afaqs!

KBC: cutting across the divide

By Prachi Srivastava , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Media Publishing | July 22, 2014
The second film of the campaign dwells on Hindu-Muslim animosity. It shows how a young boy, in his own way, attempts to bridge the chasm.

After winning hearts through the Kohima commercial, Sony Entertainment Television has rolled out another TVC to promote the eighth edition of the Amitabh Bachchan-hosted Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC).

Screenshot of the KBC Hindu-Muslim ad

Gaurav Seth

Vikram Pandey

Nitesh Tiwari

While the broader thought behind the campaign remains the same - 'Yahan Sirf Paise Nahi, Dil Bhi Jeete Jate Hain', the second TVC brings out the communal issues between Hindus and Muslims. The first TVC was on the discrimination against people from northeast India.

How to win friends...

The latest commercial is set in a tiny neighbourhood in which a Hindu and a Muslim family live cheek by jowl. Ankit, one of the sons in the Hindu family, has been selected for KBC and is about to step out en route to the hot seat when one of the sons in the Muslim family sneezes (it's considered to be a bad omen by Hindus) deliberately. Ankit's father stops his other son from retaliating.

On the hot seat, when confronted with a tough question, Ankit opts for a 'phone a friend' lifeline (the show is being viewed live by both the families). He calls the head of the Muslim family and asks him the meaning of 'As-salamu alaykum'. The old man's (played by actor Wasim Khan) hatred evaporates as he turns emotional and answers the question with a "Khuda Tumhe Salamaat Rakhe" (May peace be upon you). As Ankit wins, both the heads of the families come out and hug each other.

The Hindu-Muslim film also tries to showcase the fact that the younger generation doesn't believe in the divide and can unite people of these two religions. Sony will launch the third ad film of the show, closer to the launch. The first and second TVCs showed how the contestant and the 'chacha' (in the second film), respectively, won the hearts of the people. The third film will showcase how Bachchan wins hearts with his humility and warmth.

Interestingly, the first two TVCs have integrated 'audience poll' and 'phone-a-friend' lifelines, while the third one will promote a newly introduced lifeline of 'call your community' (a group of people), wherein a participant can call a community to get his question answered.

...and influence people

KBC's campaigns have, over the years, been about knowledge - 'Sirf Gyaan Hi Aapko Aapka Haq Dilata Hai', 'Ek sawaal jo aapki zindagi badal de', 'Koi bhi insaan chhota nahi hota' and 'Seekhna band, toh jeetna band'. This year it moves beyond 'individuals' and talk about 'unity of the people'.

Gaurav Seth, marketing head, SET says that the brief given to the agency was to show KBC as a show, or platform, that touches hearts. "From there, we explored how to communicate this particular thought. We also wanted to communicate how, through KBC, people are transforming their lives, other's lives, society and winning hearts".

Leo Burnett, the creative agency that has been working on the KBC campaigns for the past four years, believes that creativity has the power to transform human behaviour. Vikram Pandey, executive director, Leo Burnett India feels that that's where the thought of the campaign came from. Adds Pandey, "KBC actually gives an opportunity to affect many more people. The entire country is watching you. What you say over there has a far-reaching effect. What if someone uses their knowledge to reach over there and then use that position to actually transform people's thinking?"

The near-perfect casting in the ads too has achieved that effect. If the first Kohima film featured a girl from Manipur, the second film has theatre actors who could bring that emotion and connect on-screen. According to Nitesh Tiwari, the director of the films, in the Hindu Muslim ad, there was very little time to establish characters. "You need to be very sure in your casting and mannerism to get the mood set up very quickly, apart from setting the context. Be it Wasim Khan or Anil Rastogi (the Hindu father), we needed faces which could communicate what we wanted to, in a short span of time."

Hard-hitting?

K S Chakravarthy

Jitender Dabas

K S Chakravarthy (Chax), NCD, FCBUlka says that he has several serious misgivings about this new leg of what has been one of his favourite campaigns over the years. 'Koi bhi sawaal chota nahin hota' took a quiz show, which is inherently intimidating to many and made it a trivia game in the best, most inclusive way possible. 'Koi bhi aadmi chota nahin hota' made the show a social leveller and opened up a world of back-stories to add human interest to a quiz show. 'Gyaan hi aapko apka haq dilaata hai' continued this theme, of knowledge as the great leveller.

"But I honestly don't know what this campaign is trying to say. Yes, the first ad of the series makes a telling point and is thought provoking. But what has winning hearts got to do with anything - least of all a quiz show?" asks Chax. He believes that the ad does not have a compelling story and is built on the same shaky premise. "The detailing weakens the telling at every level. The script is pretty unimaginative, the casting is distinctly clichéd, and the handling of the characters and emotions is uniformly unconvincing."

Jitender Dabas, EVP and head of planning, McCann Erickson is of the view that some might find the execution a tad melodramatic. But for the mass audience - which KBC is trying to reach - a Bollywood-like treatment will only make it foolproof. "For most Indians, acquiring disproportionate wealth needs strong moral justification and KBC's advertising has always provided that moral escape by either celebrating the knowledge required to win it or directing the acquired wealth to a higher purpose," he explains. He points out that this time too wealth is made less relevant as against winning hearts. "In that context a theme like regional or communal harmony shall always make for a winning emotional and moral argument - be it Red Label or Ambuja Cement or KBC," he says.

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