Aurora Magazine

Promoting excellence in advertising

Come to the Dark Side

Published in May-Jun 2015

"And then she applies the cream and becomes white and confident. But not too confident. And gets married. To a doctor."

The scene opens in Seth Karim’s palatial three room office complex in S.I.T.E. The fragrant scent of qorma hangs heavily in the air and the remains of naans are scattered around the long, faux mahogany chipboard conference table. The tasteful gold lamé curtains are wide open, letting in the golden sunlight. If anyone were to walk across to the gold framed windows, they would be treated to the sight of the Seth’s golden Prado parked on the road right across the abandoned family tannery.

Around the table we see Seth Karim, a sprightly and energetic man who doesn’t look a day over 93. He is calmly stroking the table for no apparent reason. On his left is his eldest son Yousaf (73, named after Dilip Kumar) who looks like the film star Pran in his prime. On his right is his younger son Yousaf (72 and four months, named for his father’s complete inability to remember names). The air is not pregnant with anticipation. There is a discreet knock on the door.

Seth Karim: Come in!

(As this is an English publication and our readers only use roman when writing copy for ads, we have translated the dialogue into a language they can easily comprehend. You are welcome!)

The agency files in. Leading the pack is the Account Director (smartly dressed, generic face) followed by the Creative Director (enough piercings to set off metal detectors within 10 paces). With them are two other agency personnel tasked with carrying the storyboard; they will not speak throughout the meeting.

Account Director: Sir, thank you so much for your time.

I can’t tell you how excited we are to work on this project. It’s not often that one has the opportunity to meet a man of your vision and intellect. When we received word that you had decided to diversify from tanning hides and go into the business of whitening skin, we knew we had a winner on our hands! And let me humbly submit….

SK: So what did you bring?

Creative Director: Imagine a white sandy beach in Thailand. It is high noon and the sun is beating down. A woman swathed in white cloth is walking on the beach. We can only see her eyes. The cloth signifies the shackles society has placed upon her. She reaches for her face and rips off the cloth which unravels to reveal her proud beauty. She holds up the whitening cream and applies it to her face, not as a whitener but as a sunscreen, so she can truly be free and…

SK: Very good. It’s very good. What do you think Yousaf?

Both Yousafs look at each other unsure whom Seth Karim is speaking to. Both decide to remain silent.

SK: But first you need to show a girl who is not getting married and everyone is sure that she will never find a suitable match. Because she is dark.

Very dark. But not as dark as those people in Africa. They are too dark.

CD: Yes but…

SK: And we need to show lots of people who are confident because they are white. But not as white as those Americans. They are too confident.

AD: Yes but…

SK: And then she applies the cream and becomes white and confident. But not too confident. And gets married. To a doctor.

CD and AD: Yes but…

SK: Now, show me the models.

Fade to white.

Ali Hayat Rizvi is Resident Director, Lahore, Interflow Communications.