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Winds of change

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An ad brings the sticky matter of classism right up to our dining tables.

Advertising - that barometer of social flux - has recently indicated new winds of change on Indian TV. A commercial has subtly and unobtrusively ushered into our homes a new model of egalitarianism. It's a commercial for that most commonplace of appliances - the fan. The TVC runs thus: A family sits around a dining table on an ordinary evening. A Ghulam Ali ghazal (appropriately 'Koi taza hawa chali hai' ) plays softly in the background as a young maid enters to serve the family a course. Just as she's about to leave the room, her employer invites her - without the typical tada that trumps up the twist - to join the family at the table. A plate is placed in front of her, and the maid takes her seat uncertainly, a shy smile breaking out on her face. The Havells fan, the object of this ad, is pictured in the last scene with the clever tagline 'Hawa Badlegi. '

"'Hawa badlegi' is about social change led by people, as opposed to change led by politicians and activists, "says Amer Jaleel, national creative director at Lowe Lintas, the agency which made the commercial. "It wants to convey how lovely it is to have people think up refreshing ideas themselves. "

The ad may not have necessarily revolutionized dining customs around the country, but it certainly has become food for thought. "People tell us it's a reality that will never come to pass, to which we say, somewhere, in some household in the world, if not in India, surely some family is sitting down to a meal with their help, "says Jaleel. In fact, in Jaleel's own home, the man who works for them is invited to share a meal at the table with the whole family every Eid. "It was a practice initiated by my father, and I presume his (the help's ) reaction to the invitation must have been similar to that of the maid in the commercial. It's not the first ad to spotlight the help. Channel V put the bai centre stage in its quirky 'Presented By' fillers. "It started as a pun on the 'sponsored by' tag that came with every show, "says Amar Deb, former creative head at Channel V, and now CEO at RowdyRascal, an online content firm. "The graphic artist, Manisha Dasgupta, wanted to draw attention to the Maharashtrian 'bai', who is empowered, has an attitude and is never a 'servant'. She calls the shots. She has tremendous spirit;she won't take nonsense from anybody. Bai, is in fact, inspired by real women. "There's going to be more where that came from.

Reporting by Joeanna Rebello Fernandes & Shobita Dhar

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