Sep 16, 2008


Soumya,Varshini,Shreyas seek to discover notions of Beauty as seen through the Indian Matrimonial ads.

The authors of this assignment are currently in 4th year, GDPD at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad. This write-up was written for their 6th Semester Science & Liberal Arts course on Aesthetics, taught by Shilpa Das, Akhila Krishnan and Avinash Rajagopal

MATRIMONIALS in India are a common feature in every newspaper, having their origins in the early 20th century. Over time, print and online matrimonials have replaced the traditional brokers who used to mediate marriage alliances between families. A look into today’s matrimonial ads would reveal what the common perception of ‘The Ideal Woman’ is, in
the Indian context. After scanning numerous matrimonial sections we took up six of the most recurrent words and phrases – ‘Fair’, ‘Tall and slim’, ‘Homely’, ‘Convent educated’, ‘Must come from high status family (material wealth)’, ‘Must manage work and home’. We chose to portray these words/ phrases through visuals on postcards. The postcards are intended as take-away/ collectible items with puns derived from Indian media culture, consumerism and mythology.

THE BRIEF A set of six postcards depicting words taken from matrimonials, which we believe could be indicators of ‘Ideal beauty’ in women from an Indian perspective.

To convey a message(an image, an event, speech etc), one needs to choose an adequate means of conveying it. How we convey a message is directly related to how the viewer/receiver/audience reacts(the emotion it evokes-any of the Navarasas) and then responds to it.

The Indian perception of Ideal beauty in women The words ‘tall’, ‘fair’, ‘slim’, ‘educated’… the socalled pre-requisites of a perfect Indian woman have come about due to various factors. Colonial rule has brought about an unwritten rule amongst the masses that fair complexion is better than a dark one. The media and advertisements with their unbelievably slim models, play on the viewers psyche. From Barbie dolls to movie heroines, everything is tailored to fit the image already built up. This forms the groundbase for a young male seeking a prospective bride. We have played upon all these clich├ęs to evoke ‘Hasya rasa’ and also elicit a reaction to this notion of beauty prevalent amongst us, through the rasa.

Why Hasya Rasa? All emotions eventually become impressions(Samskara), which exist subconsciously in the mind, and which are later reproduced as memory(Smriti). Krodha(anger), Soka(sorrow), Jugupsa(disgust) are negative emotions. They consume energy and weaken one. The feelings of the emotion itself often override the intended message. As opposed to this, Hasa(laughter) is a positive emotion, it is desirable. One is willing to recall these memories over time. And with every recall, the message is conveyed subconsciously and consciously.


India, fairness creams are almost a phenomenon. The advertisements
for these products show dark women becoming successful(in terms of career/marriage) once they become fair skinned. Fairness is associated with confidence and equated with success. Which family would not want to have a fair daughter-in-law?
This visual borrows from the Indian education charts. It is a play on the claim made by most fairness creams- ‘Beauty. In six weeks”.


A good wife is expected to attend to all the members of the household. In today’s
context , where most women call themselves “working women”, this still holds true.
Despite the fact that she puts in office hours during the day, she is expected to be the
perfect homemaker + mother + wife before she goes for work and after.
The visual is a play on the concept of the Mother Goddess in Hinduism. Armed
with many hands, She can handle more than any man can. All the while with a
smile on her face. The images are again borrowed from Indian education charts.

(I haven't uploaded the other 4 illustrations here, as we did 2 each. Meanwhile, I jump-cut to conclusion)

The Rasa theory was a theory originally intended for classical and high art. Applying it to a designed product which is governed by many more parameters than aesthetics alone, it certainly plays a significant role but might not be the sole guiding principle on which the product functions.
For a work of art or theatre– even extending to the rasa model into literature, poetry for instance– the emotional qualities are suggested primarily through characters and their actions within a framework of a narrative and a host of other devices such as figures of speech, rhythm
and rhyme etc. thus objectifying the emotion to make it universal and accessible to everyone in the audience. Translating this to a design object/ product/ piece of communication, it then becomes an autonomous activity, for the manifestation of the emotion lasts as long as the tasting of the vibhaav or the cause/ determinant of the emotion does. The anubhaav or the indicators to register the emotion portrayed will consequently be underplayed and distilled to figures of speech or literary devices that work within the framework of the print medium, being less interactive than theatre or dance.

The assumption in our case, was that the audience was well acquainted with the matrimonials section appearing in newspapers and online portals (though a satire/ pun on it distorts the original purpose for which they were used) and familiar with the Indian Mythological scenario.
We launch on a familiar narrative-The underlying subversive icon of the Heroine’s Journey, illustrated in a series of visuals to create that sense of irony in a compact, condensed message.



Love the illustrations. Do upload the rest and lemme know when you do!

More thoughts then. (too sleepy now)


Shreyas said...

yup, will check with the other 2 if they're ok with me uploading their illustrations :)

Anonymous said...

nice work shreyas! wish i could see the rest as well... and i would have loved to do such an assignment as a student... miss those days :(

Shreyas said...

Hey thanks Kalyani :)
Will try and upload the others soon.

bhumika said...

lovely post and illustrations shreyas! i did my final year dissertation on myths, metaphors and stereotypes in popular fairy tales. i got in touch with shilpa das and it turned out to be quite an insightful meet. glad to see some streaks of that project in this post.

Shreyas said...

ooh, I'd like to see your dissertation someday. :D

vrakodar said...

Where can we see all the postcards?