The mirror inside the hotel bathroom was providing just the true reflection of her exterior. Tara had twice washed her face clean and stood in front of the mirror adjusting her Sari, forcing in a smile in the interim. She breathed in and breathed out, started to mumble something but stopped mid-way. Closing her eyes, she picked her thoughts up again and sorted her words to speak out by rote, “Plain clothes, multicoloured clothes, cotton, polyester, terry cotton… clothes. If it is a fabric, we promise to wash it clean. Less detergent, more froth… NIRMA. 1985:
Tarangini Mitra loved pirouetting. To dance by spinning on one foot came naturally to her. She felt like being let out into her own world as she pirouetted enthusiastically inside her bedroom staring at the fan above (sometimes accompanied by music and sometimes otherwise). She gave a public display of her skill for the first time at her school’s annual function. That miniscule bit of hers brought in applauses and also caught the attention of Mr. Padmasee, a reputed ad-film director.
“We just want her to do the spin, like she does so gracefully. The small twist would be counterbalanced by a jingle. She does the move, packs her bags, gets the cheque and leaves. Think of it, she’s going to be the first NIRMA GIRL”
Sarita Mitra, Tarangini’s mother listened to Padmasee with rapt attention. She waited for him to sign-off before engaging herself in some assessment. Sarita had just back then lost her husband to an accident and had a daughter to take care of. Any influx of money would have only done their ‘home economics’ good.
“I guess I’ll need Tara’s consent on this one”, she said and walked inside.
Sarita reached Tara’s bedroom and slowly pushed open the door. Tara was pirouetting, lost in her own dimension of space and time. She didn’t even sense Sarita getting a sneak peek of her. Sarita did not stay long enough to disturb her natural flow, just closed the door and walked up to Padmasee.
“Yes she would do it”.
The ‘Gupta Family’ had just bought their first television set. A Keltron 20 inch black and white box, which could be fine-tuned from the sides. The Gupta’s would sit together from 8 to 9 every evening to relish their hourly dosage of home entertainment.
The ‘NIRMA GIRL’ was quite a familiar face by then. She appeared in a milky white dress, did the pirouette with the jingle being played in the background and froze in time.
“That girl has such a distinct radiance to her. So bright, and she’s all grace”, Manik Gupta would comment as his wife and kids would nod in agreement.
Showbiz though had a personal side to it in the form of Sarita, who was a worried soul. Tara was to soon graduate from being a mere puppet dancing frivolously to a monotonous note and had been instructed to mime for her next shoot; had to demonstrate the washing procedure in short with a voiceover in the background. Sarita and Tara and in advance moved onto miming in their daily lives as well. Sarita would ask her daughter if she had taken her bath non-verbally. Tara had after her initial instantaneous verbal retorts too had moved onto non-verbal forms of conversation. Theirs was an abode low on sound.
But, today Sarita was worried for a different reason. Tara’s 12th standard results were due to be announced. Sarita waited impatiently for her daughter to show up.
Tarangini arrived, her steps sluggish and face shrouded in self-analysis.
“How did you fare?” Sarita asked, her question being presented in gestures.
Tara’s eyes drooped. She gave Sarita the ‘thumbs down’ sign.
“Sorry Mom… did not make it”.
Privatization had finally started raising its head in India, foreign policies were more benign than ever, Maruti wasn’t the only car on roads and the Gupta’s had switched over to colour television.
The ‘NIRMA GIRL’ too had in sync with changing times moved onto coloured outfits. She had swiveled, mimed and even started conversing in time.
Her’s was the chuckle that ruled the prime-time television slot. The glow that came with her dress was as over-imposed as the sheen in her smile and she carried off both with equal panache.
These days for most part she was a dutiful daughter playing caretaker to her sick mom.
“Don’t you worry about the pile Mom. I will take care of it. NIRMA hai naa”, she would quip in her soothing voice.
“I wish I had a daughter like that”, Mrs. Gupta would put in nonchalantly to the alarming look on her own daughter’s face.
“What do you see in that guy Tara? He plays a Eureka Forbes salesman for God’s sake. You are the ‘Nirma Girl’, the face of prime-time commercials. You should be going out with someone of your stature. Have you ever tried giving that ‘BOOMER GUY’ a call? He’s so muscular, so stoic. And to top it he carries that entire commercial on his own shoulders”, Sarita cried out
“I don’t give the ‘BOOMER GUY’ a damn mom. I don’t care if he is muscular, stoic, stretchy or bendy. I don’t even know his name. I love Rajeev and don’t care if he plays a door-to-door salesman”.
