Aishwarya Rai and Kalyan Jewelleres – You cannot turn a brown kid into a slave!

by Giz TimesMay 5, 2015

Kalyan Jewellers is the biggest jewellery chain in India. It is headquartered in Thissur city, Kerala. We don’t know how T.S. Kalyanaraman, the chairman of Kalyan Jewellers could approve a racist advertisement featuring Aishwarya Rai Bacchan in The Hindu newspaper on 17th April 2015. The advertisement not only marginalized the poor and blacks but also promotes child labour.

Aishwarya Rai Bacchan

The Child Rights activist have expressed their dissent on this advertisement saying that such kind of advertisements harm the psychology of an individual and reflect poorly on the conditions of the society. “In the advertisement you appear to be representing aristocracy from a bygone era – bejewelled, poised and relaxing woman while an obviously underage slave-child, very dark and emaciated, struggles to hold an oversized umbrella over her head”, the Child rights activist said.

The advertisement is believed to be inspired by this photograph By German-American fashion photographer Horst P. Horst, and titled “Model, Boy, Umbrella, Vogue”, clicked in the year 1935:

Aishwarya Rai - Horst P. Horst

A similar image was created by Pakistani designer Aamna Aqeel in May 2013 in her “Be My Slave” fashion shoot, depicting white models in high-end clothes being served by a dark child slave. The picture, which appeared in DIVA, a Pakistani fashion and lifestyle magazine, were called tasteless and racist in its approach. We cannot expect such racism to be promoted in India too.

Aishwarya Rai- Aqeel in May 2013 in her "Be My Slave"


In an open letter to Mrs. Aishwarya Rai Bachhan, Farah Naqvi – Writer and Feminist Activist, Nisha Agrawal- CEO, Oxfam India,  Enakshi Ganguly & Bharti Ali – Co-Directors, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights and many other social activists have said that its wrong on Mrs. Bacchan’s and Kalyan Jewewllery’s part to allow such an advertisement to feature in a reputed newspaper.

“We are fully aware that yours is an advertisement selling jewellery through creating a fantasy/desire, and not a portrayal of reality. Yet, advertisements and visuals are a critical part of our socio-cultural-psychological ecosystem and these ecosystems can either help create conditions in our mind that will foster positive social change or work against it. So, in this context, what is the social change we want? One, racism is a global reality, and we need to fight it. Two, though child labour in many industries is illegal in India, it is still rampant and we all need to work together to change this. Three, the Right to Education Act mandates that all children up to age 14 must be in school, and we need to make sure they are there and learning”, they said.

Being an influential star from the Indian film industry, Aishwarya Rai Bacchan is expected to be thoughtful. This shows the class, caste and colour difference. Moreover, by showing a malnourished child, the jewellery brand has promoted child labour which is a sacrilege.

Child Labour and racism have been the paramount discriminatory practices in India that push some people to the periphery. In December 2014, the U.S. Department of Labour issued a List of Goods Produced by Child Labour and India figured among 74 countries where significant incidence of critical working conditions has been observed. Unlike any other country, India was attributed 23 goods the majority of which is produced by child labour in the manufacturing sector.

Advertisements play an important role in our society. India has seen myriad ads which promote fairness creams and disregard the original brown colour of Indians. The advertisement which features Priyanka Chopra crying over her brown skin is one such advertisement that is given below.

Celebrities should understand that they have a huge fan following and what they portray effects the society. Though Aishwarya Rai Bachchan claimed that the image of a jewellery ad featuring her was changed without her prior knowledge, we cannot say that such a big step would have been taken without her knowing about the same. Surely Miss Bachchan and other actors should think before they feature in such racist advertisements. Aishwarya and Kalyan Jewellers –  just because you are all white and gold, you have no right mock at the browns and make them your slaves.



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