Brand Kashmir

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Scenic landscapes of Kashmir valley coupled with a rich cultural heritage is increasingly becoming the flavour of television commercials with a number of producers exploring the popular culture and using it as a theme for their ads, SHAMS IRFAN reports.

Gulzar in a still from Visa Debit card TVC

In December 2011, Greenply Industries Limited launched an ad campaign to help increase its brand’s recall value. The add jingle which has a catch line ‘Always Hoyenga’, shows a man wearing a safari suit and the traditional Kashmiri sheepskin cap flashing his beer belly, as the jingle says Aane waale saalo’n me, Ji Hoyenga, Kashmir ka hal nikelnga.. (In coming years, Kashmir problem will have a solution).

If not the politics of the state, the rich culture of Kashmir has finally found takers in Indian advertising industry which has started to explore the beautiful landscapes and the facets of indigenous culture to create sellable themes for television commercials.

For instance, the BBDO television commercial (TVC) for Visa Debit Card ad campaign which has already won an award was shot in a picturesque village in Sonamarg.

The ad film tells the story of a teacher who lives in a remote but beautiful village in Kashmir that is overwhelmed by darkness because of frequent power cuts. The protagonist (Gulzar) is encouraged by his younger brother to use his Visa debit card on the internet to make purchases and help illuminate his village with a cycle generator.

This commercial captured the essence of village life in Kashmir and the constant struggle of the inhabitants to change their fortunes because of energy crisis in the region. Visa debit card ad is the first ever TVC that has been entirely shot in Kashmir using local artists. Speaking to Kashmir Life, Gulzar, a local theatre artist, recalls the day when he learned about auditions in Srinagar for Visa TVC.

“I came to know through a friend that a team from Mumbai is in Srinagar scouting for talent,” remembers Gulzar. He was selected from a group of 300 people who had come for auditions.

Hailing from a small north Kashmir hamlet Magam, Gulzar is currently associated with a Srinagar based theatre group called ‘Kashmir Performance Collective’.

Shooting for the Visa TVC took place in Sonmarg and Baltal. But for recording his voice, Gulzar had to travel to Mumbai. “I stayed in Mumbai for eight days. It was a good learning experience as I met a number of professionals associated with ad filmmaking. They all appreciated my work,” said Gulzar.

After Visa ad became a hit and received huge response for its creativity and simplicity in conveying a message about usages of credit cards, Gulzar started receiving calls from Mumbai for ads.

The 28-year-old arts graduate, who instantly became a celebrity among his friends and relatives, traces his love for theatre back to 2005 when he attended a workshop in Srinagar organized by prestigious National School of Drama. The workshop was headed by MK Raina.

Recently he did a cameo for Star Plus serial ‘Tere Meri Love Story’. “It was a small single entry role but I am not in a rush. Being a theatre artist earns you almost nothing in Kashmir. I had to spend from my own pocket,” said Gulzar.

Gulzar was paid around Rs 2 lakh for his appearance in Visa TVC and Rs 50,000 for using his image on hoardings across India. Amit Sharma, director of Visa TVC has recently asked Gulzar to keep himself available as he is planning to shoot another ad in Kashmir soon.

Oglivy & Mather, another ad company has used an old Kashmiri poem to create ICICI Bank’s new campaign ‘My Savings Rewards Program’.

Set somewhere in the hills, the TVC potrays a school going brother and sister who go to a shopkeeper for toffees. The soft music in the background is merged with words of a famous Kashmiri jingle, ‘Hu-Kus, Bu-Kus, Teli Wan Tschi Kus’ – Who is s(he), Who am I and (then) tell me who are you?

For the director of the TVC, Prason Pandey, the poem was discovered by his sister Ila Arun, and a family friend, K K Raina. Once the poem was selected, the team approached composer Dhruv Ghanekar and the track was recorded.

“We wanted to use a poem which people will like even if they don’t know the words,” said Abhijit Avasthi, national creative director, O&M. The TVC was shot in Ooty to sync the jingle perfectly in the hilly background.

“We have no issues coming to Kashmir to shoot a TVC here. But it is quite expensive to transport crew and equipment to Kashmir,” said Avasthi.

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