Dark Lights


Dark Lights

These Ganjam jewellery advertisements that you see in the pictures here first captured my attention when I was leafing through ‘Vogue’ last year. More than the jewellery,it was the model who demanded another look. She was hyper plain,was endorsing a major brand and sat in Vogue amongst many other Photoshopped,slim,androgynous,glamorous models,all having sacrificed themselves at the altar of commercial beauty.

Some weeks later,I came across another Ganjam ad in another magazine and then learned to look out for them. Someone seemed to have planned the campaign with models who defied the conventional as well as the commercial ideal of beauty. Some were extremely ordinary,others had blemishes that had been carefully retained,one was visibly plump and yet another dark.

There was a continuum here,a point was being made; the brand was trying to say something rather slanted. It was asking for attention by being contrarion.

Disclaimers are important to tell readers why we choose to write what we do. My disclaimer is that I have a fascination as well as an admiration for anti-trends. It can be quite a trap sometimes,but let’s say I live in that trap. Wow—plump,dark,blemished,ordinary,modelling,now that’s a statement,I thought.

Familiar with the world of of glamour photography,I half guessed that this was the work of noted photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta. We all know he is an artist,poet in his mind,philosophic in his photo choices. His work is obsessive,bare and stark,it mirrors bluntness and roughness. His post production work takes great care to retain a human being’s “difference”,instead of reducing or raising everyone to look “homogenous”.

Prabuddha and I have had some conversations on the commercial idea of beauty and how fashion and beauty brands contribute to a sameness of look instead of distinction. He openly laments what we call “trends”. His photographs of his muse and friend,top model Lakshmi Menon mirror his artsy angst as well as his vision.

So,many emails later after pursuing this campaign through people at Ganjam,I was put through Umesh Ganjam — joint MD of the brand. He sounded reticent. The campaign had been in print through 2011. Umesh agreed that this had been a thought through approach and that Ganjam’s brand identity spoke for vastness,multiplicity,multi-ethnicity,inclusiveness and such. But he emphasised that I should chat with Prabuddha Dasgupta. There.

I didn’t. Only because the reasoning came back full circle. Surely I was keen on the shortlisting process of these models; how was it done,did the photographer find them through intention or chance? Were good looking girls refused a trial shoot? Were the tall,pretty,fair and impossibly thin,shown the door? We wouldn’t find out but the results are here for all to see.

The thought I want to leave you with could open a debate: does this campaign stand up for beauty or does this conversely eroticise and popularise the dark and not-glamourous ideal and end up bringing attention to the white and tall model of beauty? Does this make the “difference” so clear and loud that we are compelled to debate beauty only within two compartments.

It’s a restive issue without easy answers. Wonder if there is some middle ground in beauty and glamour? Where people are white skinned yet extremely boring looking. Where someone is so average that becomes her strength. Where someone is so tall with long legs and narrow waist but wears scorn instead of warmth. Am not sure if dark,plump and non-glamourous as polarised to white,slim and predictably beautiful is the only way to be Anti-Trend.