Who needs the reminder “Ye Sadak Kisi Ke Baap Ki Nahi Hai”?

I really like the 3 new ads by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, featuring Akshay Kumar, and directed by R.Balki (and produced by Helios Media). The use of the common phrase ‘Tu Jaanta Nahi Mera Baap Kaun Hai’ and turning it on its head to mine the humor core to the script is absolutely brilliant. In Balki’s direction, the ads are hilarious and thoroughly entertaining.

I have a different question, though. What purpose do these ads serve? Do people who break road rules don’t know that they shouldn’t? Do they break it innocently, unaware of those rules, or the potential damage it could cause to them, or others? For example, one of the 3 films has a guy who throws the ‘Jaanta Nahi Mera Baap Kaun Hai?’ line at Akshay Kumar. That is the average guy who breaks road rules, fully aware of what he is doing and with complete confidence that he can get away with it.

That’s the point. The people who indulge in making a mockery of road rules do it with impunity. You can question them, mock them, insult them, but they know what they are doing. They *chose* to do it. So, Akshay Kumar mocks them in these ads. So what? Do we expect such people to stop and think that they may be mocked by people if they break road rules? Does shame make them turn into better humans? That too, potential shame, since this ad is a mere enactment.

For example, shame doesn’t make people stop sharing fake news. The recent studies about fake news assert that people who share them do it intentionally. They are not fools. They have an inkling that the thing they are about to share may be fictional. But they still share it because they want to inflict damage on the people that such news may cause. Sharing fake news is a way of making a point, taking a stand.

Similarly, what purpose does mocking people who break road rules serve anymore? We all watch it, make it viral, laugh at it, share it on Whatsapp Groups. But we know all these things even if Akshay Kumar didn’t do this ad. What kind of awareness does it help generate, to aid in the prevention of breaking of road rules? Does it, at all?

I’m not being cynical at all. I write a LOT about not breaking road rules, in Bengaluru, on Twitter. This is a topic very close to my heart. My question is different – how can we rethink these ‘awareness’ ads beyond smart writing and potential viral material… to make an impact? Can such ads create impact at all? Should we get down to the level of showing the kind of damage these idiots can inflict on self and others (like the helmet campaigns and ‘don’t use mobile phones while driving’ ads)? Can that help?

You can argue that only on-ground implementation of the rules would help. The people who break the rules possibly think: “there are so many people like me on the road, breaking the rules; why would I be the only one to be caught? Even if I get caught, I can always fight it out, or pay the measly fine and move on. What’s the big deal!”. If a large fine, and/or a severe enough punishment is assured (the driving license can be barred for a period of time, the vehicle can be impounded etc.), that could be an effective deterrent. But these are actual, on-ground measures that depend on the availability of traffic police where such events occur.

The saying, “You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep” is present in most languages, including English, and Tamil (my mother tongue). The simple point is, who are these road safety ads preaching to? To us, who share it online with glee and have a laugh over it, and marvel at the creativity and humor? Would those of us who are edgy and irreverent enough to break road rules hesitate to do so the next time we are about to? Why? What’s the new incentive, this time? Because Akshay Kumar makes fun of people like us in a video that has been widely shared online? Or, because the video shows that such people are ‘challaned’ on the spot, to pay the fine? Do we not know these things? What does this video change? For whom?

To close things on a lighter, darkly (oh, the irony!) humorous note, here’s this video, from a tweet.