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Puma accused of defacing Indian heritage building with graffiti

The German sportswear giant is being accused of causing permanent damage to a 17th-century building in Delhi's historic quarter. The historic architecture was painted with graffiti for a Puma shoe commercial.

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A new Puma shoe commercial is getting some unwanted attention in India.

The advertisement, which Puma says is a "creative endeavor that captures the grit of Indian streets," has ruffled the feathers of conservationists who accused the German sportswear company of defacing a centuries-old heritage building with graffiti.

Two other buildings in the neighborhood have also been painted.

"It's a heritage area. You can't just go and paint what you like," Swapna Liddle from the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) told Agence France-Presse news agency.

"Permanent damage has been done to the carved sandstone, limestone plaster and Lahori bricks. Those who made and approved this advertisement, those who stood by while this was done, are all responsible for this insensitive treatment."

The Indian Express newspaper reported that the walls of the building, which is listed as a heritage site, were painted over a month ago, but the issue was brought forth by INTACH on Sunday.

A Puma spokeswoman told the newspaper that "all necessary permissions were sought" to shoot the commercial. She added that the company was looking into conservationists' concerns.

More beautiful

Laws to protect Delhi's neglected heritage sites do not allow any development or changes to be made without the permission of competent authorities. But these laws are rarely enforced.

The owner of the spray-painted building disputed that the architecture was a heritage site and that Puma took his nod before shooting the campaign.

"This is a private property and the graffiti is making the area look more beautiful," Arun Khandelwal told the Indian Express.

"If there is something on which action needs to be taken, it is how the walls in Old Delhi are defaced by posters and advertisements."

The commercial — dubbed "Suede Gully" after the shoe material and the Hindi word for street — features four languages, eight rappers, 36 dancers, seven street artists and is shot across four corners of the country.

ap/rc (AFP)

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