April 2021 turned ordinary citizens into covid warriors who rescued strangers. We speak to Amazon's head of mass and brand marketing and ad film director Bhavesh Karkera, about their spot that honours these hidden heroes
“Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it,” remarked Albus Dumbledore right after he was removed from the post of headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the novel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
The wise headmaster’s words alluded to the goodness and courage the residents of the school possessed in copious amounts. They would exhibit these very powers during dangerous and often dark events the Dark Lord, the main villain of the book series, would orchestrate to end the life of Harry Potter to achieve immortality.
Dark is the keyword here because we, in the real world, and still reeling from a serious bout of darkness. One that went pitch in nature in the first half of 2021 when the second wave of the virus enveloped our country and our lives.
April, May, and June may feel like a distant unwelcome memory right now but hark back for a moment; we mostly discussed contacts of hospitals where beds were available, ambulance services that’d operate 24x7, oxygen tank suppliers near us… Our social media feeds had turned into unending waves of SOS calls, we all knew someone close to us who’d suffered, and some of us had begun to assemble contacts of nearby crematoriums.
Dark was an understatement.
Amid those horrible few months, we also witnessed the true face of humanity. Nameless people ran pillar and post to find a hospital bed for someone they’d never known or would never meet, someone would sit all night and call hundreds of numbers to find one oxygen tank for his friend’s friend’s uncle and folks were amplifying every SOS call on social media like their lives depended on it.
The nameless aam admi had turned into a Covid warrior.
Amazon’s Diwali spot celebrates these very warriors. “Diwali is the time when you go to meet your loved ones and this year we've found new people who looked after us. We must go back in some way and say thank you,” says Ravi Desai, director, mass and brand marketing, Amazon India.
The 140-second film is the story of a mother and her son driving towards someone she considers close while he remains clueless. Sameer pesters his mom for clues about the person they’re meeting and why they are driving there when they could have sent the Diwali gift through Amazon.
It is only when they reach the address that Sameer realises it is the home of the gentleman who’d helped his parents find a bed for him when he was very sick in April this year.
Most of us were in a situation where we asked for help or helped people says Desai and "when you’re going through the pains, there is nothing else you think of than medicines, bed, oxygen tanks"... As the moment passes by, you come back home and start to live normally again. “We wanted to remind the country that this is the time you can say thank you and it will mean a lot for them who played such an important part in your lives.”
Desai, talking about particular aspects of the film, takes us to the bit where Sameer was counting the important relatives they had. The brand did not want him to count numbers so that’s why he says “Poona wala chacha, Jaipur wale mama mami”; a humanising touch than turning relatives into numbers.
Another interesting bit Desai pointed out was about how the mother feels unsure and refers to her smartphone to check if she’s reached the right address; it is the first time she is meeting this person. Most of us will never meet the person(s) who helped us but we’ll always remember them in our lives. “That’s how April, May, and June was for many people,” says Desai.
The film reflects this unforgettable bond. Pay attention to the photograph above wherein uncle, after he opens the door, has immediately recognised Sameer says, “tujhe kaise nahi pehachanunga puttar?” That hint of a smile gives it away.
The cast did a “fabulous” job asserts Desai and he lauds the mother and the uncle in the spot. He reveals they (Amazon) were worried going into the shoot because “sometimes you can portray emotions with a dramatic kind of effect and it loses its impact”. That worry has been put to rest.
Bhavesh Karkera of Breathless Films, the film’s director tells us the brief was pretty clear. “The spot needed to move people. The past year was all about witnessing stories of solidarity where we saw strangers helping each other.”
He continues, “These are stories that deserve to be told. My aim was to create characters which will resonate with people and capture the bitter-sweet moments of compassion and gratitude.”
This Diwali ad isn’t the first tearjerker from the e-commerce giant. “We've done work in the past in what we believe are emotionally invested moments for Indians,” says Desai about Amazon’s Rakshabandhan ads that he reveals “has been a critical occasion on which we've activated this affinity thought of deliver the love.”
A voiceover at the end of the Diwali ad says “kuch rishton ke naam nahi hote, isliye toh woh khaas hote hain aur in khaas rishton ko pyaar humare dibbe nahi, sirf aap pahucha sakte ho.”
India has opened up. If you can, pay a visit to someone who helped you keeping all precautions in mind, of course. Your presence will light up their lives this Diwali.
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