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PROPERTY PORN

Real estate ads that sell a dream

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FANTASY OR MIRAGE? Svelte beauties in pools and jacuzzis feature on many property brochures

A man and woman stand locked in embrace, leaning on the railing of their private balcony, looking out over lush green fields. A pristine living room furnished with plush leather sofas is tastefully lit and decorated by a smattering of beautiful people. A woman basks in an infinity pool to the backdrop of a soaring skyline glittering luminously. These images are plastered on billboards on almost every street amid the dust and rubble of our work-in-progress cities. The ironic contrast of the surreal dreamlands depicted in the advertisements and the reality on ground, however, seems to be lost on most.

Pornography is designed to create desire and often generate - let's face it - unrealistic expectations. Real estate advertisements are taking this a step further in the manner in which they aim to eroticise property. With slogans such as "Everything else is beneath you" they are creating new aspirational horizons of a life cut off from the rest of the city. "These apartments are not just houses. They are lifestyle products for people who want to make a luxury statement. Show that they have arrived in life, " says Gulam Zia, National Director, Research and Advisory Services at Knight Frank estate agents. "The next things on the horizon are designer houses, so that people can have entirely Gucci or Prada-themed dream houses. "

The apartments are not sold then just as places of living but rather as possessions that one acquires for their social cache, apparent from taglines such as, "An apartment like this doesn't come up too often on the market. Neither does a Picasso. " With advertisements that read "The Art of Luxury, " "Podium with restricted entry for vehicles of all kinds, " and "Elitest Living", the premium is on complete removal from the outside. "Real estate advertising today is focused on projecting an aspirational value. It's a way of fabricating a lifestyle - the brands attempts to project the ability of the property to transform your life, " says Amod Dani, creative director at a leading advertising agency. "You can't really distinguish between the different companies. It is mostly all happy people, open spaces and swimming pools. People are willing to dig deep into their pockets for this kind of thing, and that's why I believe the ads focus on showing a better life, a higher living of sorts. "

While the people and skylines in these advertisements often look suspiciously un-Indian, the names of the buildings are unabashedly Western. Across urban India, one can now find manors, dales, glens, meadows, courts and counties. With names such as Bellisimo and Birchwood, the buildings project a desire to be anywhere but home. While Bollywood has for so many years offered an escape from messy realities - transporting you, in a second, from Singapore to Switzerland - the proliferation of such advertisements now suggests that you can enjoy Dubai's luxury in Gurgaon or Ghatkopar.

With private hillsides, golf courses, ayurvedic massages, and concierge services - Indians are embracing luxury like never before. However, much of the advertising is divorced from the reality of these projects. "At times the communication borders on exaggeration. So the claim of 15 minutes from the airport might actually be a really long drive. Sometimes the communication has to make do with just the architect's design, because the property is still under development, " says Dani. "Real estate ads sell lifestyles. It is all about creating impressions so advertising plays a big role. Reality might not be as pretty, but who really wants to see a cramped 2 BHK surrounded by slums? Having said that, I believe advertisers need to be a bit more responsible. "

When these dream projects are completed, the residents sometimes suffer a rude shock. Instead of their dream of waking up to the view of a glistening river, they find themselves unhappily situated right next to a rather smelly gutter, and reality seeps in through the cracks in the wall.

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