Not ‘Awww’ inspiring – Petronas gostan, no dappan

Unsurprisingly, Petronas has done a U-turn and cancelled the Dappan Kuthu “dancing in the streets” commercial scheduled to go on air this weekend for the Deepavali holidays, in the face of strong criticism. Petronas said the “Dappan Kuthu” was “an energetic dance routine which is prominent in Tamil cinema” after some said it was a funeral dance. To which critics said: what does Dappan Kutthu have to do with Deepavali? Good question.

The Chinese community had a similar question a decade ago when a Petronas holiday commercial for Chinese New Year turned out to be a satire on the grasping Chinese businessman and jewel-encrusted wife. Filmed in period surroundings, featuring mahjong, social climbing and pandering to the family patriach, the “Latuk”, that commercial was a hard-edged piece of social commentary disguised as an inspirational video.

Taking a sharp dig at the stereotype of the modern Chinese businessman’s family was difficult for the Chinese community to accept at a time when a celebration of family togetherness and harmony was in the air (though mostly over the department store Muzak channel). The commercial was aired, over protests.

The gold standard for Petronas holiday commercials is likely to be the late Yasmin Ahmad’s docu-drama “Tan Hong Ming in Love” (1.3m YouTube views and counting) — if not for Hong Ming himself, as the archetype of the endearing little schoolboy, then for the closing sequence of him and his tudong-clad classmate running hand-in-hand down the corridor.

Hong Ming: It’s a secret. Yasmin: Why is it a secret? Hong Ming: Because I don’t want the whole world to know!

Childhood innocence betrayed by adult manipulativeness, lost in an unsubtle piece of political and religious propaganda: Chinese boy hand-in-hand with tudong-clad Malay girl, lovey-dovey.

This year’s would-be Deepavali commercial had neither a redeeming holiday message nor kistchy sentimentality, merely reinforcing the stereotypes of the Tamil gangster, violence against women, and general poverty of the Indian community.

The commercial ends with Petronas trying to harness the “energy” and “passion” of the Dappan Kotthu to its corporate image.

It might even have succeeded as a standalone piece of corporate branding, without any association to Deepavali, given the current craze for Gangnam parodies.

But its ham-fisted approach in trying to yoke corporate and product branding to a religious occasion, turning topsy-turvy the revered Deepavali message of good over evil, light over dark, was much too much to accept.

Just not “Awwww” inspiring enough for Malaysian expectations.

Pass the schmaltz, please.

Happy holidays.



4 thoughts on “Not ‘Awww’ inspiring – Petronas gostan, no dappan

  1. Hello imbecile petronarse,
    The bloody “dappan kutu’ is mainly performed at funerals. Damn it !
    Bloody assholes have found a way to lose the indian votes.
    I ask you , Apart from insulting the indians by introducing the INTELOK , now are you going one step further by insulting the HINDUs celebrating DeEPAVALI with the Dappan kutu ?
    Every self respecting indian born of a single father must oppose this imbecilic advertisment by VOTING BN OUT TO SPACE. NO more Nonsense ,no more bullying, no more BN and MIC. Where is the bloody mic on this?? Bloody suckers are out to bodek their “masters for the next commision.
    Fellow malaysian indians, Do not let this idiotic mic/bn survive the next election .
    INSULTS after INSULTS is what indians are being offered on a golden platter.
    VOTE PR if we are to regain our MANAM, MARIATEY SOODU and SORENEH.
    One way ticket, one way ticket one way ticket to the moonnnnnnn for mic/bn.

  2. Many people, who have seen the video opine that in the end, it is just a song and dance. Under most circumstances, if people don’t like a song, or simply find it irrelevant, they just ignore it and move on. So why do people get personally offended with this?

    In the Malaysian advertising industry, unless the product is directly targeted at Indians, or the ad is somehow trying to depict the stereotype of inclusiveness, clients generally shun Indian talents. In situations where the product has universal appeal, and a talent of only one race is used, that talent is almost never Indian. (Infact, “Pan Asians” — people who look Asian but not of identifiable race — is the rage these days.)

    So here on this very rare occasion is an ad made for Indians. That one day of the year where industry seems to ‘celebrate’ Indians, rather than shun them, and this ad was what they produced.

    This outrage is not that Petronas (and its agency) failed in making a Deepavali ad. It is the lip service and bastard child treatment given to the community the other 354 days a year by corporate Malaysia coming back to bite them.

  3. The Indian community has a lot to blame for this ‘atrocity’. Indians are becoming a race identified with loud rap like music and colorful attire and loud costume jewellery. Not, that I say it is wrong. This proud race is being identified with the wrong things. our community leaders are championing the wrong things. Dear Palanivel, it is in bad taste to have carnival like functions on temple grounds. i know a lot of my muslim friends are hesitant to go to a temple for whatever reason. I just can’t see a gurudwara being compromised like this.
    Well, my point is, the Indians must safeguard their culture and traditions A travesty should not be allowed on things dear to us like the festival of lights. We are rapidly being seen like our black brothers.

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