pic courtesy Sada Haq

Nakul Singh Sawhney   – Independent Film -maker


Dear Pepsi,

I am sure you’re aware that students of FTII have been on strike for over 125 days. They’re protesting the appointments of 5 members to the FTII society. Given the times we live in, many would agree they’ve put up quite a courageous fight. They’ve braved threats, intimidation, slander campaigns and even shameless mid night arrests of some students leading the strike.

Students of Pondicherry University were also on strike against the appointment of their Vice Chancellor. They were similarly intimidated by authorities. Thrashed by the police. Gory videos of young girl students from PU being thrashed and dragged around by the police began to circulate on social media.

Students of Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia, JNU, Ambedkar University and NLSU have started an innovative campaign against the sexist hostel rules in Universities. It’s called Pinjra Tod: Break the Hostel Locks. Some women students who were part of the campaign were threatened with sexual violence by ABVP goons.

Students of Maulana Azad National Urdu University are on strike as well against similar sexist hostel rules in their university. They’re also being similarly threatened and bullied by their university administration.

Why, before all of this, an Ambedkarite students organisation, Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle was BANNED on MHRD‘s instructions by IIT Madras. Their activities were considered ‘anti national’ and ‘polarising’.

But in your ad, you decided to not mock the authorities that have violated every principle of democracy and human decency while dealing with young striking students. You instead chose to mock the striking students.

You instead chose to mock the striking students.

Thank you! I mean it.

Since our markets opened in 1991, and big corporations like yours were allowed to set shop in India, aspirations changed. Students became increasingly apolitical. I still remember that Pepsi ad in the early 1990’s. With Amir Khan and Aishwarya Rai. “Yehi hai right choice baby, aha!” it said. Oh yes! For a middle class kid (not even a teenager then) you stole my heart. Pepsi, Reebok, Nike etc and the lifestyles you defined became our aspiration. You defined the new ‘cool’. Being political, socially conscious- Naaah! That was boring.

Plachimada and the villages that your competitor Coca Cola destroyed was something that happened in some remote corner of Kerala. Why should it concern us middle class kids in the metros? Understanding the corporate-communal-Brahminical nexus in India for many of us youngsters was impossible. We were too taken in by the glitz of everything that you sold to us.

But as I follow the FTII Wisdom Tree page regularly, I realize how the posts on that page have become increasingly political. The posts are no longer just about their own strike but about larger socio-political issues. Students are becoming increasingly politicised. An understanding is clearly dawning in on the students about how their strike and the issues that concern them are not isolated issues. That what is happening to FTII is part of a larger sinister design to communalise, privatise and commercialise higher education in India. And you’d love that wouldn’t you? At least the latter two?

And so your new ad has been of great service to the growing number of students and youth who are being increasingly politicised. Your nexus with despotic rulers becomes increasingly clear. We learn about how you are happily willing to fund and stand by despots and tyrants so long as they help you sell your products. And in return, the rulers turn a blind eye to the misery you cause to ordinary people.

Once again, thank you. You have helped our cause in ways that you can’t imagine. Our process at politicisation intensifies.

One of those boring rabble rousing strikers, who I can assure you, didn’t break a strike for a bottle of Pepsi.