Pause For Peace: A Letter to Pakistan

By Sohini Sen , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | November 21, 2014
Ram Subramanian's ad film production house Handloom Picture Company is back with yet another eye-catching film. This time, it's about the ever-sensitive Indo-Pak issue.

After all that's already been said about the ongoing tension between India and Pakistan, what more can a creative professional say or do to make onlookers stop and take note?

Pause - The short film

Subramanian's previous short - Unmute


Enter Ram Subramanian.

The founder and director of Handloom Picture Company, an ad film production house, has written and directed a three minute-long film that speaks to a certain 'Iqbal Bhai', a resident of Pakistan.

Dear Neighbour Movement

Ram Subramanian

Titled 'Pause' - one starts to see the significance of the name around 40 seconds into the film - it urges citizens on both sides of the border to engage in healthy conversation with one another. After all, the day to day ups and downs in the life of the common man on both sides are very similar.

Interestingly, the film has generated quite the buzz on Twitter with its hashtag #DearNeighbour, among both, Indian and Pakistani users of the social media site.

In fact, few youngsters from Pakistan have responded to the film with monologues of their own, something Subramanian calls 'velfies' or video selfies (including one by Indian actress Huma Qureshi). Also part of this campaign is a Facebook page titled 'Dear Neighbour Movement'.

"I made this video, after my previous ones, 'Mute' and 'Unmute', received good reviews from viewers. This was a topic I always wanted to speak about. And now was the right time, what with the internet and mobile platforms letting us speak out freely. Did I think it would turn into a movement? No. But this is now taking up most of my time," says Subramanian.

Of the previous two films, 'Mute' was released in January this year. The film was his way of protesting against all the shortcomings of our society, and simultaneously asking people to come out and vote in order to set things right. The video was shortlisted for a Film Lion in the 'Public Awareness Messages' sub-category at Cannes this year.

Soon after, Subramanian followed it up with another topical and hard-hitting film called 'Unmute'. Released in May this year - a few days before the swearing-in ceremony of our current Prime Minister Narendra Modi - the film has been viewed over a million times on YouTube. The film congratulated Modi and conveyed the wishes and hopes of the Indian people to him. The common thread that runs through these two films and the current one is the plea for peace.

"I was heavily inspired by Chuck Lorre Productions, which always end with a vanity-card from Lorre, wherein he speaks about random things that hold meaning for him. I had more to say even after the 'Pause' film," adds Subramanian, referring to the written text that appears on the screen at 2:54 on the timeline. One has to pause the film at that second, to read it - an act that ties back to the name of the film. Alongside the text is a giant 'pause' sign (two vertical lines).

Subramanian and team took a day to shoot each of these three films. A self-confessed perfectionist, he made sure the actor (Sumeet Thakur) rehearsed for at least two months, each time around, before shooting. For 'Unmute', Handloom availed the services of several voice-over artists, though the video featured only Thakur; the process involved a fair amount of recording and re-recording.

For 'Pause', Thakur was made to bend down slowly, as required by the script; then, that shot was further slowed down with the help of what ad film makers refer to as "high-speed shots". 'Mute' and 'Unmute' were shot in a single take, but 'Pause', though it appears to have been, was not. In fact, it was created by fusing several short films together.

Subramanian plans on making a fourth film, to take the series ahead. Along the way, if a brand decides to align itself to his cause, he would be happy to steer things in that direction, we learn.

Pausing For Effect?

Razneesh Ghai

Hozefa Alibhai

Razneesh Ghai (Razy), founder and director, Asylum Films, an ad film production house, really likes the actor's performance in the previous films. He appreciates Thakur's performance in this one as well. "What stood out in this film," he says, commenting on the direction, "was the technique used. Ram (Subramanian) has used the 'third theatre technique' brilliantly. It stands out."

In the third theatre form, actors establish a direct communication link with the audience, through a monologue. It is a technique based on what dramatists call expressionist acting (a style of acting that looks to 'awaken' the audience, spiritually or socially) and realism (manifested by real-looking costumes and the absence of make-up).

Hozefa Alibhai (Hozi), founder and producer, Puppet Pictures (a film production house he runs along with ad film maker Naren Multani), feels the thought-process that went into the film is "an evolved one."

"It is a very good initiative. At least someone from the advertising industry is doing something about it, without thinking about making money. Though it has garnered momentum overseas, I do not see too many people viewing or sharing it in India. That needs to start happening," he says, noting the support the film has been receiving from across the border.

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