INDIA - A new advertisement by a jewellery company showing a beautiful bride with a caramel complexion getting married as her daughter looks on has put the focus on remarriage in a country where many women are still hemmed in by conservative traditions.
The advertisement, which is for the wedding line of India's Tanishq brand, shows the bride putting on her jewellery, then walking hand in hand with her daughter to the stage for the marriage ceremony.
She exchanges looks with her groom as the little girl, who is around six years old, squirms in her seat, impatient to be part of the ceremony. It ends with the little girl smiling and asking in Hindi: "Should I call you daddy from today?"
The advertisement has been praised by some for celebrating remarriage. Fans call it "bold and beautiful".
Critics are less than impressed. One person slammed the hype in a tweet, asking: "What's the big deal?... my cousin remarried."
Indeed, second marriages are not totally uncommon in India, particularly among urban middle- class Indians, these days.
Over the last three to four years, matrimony websites have even created special sections for men and women looking for a second shot at marriage.
Sites called divorceematrimony. com and secondshaadi.com, which means second marriage in Hindi, are popular. More than 100,000 people have registered as members.
While the divorce rate is climbing, it remains low - one in every 100 marriages, or 1.1 per cent, compared to the United States where fully 50 per cent of all marriages end in divorce.
At the same time, conservative and misogynist traditions hold sway in many parts of the country.
For instance, in some areas poor widows are still abandoned and treated as social outcasts who are accused of causing bad luck.
So sociologists appreciate the advertisement for getting a positive message out.
"The message conveyed is bold and reflects changing times. It is presenting a woman with a child and also a happy child being part of the marriage ceremony," said Dr Ranjana Kumari, director of the New Delhi- based Centre for Social Research.
"Advertisements normally show a stereotypical image of women... like woman washing clothes (in a detergent ad) making the husband happy."
Tanishq, which is part of the Tata group, said it was heartened by the massive response to its ad but was simply appealing to its core demographic - a modern Indian woman.
"Second marriages are taking place as are love marriages. Women with kids are getting married. It is happening in society. We are all seeing it. We are mirroring society," said Ms Deepika Tiwari, head of marketing for Tanishq. "I think it is the contrast of it coming from a jeweller and a jewellery brand."
The other detail picked up by people is that the bride is not the kind of fair-skinned model so typical of almost every other advertisement. In India, there is a perception that people with light skin are beautiful and have greater success in finding a partner and do better at the workplace.
So for many, the ad was actually about breaking two taboos.
"So proud to have lived to see a time where caramel skin and remarriage are celebrated unabashedly by a leading brand," said Ms Masaba Gupta, a designer.
MP and industrialist Naveen Jindal tweeted: "A dusky bride with a daughter in an ad? Well done Tanishq Jewellery for breaking stereotypes with grace & power."
The advertisement was shot by film-maker Gauri Shinde and stars theatre actor Priyanka Bose - who is currently also starring in a play called Nirbhaya, meaning Fearless, which was showcased at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and based on the Dec 16 rape of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi - as the self-assured bride.
In the end, Tanishq is satisfied that its ad is sending out a a progressive message.
"It breaks a lot of stereotypes. hopefully it will encourage industry (to do more)," said Ms Tiwari.
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