Tanmay Bhat plays colleague of acid attack survivor in this BuzzFeed video

By Shweta Mulki and Ashee Sharma , afaqs!, Mumbai & Delhi | In Digital
Published : December 14, 2016
The film is part of #SkillsNotScars, an initiative by Make Love Not Scars, an NGO, looking to rehabilitate acid attack survivors.

In September last year, an NGO for acid attack survivors - Make Love Not Scars (MLNS) along with Ogilvy, had released the #EndAcidSale campaign featuring survivor Reshma Qureshi. The recent campaign new message - #SkillsNotScars had 'video CVs' showcasing various survivors present their skills to potential employers. These videos took viewers and potential employers to a page - an online employment exchange - for hiring these survivors.

As an extension to the above, MLNS has now collaborated with social news portal BuzzFeed India, to create a 2-minute digital film, featuring acid attack survivor Mamta and All India Bakchod co-founder, Tanmay Bhat as ' best friends at work'. The video shows the two in 'silent conversation' where they are exchanging gossip, discussing food, and saving each other from boring conversations with other workers, among other things. The film ends with the message that 'Everyone deserves a work BFF (best friend forever)'.

Ria Sharma

Explaining that the collaboration with BuzzFeed came about organically, Ria Sharma, founder and president of MLNS says, "We wanted to tap into YouTube personalities for this campaign. Once Tanmay agreed to be a part of this campaign we got in touch with Rega Jha (editor of BuzzFeed India) who was more than happy to make BuzzFeed a part of the campaign."

The video was produced and conceptualised by BuzzFeed India, in line with the campaign concept of acid attack survivors gaining employment. The MLNS team says that this collaboration shows how different platforms can come together for a common cause.

Speaking about the insight behind the brief for the video, Sharma explains, "We wanted the video to be light-hearted while sending out a strong message. The message being that everyone regardless of disfigurement deserves employment. Survivors face heaps of social stigma from our society, the video was aimed at eradicating that by putting a survivor in a working environment." The creative team at BuzzFeed then came up with the 'BFFs at work' storyboard.

On roping in Bhat for the film, Sharma says, "We thought Tanmay would be perfect for this video because we wanted someone who would help break barriers of inclusion. He comes with a brilliant sense of humour that instantly made the survivor feel comfortable as well as providing entertainment to the viewer. We also wanted to rope him in to show how comedy can help a cause to progress - his massive social media following was just a bonus. And he went out of his way to make this happen".

Comedy with a cause is a common theme globally, with many well-known international comics lending their name to various issues. A light-hearted approach for an important cause could perhaps go a long way in impact. Do the experts agree?

Romit Nair

Vivek Dutta

Commenting on the execution of the video, Romit Nair, senior creative director, FCB India, and a 'fan of AIB', says, "While hard hitting and powerful is a great way to reach out to the common man, we need to understand that most people are online only to be entertained and that's what AIB has tapped into. The idea of 'Everyone deserves a BFF. Everyone deserves work' is great. However, while the approach is good, the execution could have been better and funnier."

"The conversations between the two characters is relatable in an office context, and therefore, strikes a chord with the viewer at some level," he adds, also appreciating the fact that the campaign does not depict the acid-attack survivor as a victim.

Vivek Dutta, executive planning director​, Hakuhodo Percept, agrees with Nair on the execution bit. "While the intent is quite noble, the execution isn't. If the subject were treated well, the impact would have been higher", he remarks.

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