Mae West once wrote, “Too much of a good thing can be wonderful”. Obviously she had not seen commercials on Indian TV. Now, I agree that imitation may be the best form of flattery but when does it become herd behaviour? Consider just a few examples.
A world full of ‘kitanu’
Poor Lalit Bhanot. No one is going to allow him to forget his observations about our less than stringent standards of hygiene, and our acceptance of dirt and garbage. But do people realise how much economic activity is thanks to the germs and insects lurking in that dirt? Scientists tell us there are 40 million bacteria in a gram of soil and a million bacterial cells in a millilitre of fresh water. And that with over a million species, insects potentially represent over 90% of the life forms on Earth.
But I ask you - must we see them all of them on TV???
Where they are known as ‘kitanu’.A pudgy schoolboy eating a sandwich reminds his classmates that they will fall ill because they haven’t washed their hands properly for a whole minute and got rid of ... Kitanu!
Just when you find a child in the blissful state of joy in splashing about in the puddle of one’s piddle, a mother comes around and the VO squeaks the ‘K’ word... Kitanu! (Tackle-able only by a certain diaper.)
In commercials for toilet cleaners, the camera goes deep into the the toilet bowl, like a deranged endoscopy tube, and discovers, lurking in the crevices... Kitanu!
And where there aren’t kitanu, there are insects. Mosquitoes invade well-appointed homes, and have to be fought off with ointments, aerosol cans, smokeless coils, and advanced liquid dispensers. We realise the grave threat they represent when we see these instruments and paraphernalia wielded by Vidya Balan, Rani Mukherjee and other celebrities who would have no truck with such things were they not threatening the future of mankind.
Of course I used to believe that the real pests on TV were the celebrities themselves. But we have now developed resistance to this pestilence of celebrities... and only a new virulent strain like a Mallika S or a Rakhi S can cause us to break out in a rash.
The ubiquitous one
Next, there is the too-much-ness of a certain new model. Not so long ago, there was a freshness to her face. She was charming as she ‘grew’ along with her hair, in the Parachute Advansed TVC. She reluctantly accepted that she liked wearing Tanishq jewelry. And you watched happily as she smiled sweetly, and agreed when the young driver suggested ‘Let’s go’ for a ride in an Alto.
But now she has become - like the aforementioned ‘kitanu’ - a pest.
Try to cross the road, and there she is, smeared with a fairness cream, whizzing by on a cycle. Take your eyes off the TV screen for a moment, turn back, and there she is baring her teeth for a Total dental check-up. Having made sure that her dental apparatus is in good nick, there she is again, nibbling away at a packet of 50-50 biscuits. And it is a 100/100 certainty you’ve not seen the last of her.
The third sample of too much much-ness is the list of mobile Apps as depicted in mobile service / handset commercials. One can hardly remember which one will tell you how you’ll look at 83. And which one will tell you how to identify Nashik-made cheese in a shop, and which one will calculate the calorie burn rate of a turn on the dance floor and which one...it’s all apps-olutely appalling.
Perhaps these guys should remember a scene from Woody Allen’s play ‘My apology’ where (as Socrates) he asks, “well, what is evil but merely good in excess?” And when asked “How so?” answers, “Look at it this way. If a man sings a lovely song it is beautiful. If he keeps singing, one begins to get a headache. And if he definitely won’t stop singing, eventually you want to stuff socks down his throat.”
I couldn’t agree more.