Aditi Srivastava

"The film is more about individualism than feminism": Manish Aggarwal, Myntra

Part of the Bold is Beautiful series, Anouk's latest short film deals with the issue of pregnancy-based discrimination at the workplace.

Hema, Rekha, Jaya and Sushma do not want to wash clothes for the family and promote detergents any longer. Their priorities have changed. They have joined the workforce and walk shoulder to shoulder with their male colleagues. And, they want to be treated in the same way their male colleagues are. But alas! Gender bias gets in the way.

While ads earlier portrayed the stereotypical housewife whose ultimate achievement was to have rubbed clothes and utensils sparkling clean, ads today have cashed in on the changing trend of women stepping outdoors to prove their worth as professionals, who are as competent as their male counterparts.

And, this is exactly what a recent film from the stables of Anouk, a Myntra brand, has shown. The two-minute digital short film titled The Calling, which has been on air since December 4, is the fourth offering in the Bold Is Beautiful series. It deals with the issue of gender discrimination at the workplace.

"The film is more about individualism than feminism": Manish Aggarwal, Myntra
Produced by Hectic Content, and written and directed by Shamik Sengupta, the film begins with Uma (Shernaz Patel) offer a lift home to her junior colleague Shaheen (Radhika Apte), while congratulating her on her good work. En route, when Uma comments on her baby bump, Shaheen confronts Uma about the prejudice she is facing at work due to her pregnancy, for which she holds Uma largely responsible. Uma denies her role in it. As the film ends, Shaheen eloquently delivers the message that she can manage both roles of being a mother and an architect with equal competence, even as she walks away to her new workplace, her own start up.
Anouk had earlier made a trilogy of films under the umbrella of Bold Is Beautiful, which presented three choices offered in the life of the modern Indian woman. The films talked about issues like single parenting, a woman's choice of her relationship, and her stand against eve-teasing. The films titled
were widely appreciated by the audiences.

Anouk adds yet another dimension to the campaign this time by creating a film which focusses on gender bias at the workplace.

The film drives home the fact that women when considering motherhood, are perhaps at the most vulnerable stage in their careers, and corporates usually adopt a rather callous and discriminatory approach towards the issue.
"The film is more about individualism than feminism": Manish Aggarwal, Myntra
Commenting on the strategy behind the idea of the campaign, Manish Aggarwal, vice-president, marketing, Myntra Fashion Brands, says, "Anouk is for the modern Indian woman. Taking the topical short film approach forward, we want to communicate the brand message of 'Bold is beautiful' in a non-intrusive manner through a real, slice of life story. The Calling exemplifies how the Indian woman can voice herself, express her identity, and craft her own destiny. It is more about individualism then feminism."

Aggarwal further says, "Our approach towards all films in the Bold is Beautiful series has been to create a topical film which will appeal to the modern Indian woman as Anouk as a brand caters to the contemporary Indian woman. We zeroed in on this theme after gathering relevant information through our consumer research, which showed the prevalent trends towards pregnant women at the workplace. The film is about women who stand up and make a bold choice about the life they want to lead."

The digital-only film has already garnered 1,202,309 views on YouTube till date while having notched up two million views on YouTube, as well as Facebook, besides having received 40,000 likes and 30,000 shares across social platforms.

Expressing his views about the film, Shamik Sengupta, script writer and director, Hectic Content, adds, "We decided on the theme of pregnancy-based discrimination at the workplace after having brainstormed over several other ideas. It took us three months to work on this brief. We wanted to show a social issue that would be relatable to the urban, contemporary Indian woman. Maternity affects a woman's career and our qualitative research showed women often face this issue when pregnant."

Talking about the film, Sengupta notes, "The visual metaphor in the situation was brought out by a moving car as one notices Shaheen's journey, from day to night, signalling a stressful to stress-free environment which she chooses by deciding to start something of her own. Apte and Patel were chosen for their roles as they are prolific and powerful actors. The film ends on an aspirational note for women who have an idea, and can start something of their own."

Commenting about the challenges encountered while shooting the film, he points out, "Selling a narrative by depicting real-life situations and trying to cast all actors in their specific roles even while shooting inside a car in a city like Mumbai were the technical challenges we faced."

"The film is more about individualism than feminism": Manish Aggarwal, Myntra

The Verdict

Shaheen is successful yet frustrated; which is why she decides to start a firm of her own. The fact that she does not embrace society's definition and expectation of a pregnant, working woman who must sit back at home and kiss her career goodbye, is what the film has tried to delve upon.

"The film is more about individualism than feminism": Manish Aggarwal, Myntra
"The film is more about individualism than feminism": Manish Aggarwal, Myntra
Tanushree Radhakrishnan, senior vice-president, product standardisation and programmatic agenda, ZenithOptimedia, gives a thumbs-up to the film as she says, "The Bold is Beautiful campaign is very hard-hitting and what I like best is the subtle execution to convey such bold messages. I think the digital audience, especially young women, is evolved and receptive. It goes well with the contemporary image and connects with the characteristics of a modern Indian woman such as being independent, fearless, successful, and of course, bold."

Continuing further, she adds, "The Calling is my personal favourite of the lot and I believe it's something that most expectant working mothers would have gone through; something which would have limited them or made them compromise, because whatever said and done, we still live in a patriarchal society. This ad will definitely tug at more chords than the earlier ones."

On the other hand, Rahul Nangia, joint national creative director, L&K Saatchi & Saatchi, finds the subject to be an interesting one though the execution does not appeal much to him. Commenting on the same, Nangia opines, "The direction looks staged and the conversation is not as effortless as it could have been even though the subject is interesting."

Commenting on the film, Arun Sharma, executive planning director, Hakuhodo Percept , says, "In its evolution of the subjects, Anouk as a brand has kept something constant, and that's ‘the independent woman’ theme. I see this as a continuum of their past stories; independence from someone else’s earning, independence from the cultural acceptance of only heterosexual relationships, independence from the concept of ‘father and mother as parents’ versus ’single parenthood’. The resonance with working women is likely to be higher for this one because of two things done well – first, the plot around pregnancy and the reality of awkwardness faced by every working woman and second is the choice of the protagonist as Radhika Apte. This combination makes this story more memorable than the rest."

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