Sohini Sen

Viral Now: Vogue's Utopia

Vogue India's latest digital campaign (#VogueEmpower) holds a mirror up to our far-from-perfect society. A couple of recently released, hard-hitting films have begun doing the virtual rounds.

What should a lady do if she is stranded on a deserted road at mid-night, with no visible public transport options? Common sense, at least of the Indian kind, dictates that she should first make a few calls and ensure help is on the way. And not befriend a group of strangers - least of all big, burly men - who offer to help, in the meanwhile.

Viral Now: Vogue's Utopia
But questioning this basic premise is a video titled 'Going Home', directed by Vikas Bahl (director of the Hindi feature film Queen. Part of Vogue India's #VogueEmpower campaign, the film features actress Alia Bhatt.

The video opens with a scene of Bhatt driving down a deserted road at night; she is telling her mother, on the phone, not to worry. However, as soon as she ends her conversation, her car breaks down, leaving her stranded in the middle of the road... and night. She notices a car full of men approaching slowly. But instead of getting scared, she gets down and asks them to help her fix the problem.

The camera angles and background score, coupled with the viewer's own dreadful anticipation of a negative outcome of her actions, serve to build the tension and suspense. When they fail to fix her car, she gets into their car, requesting them to drop her home. What happens next is, unfortunately, not in sync with either our societal reality or the theory of probability: the men drop her home safely and she hugs them goodbye.

As she happily walks towards her home, these words appear on the screen: 'Impossible in the real world. Can we give her the world that she believes exists?'

Released on October 17, the video has garnered over 2.5 million views on YouTube. It has also ignited several discussions around the subject of women's safety, on social and mainline media.

On YouTube, the video comes with a brief post-script that reads: 'I pledge to create a short film titled 'Going Home', in which we visualise a utopia for women, where, unlike today, mistrust and fear don't dictate actions and decisions," says director Vikas Bahl.'

Viral Now: Vogue's Utopia
The second video is called #StartWithTheBoys. Released on October 21, and directed by Vinil Mathew (director of the
), it has garnered nearly three lakh YouTube views. The video rejects the phrase 'boys don't cry'. It leverages actress Madhuri Dixit's popularity to encourage people to adopt a new phrase instead - 'boys don't make others cry'. The context is domestic violence.
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