Friday, 21 October 2016

Endorsements: The Fame Game

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The Maggi imbroglio had everyone (including the stars recommending it) twisted up just like the famous noodles. With many hunting for cover from the media glare and public ire, defenses were up and statements were plenty. But the common man remained puzzled. After the clean chit, Maggi came back with a bang to claim its rightful space. This time, with common people and common stories. No more stars. With new flavors, Maggi is trying to put its past behind it. And everyone has learnt a lesson, or two:

What is tasty could be deadly, and

What is affordable and promoted by celebrities is not necessarily healthy.

With a vast undiscerning population and low literacy levels, product makers are quick to make a fast buck at the cost of innocent lives. The Maggi episode reinstated the need to re-look into our laws and fix responsibility. From a reactionary regime, we are gradually moving over to a proactive protectionist regime. The need of the hour is a law that protects. But how do we protect the consumers before they are hurt? Isn’t it important that our product quality should be supreme and product liability is definitely fixed?

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Celebrities with their star power, fan following and blinding influence can sway the public and their choices. In a country where cricket is religion, the Gods have to be careful with what they use, eat, apply- on screen. The aftermath of the Rio Olympics is most decidedly the gold rush of endorsements. With brands queuing up to sign up their favorite medalists, the games have just begun. From hair gels to shoe polish, we want our sportspersons to vouch for everything.

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The proposed Consumer Protection Bill holds enough ammunition to rock the boat for these celebrity endorsers. Celebrities are cautious of the brands they sign up, aware that they could be held liable for misleading advertisements. Choosing a perfect brand to endorse shall prove to be atough job. Only after adequate research and due diligence should the celebrity sign the dotted line. It would augur well for them to pick a brand which they would use in real life. A little bit of study into what the product is and whether the claims made are real and supported by genuine laboratory results should save the day in case of legal proceedings. It is never too late for these popular endorsers to practice due diligence. The Fame Game is risky and a wrong endorsement will prove costly. When a billion plus eyes watch you on screen, your words become the gospel truth. For sportspersons who come from humble backgrounds, legal nitty-gritties are understandably difficult to navigate. Nevertheless, contractual obligations and branding assignments should be personally studied before execution.

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Friday, 7 October 2016

Dance Bar (red) For Questionable Moves

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The Maharashtra Government has passed a new law – the Maharashtra Prohibition of Obscene Dance in Hotels, Restaurants and Bar Rooms and Protection of Dignity of Women Act, 2016 to regulate the activities of a dance bar. Bravo! Looks like a bold move by a well-meaning government. However, it seems that the act has not gone down well with the bar owners and ironically the dancers.

Until you see it on celluloid, such issues seem non-existent. With laws and morality detached, dance bar was a thriving industry about 12 years ago.  In 2005, the state government’s ban on dance bars made news. Since then the matter has flared up occasionally and dance bars received a lot of reel space. With the Supreme Court now involved, the matter is in the limelight once more. Yet most of the discussions sound clinical, underlying the fact that many analysts have never visited a dance bar. Speaking of which, are we really eligible to talk about the issue at hand? Yes, we feel. We would like to think of this matter as being in the realm of human rights; right to livelihood and dignity of labour, and thus a matter of concern for everyone.
These girls – the ‘bar dancers’ constitute a very small microcosm of society, living on the fringes with probably double lives. Their numbers have gone down considerably since the 2005 ban on their profession. In the last decade, society and the past regime have pushed them to the brink of social exclusion. Now a new regime, through a new Act attempts at their inclusion and recognition. Yet, instead of a pat on the back, the government is receiving brickbats.

What is so bothersome about dance bars or bar dancers? The level of interference under the garb of regulating business is awkward for these girls as much as for bar owners. These girls are facing society’s ire for the profession that has strong undercurrents of prostitution. Bar owners are in a fix for the law allows them to either have the dancers without serving alcohol, or serve alcohol without the dancers. So, is the issue with the dance or with the bar? As a culture, we frown upon women dancing in public seeing it as an activity for depraved individuals. Earlier, acceptable dance was limited to the classical performances. The category broadened to include certain cinematic performances, gradually covering various styles of dance based exercises. With western influence and ‘modernization’ as we love to call it, we even adapted to discos and pubs accepting people’s innate desire to dance (while mostly drinking) in such set up. Then what is so wrong with dancing in the bars that we need to regulate obscenity and protect dignity of women there? Bar- social drinking is acceptable, drinking at restaurants is too, but drink and watch a dance, you have a taboo.

 Majority of us don’t care two hoots about morality really. Watching explicit dance moves by film stars on TV screens is a common, normal and acceptable. But the same moves in a dance bar setting become vulgar for many others and calls for legal monitoring. Typically, hypocritical of us, we will drink and dance in clubs and house parties, but will rant about falling standards when we see others pay for their drink and watch such a dance in a bar.

The State’s new law with its many questionable clauses is definitely something to talk about.

Would you dance in full view of a dance bar’s CCTV?

Or better still, would you drink and loosen up in front of such a CCTV?

Are such live feeds to the police station absolutely necessary?

Why include clauses which preempt further disasters/crime?

Have we conducted studies to check the impact of these dance bars on crime rates before we throw in the towel?

Is the Act dealing with cross dressers and transgenders dressing up as women in dance bars?

Shouldn’t the girls be allowed to have a say on whether or not they should be employees of the bar/ restaurant/ hotel?

Moreover, whom do we want to protect? And to what extent should we regulate this field?

The girls engaged in the industry would rather have a thriving dance bar industry which will give them a reliable livelihood rather than bans and raids. Aspersions have been cast on the constitutionality of the legislation. And while the matter is subjudice, one would only hope that the Act is in favour of better working conditions and safety of the women concerned. However, by no stretch of imagination should the State assume a position of moral authority nor should the act of entertainment assume criminal overtones.  It is about time that the state must maturely accept the need for legalized and fair adult entertainment.