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Padma's raunchy ad sparks controversy

Who would have thought one could perform foreplay on fast food? That’s what Padma Lakshmi seems to be doing in her new ad. Mayank Austen Soofi elaborates.

india Updated: Apr 21, 2009 18:18 IST
Mayank Austen Soofi

Who would have thought one could perform foreplay on fast food? That’s what Padma Lakshmi seems to be doing in her new ad.

The ex-Mrs Salman Rushdie and ex-vegetarian is making waves for using her formidable sex appeal to sell glossies, junk food and herself. Along with a highly publicised nude shoot for US magazine Allure — coinciding with her return to modelling at 38 — Lakshmi is now seen sucking, licking, nibbling … a beef burger.

The ad, rather too bold for Indian consumption, has upset some people in the US, too. On The Purse Blog, a fashion networking site, an American blogger complains: “My entire Hindu vegetarian family is furious at her.” Another explains the cultural shock saying: “The ‘kosher’ Hindus don’t eat beef and the others do.”

Small children and teens are the biggest followers of burgers, but if they are the target audience, mums are not buying it. One angry mother has written on stupidcelebrities.net, “I walk in to see my child watching this $#it on TV while I’m doing the dishes! This is absolutely one of the most sluttish commercials I’ve ever seen.” Looks like a controversy is coming.

Food for sex
The ad in question is of the US-based Western Bacon Cheese burger, a product earlier endorsed by a nearly naked Paris Hilton lathering up a Bentley. In the commercial, Lakshmi saunters through a market, running her shapely fingers through spices and such like. After confessing “I’ve tasted every flavour imaginable”, she sits down on a flight of stairs and starts to eat a burger — in a way that appears to be making out with the food. She hitches up her skirt to reveal her thigh, while the meat threatens to fall into her cleavage. A lustful Lakshmi then licks sauce off her slender arm in a come-hither manner. This minute-long clip can be seen on sites like YouTube. The clip has got almost 400,000 hits.
No-no for Indians

“Only Padma Lakshmi could have done this,” says ad man Prahlad Kakkar. Can something like this be attempted in India? The Aamasutra ad featuring Katrina Kaif shows the actress tickling the bottle suggestively, but that’s nowhere near what Lakshmi does to the burger. “We’re sexually the most active nation after China, but we can’t do it here,” says Kakkar. “Our parties have no agenda. Moral policing is all they can do.”

No such hindrance in the US, but people still find the ad hard to swallow. In his piece ‘We Must save Padma Lakshmi From This Terrible Fate’, Hollywood columnist Barry Koltnow tells her agent: “It is a violation of everything we hold dear about your client, and we demand that you end this fiasco immediately before you permanently harm her reputation.”