’s my choice” video. Wait, we should say it co-stars Deepika. Because the real star of the ad is neither Deepika nor her badminton-champ dad Prakash Padukone (who does not feature in the TVC at all, by the way). The ad is all about Ujjala, Deepika’s mother. We are shown Deepika picking out jewellery and her voice-over telling her mother how much she means to her. It is incredibly touching, which is saying a lot as we are otherwise inured to the maudlin cacophony of mainstream celebrations. This TVC has been done with restraint, eschewing hackneyed emotions while also underlining the mother-daughter relationship.

For us, it was really nice to see Ujjala Padukone, who is otherwise not much in the limelight. A couple of us at the mid-day office are old enough to remember feeling heart-broken when the ace shuttler got married, incidentally. And no - we cannot feel jealous of his very gracious wife today.

...and the terrible one
It’s baffling how ad filmmakers sometimes seem to forget basic tenets of humanity. Maybe that is stretching it, but if you step back and look at the big picture, we think you’ll agree. We’re talking about an ad for a brand of a chocolate-covered wafer bar, which stars actor Alia Bhatt (left). She and a friend go up to a paanwallah and ask him to watch a car, which he assumes is theirs. Then the two girls look on from a distance as the real owner of the car gets in and the paanwallah, thinking he is a thief, begins attacking him. Bhatt then saunters up and says, “But we only told you to watch it! (Sirf dekhne ke liye kahaa tha).” And the two run off, giggling.

Alia Bhatt

At first sight, and on many later viewings too, this is plain unfair. Bhatt and her friend are clearly well-off, and the paanwallah is simply not in the same league as them and has no way of retaliating. So making him the butt of a practical joke is really cruel. The whole ad could have been played out exactly the way it is, but with the prank played on, say, a lounging loafer type. Perhaps a youth who has whistled at the girls, and gets his comeuppance this way. Making the target an innocent paanwallah, who is earning an honest living, sends out an entirely unsavoury message.

On at least one of the YouTube uploads of the ad, several people have commented about the ad’s insensitivity, and unfortunately it reflects badly on the actor, although of course it is the creative team (and the client) to blame. Bhatt has already been at the receiving end of jokes questioning her intelligence, and we hate to say it but this won’t help.

Ad-wallahs, get a grip on reality please.

Hey, Mr Liftman
If you’ve been to Nanabhay Chambers at Fort and taken the lift, the man on the stool pushing the floor buttons is sure to catch your attention. Meet Mankhurd resident, Jayshankar Shukla who has no hands, and uses the stumps of his arms to operate the lift. The five storey building lift is operated by Shukla from 9am to 6pm.

Jayshankar Shukla

Shukla says, “I have been working here for the last 16 years. I was born with deformed hands and a leg. I have only one normal limb which is my left leg. I am originally from Uttar Pradesh and moved here after I got married, as my wife is from Maharashtra.”

CAN AND ABLE: Jayshankar Shukla operates the lift at Nanabhay Chambers from 9am to 6pm
CAN AND ABLE: Jayshankar Shukla operates the lift at Nanabhay Chambers from 9am to 6pm

Besides pressing the floor number, Shukla also opens and closes the lift gates. The offices in the building are closed on Sundays and that is his day off. Shukla says, “Many handicapped people opt to beg and earn their living. I am proud that I work hard to earn my meagre salary, but I don’t live at the cost of others. I travel at peak hours in the handicapped compartment of the Harbour Line trains, but I am happy with my life and the way I live it.”

A lesson for many able-bodied people - determination is all that is needed to work. Shukla has hundreds of up-downs that he does in the lift every day, but he does the mundane with a smile, happy that he is earning his daily bread by respectable means.

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