Tasveer Ghar: A Digital Archive of South Asian Popular Visual Culture   

Selling Intoxicating Bondings:
Hyper Masculinity and Print Alcohol Ads in India

A Visual Gallery

Rupali Sehgal

Film actor Shatrughan Sinha endorsing 'Bagpiper soda'

The picture gallery examines Indian liquor advertisements and tropes of masculinity that prevail in these ads. The purpose here is to analyze the specific gender role socialization that occurs through liquor advertisements and to place it in the context of broader social and cultural changes. These ads offer us some important insights into the phallocratic cultures of contemporary India and the resulting understanding of masculinity. Liquor ads—which are mostly acted out by male protagonists—also extend an implicit disclosure for a ‘politics of gendered consumption of alcohol.’ They thereby teach that it is not acceptable for women to drink whereas men can. We also notice that these ads establish a distinct kind of pedagogy for contemporary masculinity that not only passively propagates consumption-based masculine identity, but also encourages male consumers to think of liquor brands as essential for creating a fittingly virile lifestyle. Such ‘lifestyle branding’ is suggested through the imageries of successful male Bollywood stars, leading sports men and bourgeois professionals with whose representations Indian liquor ads are infused. One may also note that the aim of ‘branded masculinity’ in these ads is to communicate to the reader that a well-toned body, genteel fashion sense, and above all, financial success are the necessary acquisitions of the educated, middle-class man today.

An examination of the misogynistic clichés, ideas and themes which are dominant in liquor ads as intertwined threads offers us a window through which we can broaden our understanding of the contemporary continuities, shifts and strains in the social construction of masculinity. The purpose of this picture gallery is therefore to examine the ideological fabric as well as the representations of manliness in some Indian liquor ads.

At first glance, all the surrogate advertisements that I have analyzed for alcoholic drinks and liquor seem to resuscitate an idea that hard drinks are meant for men who are not only sturdy and robust, but also successful in their respective fields. On reading between the lines, however, one notices that advertisements for alcohol are also chauvinistic and highly erotic in nature. Sexualization of the female body, glamour, success, ambition, bourgeois lifestyle, capitalistic comforts, friendship and brotherhood are some of the common themes that comprise the marketing strategy for liquor advertisements. The ideals of manhood espoused by liquor ads suggested a number of characteristics which men must internalize, such as violence and aggression, stoicism, emotional restraint, courage, toughness, a sense of adventure and thrill-seeking, lust, competitiveness, and success.
Disclaimer- I have employed textual and content analysis to identify common thematic patterns in Indianliquor ads. The endeavor is to infer how the inter-textual cross referencing of liquor and gender themes in these ads might variously create an understanding of the dominant ‘consumption-based masculine identity.’ I am aware that audiences can draw diverse connections between the advertised liquor and the cultural meanings implied by them. In creating this gallery, I therefore declare that the interpretation of these ads is purely personal and open to contestation. All pictures are taken from the internet from various sources and I obviously do not hold any sort of authorship of these images.

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This gallery is part of the project 'Manly Matters: Representations of Maleness in South Asian Popular Visual Practice'

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