On Friday afternoon, a number of websites published stories about a new deodorant commercial starring actor-comedian Vir Das. I spotted one by BuzzFeed India with the headline ‘Vir Das Just Called Out Every Sexist Commercial You’ve Ever Seen’.
The ad itself (watch it above) cleverly pokes fun at the sexist stereotypes perpetuated by many commercials, wherein sexy, usually-scantily-clad women are used to advertise products by simply appearing in the advert. It shows Das at an ad shoot that is clearly a take-off on Slice’s infamous ‘aam sutra’ campaign, reacting to the director telling him he needs act sexier.
When he calls the entire situation ‘odd’, other imaginary versions of himself, from similar ads for bikes, soaps, and ice-cream, point out that what they’re doing is ‘odd’ too. “You think that’s odd? What do you call this?” asks one of them, clad in leather, and hovering over the seat of a sports bike with his derriere extended outward.
“Enough is enough,” proclaims our feminist hero Das. “We don’t need to objectify women to sell a product.”
As a film critic who suffered the imbecilic excesses of Milap Zaveri’s grotesquely misogynistic Mastizaade, starring Das as a sex addict besotted by one of two characters portrayed by Sunny Leone, less than four months ago, I couldn’t help but share that story with a sarcastic comment.
He responded to me in a manner that I interpreted as sheepish, yet somewhat smug.
Aww. Fair. But this will raise some money…do some good. You should get over the film…god knows the audience did 🙂 cheers.
— Vir Das (@thevirdas) May 13, 2016
We exchanged a couple more tweets, and my initial takeaway from that conversation was that Das had, perhaps, realised that acting in a film like Mastizaade, which was also a colossal failure at the box-office, had been a disastrous career move. After all, as a comedian, Das has usually been on the right side of the fence when it comes to feminist issues.
He has tackled tough topics in his stand-up shows and his news comedy web-series, called Potcast. Here, too, the message being given through his ad was, overall, quite positive. Perhaps, I thought, it’s time to cut him some slack.