When I first heard Kanhaiyas speech post his return from jail, I was awestruck by his speech making styles, his unmatched sarcasm and his clarity of thoughts as a youth (not all will agree). I say this, as this is a first, in my times where a speech is made with utmost grit and without a paper in hand or a teleprompter or dramatics. It isn’t surprising that his fiery entry into the arena from being a student union president to a household name took center stage. While his views were not welcomed by all and faced severe criticism it also gave birth to a revolutionary line of sloganeering and hashtags. Everyone tried to attach his “AZADI” slogan to every single that came to their mind. We all know this isn’t a first. If you want to stand out, you also need to stand up to the ripples it creates.
When yatra.com decided to unveil its new advertisement, the ad agency it hired very well knew what it was getting into. It went viral for a lot of reasons. It was appreciated, shared, criticized like any other. But the fact that it went viral in a span of two days and still trending sure has reasons beyond the normal. The ad was an attempt at drawing a parallel not only to Kanhaiya Kumar and his personality, but also to the expression “Azadi”. While his sympathizers felt it was a cheap shot at demeaning his purpose and fight, they misunderstood the essence of the ad. It was a spoof clearly created to make news, be in news and that is the very core to any advertising agency. But does that imply they are wrong, does it mean they have comprised on ethics? Firstly the spoof beautifully manages to almost match the character, his mannerisms and his diction. There is effort and a serious one even though it’s a spoof. However it was criticized for its mimicking and as an attack on freedom of speech; rather than its light weighted humor. Kanhaiya too was criticized and taken lightly though I saw it otherwise. But let’s be fair. Here context differs, the audience differs, and the purpose and need differs.
It’s strange that people who openly and whole heartedly support and understand the meaning of freedom of speech, are speaking oppositely about the ad. This ad too aims at freedom of speech. Azadi has its different connotations. Azadi is individualistic Azadi is unique Azadi is also an opinion.
The person in the ad clearly wants his Azadi which he feels is basic to him especially when he is using some service he pays for. He demands for freedom from process which cripples his needs. His want for freedom is just a tip of the iceberg and the same is showcased through this spoof. But those who have opposed this ad have merely for the fact that it mocks Kanhaiya… really? An ad like this surely cant belittle his resolutions or vision. We have seen many a half-baked, tasteless, meaningless, trial and error type of advertisement/spoofs/memes etc. where none are spared and we happily share the same. Then what makes this any different. It’s cleverly played. It caters to the times we live in, it hits right where it hurts most. Kanhaiya efforts are nowhere downplayed here. It’s a spoof and should be treated like one.
No one is a custodian of Azadi or freedom of speech. I am sure given his understanding of times and open mindedness Kanhaiya himself would find this humorous and not a violation of his Azadi. Let’s not be fooled that these days Azadi is played with and abused in worst ways. This spoof is nowhere close to it. Instead for a commoners it’s refreshing and echoes our thoughts of Azadi at a very elementary level. The character exclaimed what we would in our heads only. Today this ad is trending and has received equal amount of praises and brickbats which is a given. So those who claim that the ad/spoof is objectionable and flavorless, should realize we all our fighting our own battles to attain our very own version of “Azadi”. I am not against Kanhaiya or this thought process, what I detest is that same yardstick isn’t extended elsewhere.
While this Yatra of AZADI continues, feel FREE and just enjoy the advertisement!