Suraj Ramnath

Amit Akali on #LaughAtDeath video shoot: "The mood was never morose"

A look at Medulla Communications' video in which terminally ill patients do stand-up comedy.

Charlie Chaplin said life is a tragedy when seen in close-up but a comedy in long shot. In this new video released by The Indian Association of Palliative Care (IAPC), terminally ill patients take to the stage for a quick stand-up comedy act each and joke about their imminent death.

They were trained by stand-up comedians Kunal Kamra, Kashyap, Vinay Sharma and Punit Pania. The studio audience comprised their family members and doctors.

Amit Akali on #LaughAtDeath video shoot: "The mood was never morose"
This public awareness campaign #LaughAtDeath has been created by Medulla Communications.

These patients, shares the agency in a press note, were selected from hundreds of terminally ill patients that the IAPC members support.

The campaign first broke on Twitter a few days back. The video is being promoted online through a partnership with The Logical Indian, an online news portal with special focus on issues of social relevance.

The radio leg of the campaign is being carried out on Radio Mirchi. The video is also visible on (a site that belongs to IAPC). The video has got over five lakh views on YouTube, where it went live on March 29, 2017.

Amit Akali on #LaughAtDeath video shoot: "The mood was never morose"
Amit Akali on #LaughAtDeath video shoot: "The mood was never morose"
Amit Akali on #LaughAtDeath video shoot: "The mood was never morose"
Praful Akali, founder and managing director, Medulla Communications, in conversation with afaqs! about the behind-the-scenes experience, says, "It wasn't difficult to convince the patients because we went through IAPC. All the patients genuinely wanted to share their experience before they passed away. So convincing the patients and their families was not a problem. What was difficult was getting their time for the shoot..." as they had prior health related appointments to work around.

He adds, "Getting all the patients together for a shoot was also a challenge... most of them go to hospitals on a regular basis for their treatment. Also, recently while shooting for a Radio Mirchi show, one of the patients couldn't get up from the bed. So getting them to make it for the show was the hardest part because they are terminally ill."

Giving us a peek into the mood in the studio, Amit Akali, chief creative officer, Medulla Communications, says, "The mood was never morose... the only time they were nervous was when they got anxious about their performance. The mood was very positive and inspirational. They even joked around. Everybody was overwhelmed about what was happening..."

Talking about the script (the jokes the patients cracked on stage), Mihir Chitre, creative group head, Medulla Communications, says, "... They told us about their stories and then the stand-up comedians we worked with taught them how to put it together in a funny manner. They taught them how to perform."

As per the firm's website, the IAPC was set up on March 16, 1994 in consultation with the World Health Organisation and the government of India. The idea is to bring individuals and institutions involved in palliative care (that is, medical support given to those with serious illnesses) closer. The objective of this video is to increase awareness around the concept of palliative care in India and reduce the social taboo around the subject of terminal illnes/death.

Medulla Communications is a healthcare communications agency that creates ads and promotional campaigns for firms in the healthcare and pharma space.

Bold Effort?

Amit Akali on #LaughAtDeath video shoot: "The mood was never morose"
Amit Akali on #LaughAtDeath video shoot: "The mood was never morose"
Jitender Dabas, chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup India, says, "How do you talk about death in a way that doesn't make people uncomfortable and switch off? By celebrating life. And that's what this piece does wonderfully well. It reminds me of films like 'Anand' or 'Life is beautiful' which deal with the idea of death by celebrating life. It (the video) will surely get people's attention towards palliative care. The idea is great."

The video, feels Dabas, is engaging. "Hence, they could have taken advantage of that to give viewers some more information about palliative care. As a viewer it strongly moves me to do something but it didn't tell me what I can do..."

Pooja Rawat, vice president, Quantum Consumer Solutions, a brand research and design company, feels that this is a very thoughtful way to talk about the grim subject of death and terminal illness.

She says, "The execution has very delicately tackled the message without being over-bearing. Humour is often used to convey what plain words cannot, and that's exactly what this communication has done. By using real patients in the stand-up comedy context but taking great care with regards to messaging, the video touches hearts while also provoking you to think about terminal illness and the value that palliative care can offer to patients."

According to Rawat, the hashtag 'LaughAtDeath' is quite thought provoking too.

"I like that the brand has not just created one video that creates awareness, but also elaborated on the individual stories of the patients to make the message more credible and real," adds Rawat.

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