Time had rolled on further. TV channels had fast outnumbered the rate at which viewers could click on the remote to pick their favorite station. Singular attention was an outdated concept. It was ‘The age of the sidekicks’.
The ‘Nirma Girl’ too had a friend for company. The two would laugh, gossip, chitchat and wash in unison. Their chemistry was too good to be missed by any discerning viewer.
Mrs. Gupta would adjust her eyeglasses and state sarcastically at her daughter-in-law, as she peeled off the pea-cover, “I never knew two women could be such good friends”
Tarangini though had problems with the person she was sharing screen-space with. The cold vibes between the two of screen were as intense as their association on screen.
“I can’t work with that Hema, Mr. Padmasee”, she declared. “Its either me or her hence”.
“Just look at the amount of salt you have put in this gourd preparation. Why do you have to make it so salty? So, that it tastes less bitter? It’s the same anyway. Earlier, I could not taste it because it was too bitter. Now I find it difficult to swallow, coz its too salty. What is the big diff anyway?” Rajeev blew off at the top of his voice.
Tara just looked at him, her eyes clubbing the wrath of someone who wasn’t being given her due and pity for someone who wasn’t coming to terms with his wife’s professional outgrowth.
Rajeev could not take Tara’s silence anymore and often ended up displaying violent streaks. The dishes on the dining table soon found itself displaced on the ground with the tablecloth giving it good company.
Tara would run into her bedroom to check if the kids were still asleep. She would then perch on the bed and cry all night reminiscing her mother. She hadn’t talked to her in 7 years.
A caring daughter, a vibrant friend and an exemplary wife. The ‘Nirma Girl’ was now the reason behind her husband’s official surge.
It was the sparkling scrub that she was inducing onto her hubby’s clothes that had put him up in the eyes of his superiors. The happy couple smiled elegantly as they told the tale of their marital success to public.
Mr. And Mrs. Gupta too had their bouts of differences. But, no sooner did the that noble advertisement play itself than they would clutch onto each other’s hands and call it ‘clean’.
Tara and Rajeev had decided to separate. She did not file for alimony, just wanted her kids. She got it. To Judge Mhatre she was the obvious choice to get custody.
She found love again. The ‘BOOMER GUY’, Samit Mishra wasn’t all brawn after all. Three sessions of coffee and after continual pouring out of her life’s misery onto him, she could sense his impending sensitivity waiting to explode. They got married. He was an understanding husband and a caring father to her 2 kids. But something just wasn’t working fine. She soon realized that not all things burly and well built go well on bed.
The Gupta’s were drawn to the Nirma Girl’s new offer. She screamed out enthusiastically like always,” New Improved Nirma with Micro granules. Because, BIG DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN GOOD PERFORMANCE”..
The golden girl was going for her last hurrah. A change was long on the horizon and her age too had caught up with Tara; her once pristine face now reeling under the effect of the inevitable.
She agreed to do the last shoot. As she pirouetted for the final time, she traced a barrage of memories backwards.
“Samit, Hema, Rajeev, Mr. Padmasee, the school function, the fan inside her bedroom, Mother”.
Mother…. it was time for reconciliation, maybe.
As her vehicle stopped at the petrol pump that day she saw Sarita walking by, carrying a bag of provisions.
Tara ran towards her and hugged her, her eyes glistening. Sarita looked away for sometime but then came back to her daughter with a gentle smile. Tara’s eyes fell on the packet of washing powder in her handbag.
“You have stopped using…. Nirma?”, she enquired
Sarita just looked at her bag and looked up again.
“Yes. Well…. I needed to change my brand. Could not afford Nirma anymore”…
Unlike brands that changed its ambassadors regularly, Tara’s was the face that Nirma had trusted for 22 long years. The ‘Nirma Girl’ to her loyal audience was none less than a legend. A farewell was organized for Tara. It was flashed across newspapers circulating in Mumbai. The first 50 applicants were to be given free entry-passes.
The Gupta’s were among the lucky lot who could make it to the ceremony. Giving Tara company were Sarita, Samit and her two children.
Tara stood inside the hotel bathroom, practicing her lines. She was used to speaking well-scripted one-liners and had as a result long lost touch with creativity. She readied herself though. The hotel busboy informed her that it was time.
“In a minute”, she replied clearing her throat.
The busboy left.
Tara started to walk out towards the stage awaiting her but stopped. She walked back into the bathroom again, and stood facing the mirror to mutter, “ Life in a way is just like washing clothes. You get everything ready; you do your regular procedure. But, you might not get it right the first time. So, then you go back and do it again. It’s the same theory you see… Lather, rinse, repeat”
Sourced: Passion of Movies, original Article by Shreeehari