Kashmir has mesmerised millions of people the world over with its inimitable scenic beauty. With picture perfect snow-clad mountains, steep valleys, rich flora and fauna, and flowing rivers, Kashmir undoubtedly is an epitome of mystic beauty. Of late, however, Kashmir - fondly known as 'paradise on earth' - has lost its charm due to continued terrorism and political turmoil.
To bring back the glory of Kashmir and let visitors rejoice in the wonderful memories of the land, Bollywood legends Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini, have come together to spread the message of oneness through a short film - 'Vaadi-e-Kashmir'. The film, produced by water purifier brand KENT RO Systems, showcases the warmth, oneness, and love that we 'Indians' share with Kashmir and its people and gives us a way to celebrate it as a nation.
The film opens with an introduction by Amitabh Bachchan in his rich baritone followed by Amir Khusrau's famous couplet "Agar Firdaus bar rōy-e zamin ast, hamin ast-o hamin ast-o hamin ast" (If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this) describing Kashmir's beauty. What follows are sights across the region as a group of youngsters travel through the land.
The background score in Urdu, written by the legendary poet, lyricist, and film director, Gulzar, "Chal chalenge char chanaaron se milenge... Aye Vaadi-e-Kashmir baharon se milenge", touches an emotional chord and is meticulously woven into the ad film. The video ends with Hema Malini urging every Indian to come together as one nation and send love and affection to the Kashmiris by writing messages and posting Kashmir stories through www.dilsekashmir.com a website launched as part of this campaign.
"We do a lot of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities. We thought Kashmir, as a subject, will bring about a change in the minds of the people and that is how this film was conceived. So, this is not at all an ad campaign or a brand film, but rather a CSR initiative and we are not spending any money for its promotion. One should not relate this film to Kent RO except for the fact that it was produced by the brand," says Mahesh Gupta, Chairman, Kent RO.
"In this film, Hema Malini is not seen as the brand ambassador of Kent RO, but as an Indian for whom Kashmir holds a special place in her heart. Amitabh Bachchan is not the brand ambassador and we haven't paid him for his valued contribution to the film; because of his love and affection for Kashmir, he volunteered to be part of this campaign," Gupta adds.
Yeh dekhiye, yeh lijiye, Heaven on Earth, Kashmir. Love and Peace https://t.co/gMdtHlZEGX— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) September 6, 2017
The film was released by Home Minister Rajnath Singh on various online platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Soon celebrities such as Salman Khan, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini took to twitter to share the link of the song to display their love for Kashmir.
Kashmir needs a healing touch. Let's make it the paradise it once was. https://t.co/NjdCYSTRL0— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSri) September 7, 2017
The ad shows Kashmir through the eyes of tourists, something similar to the Rajasthan or West Bengal Tourism ads. So we asked Kenneth - unlike the other state tourism campaigns this film has no single brand ambassador, why?
He responded, "This was meant to be a CSR initiative to create awareness about Kashmir. Its purpose is not to sell Kent RO purifiers. And nowhere is a purifier being sold. (Mahesh) Gupta and I believe there is a solution for Kashmir if we have the right intention to find it and the first solution is to get people to know each other and get closer. Nothing in this entire project seems force fitted or trying to change the world.
"Singularly, the idea was to build bridges between Kashmir and the rest of the nation, as that's the only way to start any meaningful progress. So, we were very critical to ensure it doesn't end up becoming a tourism ad," he adds.
Shooting the film was quite a challenge as the crew had to get into Kashmir just two days after the Amarnath Pilgrims were shot. "The situation was very very tense and (Pradeep) Sarkar had a crew of 100 people flown in to ensure we finish this in 10 days. It was a logistical nightmare to get this up and running. We had to drive through known terrorist-prone areas. But we had to do it. The weather was getting worse, but the place and most importantly, the warmth of the people of Kashmir, made this easy," informs Kenneth.
"This truly was a team effort; Ms. Hema helped in bringing people together. Starting from briefing Gulzar Saab, getting Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy on board to Mr. Bachchan, each of them came together and made this magic happen. From start to finish, it was an eight-week process," he adds.
Bridging the divide the right way
In the world of advertising, the link between packaged drinking water and the Himalayas is known. This video is almost like a water purifier brand borrowing a category code from the packaged water segment. So, we asked our experts, is this a good fit for a CSR initiative?
Bikram Bindra, Vice-President and Strategic Planning Head - Delhi, Grey Group, says "Kent RO is synonymous with the category of water purifiers and has built the brand on the back of high-decibel and consistent advertising. Hence, it makes sense for them to keep their CSR initiative unbranded and not mix two agendas. The idea is noble and the execution is quite impressive; the film really brings to life, not just the beauty of a divided part of the country but also the pathos of the people involved."
According to Shubho Sengupta, CEO and Co-founder, Pink Shastra, "If Kashmir is India's heart, then the film is an attempt to touch that heart". He, however, maintains, "It comes across as tourists invading a foreign land, reaching out their 'hand of friendship'. There's no 'Kashmir', it comes across as a beautiful hill station. Strategically, it's an opportunity lost - fail to see the CSR connect."
Ayan Banik, Head, Brand Strategy, Cheil India, feels that there are a few positive nuggets about the communication, such as the beautifully written lyrics, complemented equally by melodious and lilting music, topped with beautifully shot scenes from the heartland of Kashmir. It takes anyone (who has ever been to Kashmir) on a long, nostalgic walk down memory lane, back to their experience with Kashmir.
However, Banik thinks there are a lot of missing links and oddities that baffle the mind as a viewer. He says, "Just creating a nice looking video backed with a microsite to upload wishes is not exactly a CSR initiative. What exactly is the CSR fulfilled by Kent RO; that's a big question that remains unanswered. Secondly, what is the social issue that the brand is trying to address? Is it aligned with any Government of India initiative (such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao or Swachh Bharat or Janai Shishu Suraksha Yojana)? If not, then what is the concern that the brand is trying to address? Is there any tangible 'call to action' for the viewer? Thirdly, even if it's a CSR initiative, there needs to be some kind of brand/product connect to make it somewhat ownable by the brand. What I fail to understand is the connection between a water purifier and peace, harmony and increasing tourist footfalls in Kashmir. If one happens to miss the last frame, one wouldn't know that it's a piece of communication from Kent RO. From that perspective, perhaps it's a wasted opportunity."
He adds, "Why does Amitabh Bachchan appear at the beginning of the film? What is his role? Is he a narrator? Which he doesn't seem to be, nor does he appear to the Voice of Kashmir. Therefore, a towering celebrity like Amitabh Bachchan, in my opinion, has not been leveraged at all by the brand."
Curated: Hema Malini
Concept: Praveen Kenneth
Agency: Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi
Director: Pradeep Sarkar
Supported by: Mahesh Gupta (Chairman, Kent RO)
Special Thanks: Amitabh Bachchan
Law & Kenneth Saatchi& Saatchi Team: Anil K Nair, Charles Victor, Rishi Upadhyay, Vijay Vigamal, Aarti Samant, Roshni Donny, Megha Gayke, Shailendra Shyamsukha, Sandeep Gayke, Sudarshan Sudevan, Bhushan Shimpi, Amit Sharma, Prabhakar Bolar, Devendra Pulaveli, Anil Kumar, Amit Kute, Sushil Pandey, Haider Ali, Ricky Barretto.