(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)
A few days ago, some crazy people in my neighbourhood were celebrating their favourite festival by ‘unintentionally’ waking up everyone else early in the morning. So, to drown out the incessant ass-kissing of an invisible wish-granter in the sky so that I could go back to arguing with people on the internet, I had to switch on the teevee. It was the least worst option and it helped me maintain my tenuous hold on sanity. Suddenly, just as I was about to satisfactorily end a particularly strained exchange of sly-tweets by calling my rhetorical opponent the H-word, a stream of grunts and other cave man noises emanating from the teevee grabbed my attention and I was able to witness the most mesmerizing piece of media that I have ever seen: a commercial for a shampoo made from beer.
Remember when paying small-time conmen a lot of money to pretend to put your name on a single grain of rice was a thing people were into? Watching this advert was like that. Someone boiled down the essence of conventional wisdom about being a man and put it in a single fifty second advert. The ad begins with the model—who is obviously a real man because he has a large moustache—‘getting his neanderthal on’ by continuously shouting the words ‘man hair’ at the screen, as if that’s a concept which exists in real life. And while he continues to repeat those two words, he does other manly things like hitting a piece of log with an axe, scaring away a large bear by using only his booming voice and arm wrestling. The ad also contains things every ‘dude’ is supposed to love – Beer! Women! Presentations! Men with waxed chests!
Now, this may come as a shock to a lot of you, but I’m not really a ‘spiritual’ person. But the first time I laid eyes on this work of art was the closest I’ve come to believing in the existence of god. This advertisement is the Picasso of prickery. The David Lynch of douchebaggery. The Mozart of misplaced masculinity. Maybe even the Jhumpa Lahiri of jackassery.
I have no idea why the makers of this wonderful product even need to advertise it. It sells itself. Who doesn’t want to spend all day smelling like they just woke up in their own alcohol induced vomit? And who wouldn’t want to get with that? Isn’t it very woman’s dream to end up with a guy so riddled with insecurity that he needs to add beer to his shampoo to prove something to himself? And let’s face it. Women’s hair is different from men’s hair. Why? Maybe hormones or something. I don’t know! I’m not a bearded lesbian enrolled in gender studies working on a thesis discussing the impact of exploiting a person’s lack of self-belief as a marketing strategy. Blergh!
Look, women have it so easy. As India’s #1 love guru Chetan Bhagat once said, women don’t have to do anything to attract the opposite sex. They come on their own! (Also, if you’re taking dating advice from Chetan Bhagat, then you’re probably going to spend the rest of your life coming on your own.) It’s the men that have to do all the hard work. Like a dancing peacock, a man whose hair smells like beer is telling the female members of his species that he’s ready to mate. And as most of the adverts on teevee tell us, the only reason men do things is because they want to get laid. From deciding which deodorant to mask their body odour with to offering a ride to a senior citizen in distress, the motivation behind every action is the possibility of sexual intercourse. Any other reason will force the other members of the ‘Real Mens’ Club’ to throw them out and confiscate their man card.
My favourite part of the advertisement is when the protagonist warns prospective consumers to not drink the shampoo just because it is shaped like a beer bottle. Is that such a big problem? Of course, these days’ shampoos have less chemical content than our actual food, but is there really a huge outbreak of people falling sick after drinking their shampoo? You see, drinking beer shampoo is hazardous to one’s health because it is basically a tasteless mishmash of hops, water and surly carbohydrates. It shouldn’t go anywhere near your mouth, no matter how much its manufacturing process also describes how regular beer is made.
In two thousand years, when our future generations finally recover from nuclear destruction and are able to find their way back to civilization, they will look at this ad and hold it as an example of how the ancients were really crazy, just like we look at the historical porn at Khajuraho and discover that the people that came before us were really into some kinky stuff. Who knew the human body could even bend that way? I know what you’re going to say: It’s not porn! It’s art! Look, I don’t make the rules here. As per the guardians of Indian culture, it’s not art if it involves any sort of nudity. Wait, does that mean that the people who started Indian culture were against Indian culture?
That makes my head hurt.
If only there were a beverage I could consume that would make me temporarily forget my confusion.