Beauty and the Boast
by Sangita Gopal — University of Oregon
February 28, 2007 – 11:00
SRK: So, who is your favorite Lux star? (He proceeds to list past Lux stars attaching to each an epithet) Hema: Dreamgirl; Juhi: Beautiful; Kareena:Stylish and Sridevi: Sensuous. My choice (cut to product visual) all four!
(Voiceover detailing promotion): Lux, every star is a lucky star offer. Each wrapper carries a prize. And if you hit the luck number 75 – that is a year’s worth of Lux free for Lux is celebrating 75 years of stardom.
(Cut back to SRK)
SRK: And on this occasion when Lux was searching for a superstar, I responded “Here I am” (The Hindi words – Main Hoon Na – is also the title of a 2004 film starring SRK and directed by Farah Khan)
Lux was introduced into India in 1929. The first advertisement featured the luminous Leela Chitnis and ever since almost every leading Bollywood actress has served as “brand ambassador” for this “beauty soap of the stars.” In 2004, to mark 75 years of Lux in India and to deal with a crisis in declining markets, Lux turned to Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), Bollywood’s brightest star to be the new face of “Lux”. While SRK was not the first male star to be the face of Lux, Paul Newman has preceded him, the ad proved controversial. While this might indeed have been good news for Unilever who were looking to return some luster to their beauty bar, the company soon reverted back to featuring leading ladies. Did the sight of a bare-chested Shah Rukh, nipples exposed, soaking in a tub of rose petals while surrounded by four fully-clothed women prove too risky even in an advertising milieu where the ideal of male beauty has always been more metro than macho? While SRK has built a career and a star persona around being able to sell anything to anyone – an attribute that contributes in no small measure to his global appeal – does the furore around the “Lux” ad prove that the infinitely malleable image – even in this age of virtualization – has some limits? Why does this ad – almost three years old at this point – keep coming up in public discourse? As recently as October 10, 2006, Arnab Goswami of Times Now – a 24 hour news channel – asked SRK: An ad film-maker said that Shahrukh’s fantastic for that because he is a man with a very strong female side. Was that a compliment or something to be worried about?
SRK responded: I don’t have a female side. I have a female front, back, females all around me dude. I am sensitive and nice to woman. I have a different take on what macho is. If you are really macho, you don’t need to show it.