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Films, the new mantra for public diplomacy

June 05
03:22 2013
Salman Khurshid

Salman Khurshid

NEW DELHI: Films for public diplomacy. This seems to be the new mantra for the government’s External Affairs Ministry as part of its effort to reach out to a larger audience outside India.

The Ministry’s Public Diplomacy Division had initiated the “India Is”, a digital platform campaign to connect and interact with people from all over the world and make them think more about India.

“It is important to reach out to wider world and connect, it is equally important to reach out to the person next to you, especially to the youth of this demographically changing country,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said at a reception held recently to celebrate the successful completion of two years of ‘India Is’.

“Every bit of Internet search gives you new impulse. And, with a platform like Google, it allows one to look into every nook and corner of India,” Khurshid said.

Five short films made by upcoming filmmakers, and co-produced by noted director Anurag Kashyap and Viacom 18 was released on YouTube as part of the web-based campaign.

Kashyap also hailed the India-themed public-private partnership that offers platforms to young and independent filmmakers, to reach out to their audience, which he said “wasn’t possible before the Internet”.

“An initiative like this is not just offering platforms to young, independent filmmakers to showcase their work, which would be hard to come by otherwise, but also is giving us windows to the different unknown worlds that exist in smaller places of India, not seen in mainstream,” said the filmmaker.

While Indian feature films from the Raj Kapoor eras of the 50s and the 60s depicting mainstream India are still popular especially in Central Asian countries, contemporary web-based short films seem to be giving a peek into the “microcosm of India.”

Songs like “Awara Hoon” and “Mera Juta Hai Japani” from the black and white era of Raj Kapoor’s heydays are still popular in Russia, Kazakhstan and other neighboring countries.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and wife Gursharan Kaur, on their visit to Russia in 2011, were regaled by hit numbers from Raj Kapoor-starrer films, played out by the Russian presidential orchestra.

The orchestra had played “Awaara Hoon” from the 1951 movie “Awaara”, which was the most popular film in the erstwhile Soviet Union, and ‘Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan’ from the film “Mera Naam Joker” (1970) starring Russian actress Kseniya Ryabinkina.

The partnership of the Public Diplomacy division with Google’s YouTube, one of the biggest live contest-sharing website on the internet, is seen by both the MEA as well as Google to “build the India Brand further on a global stage”.

Secretary (Economic Relations), Ministry of External Affairs, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty described ‘India Is’ as an endeavor in public-private-partnership to bring greater engagement with a “people-driven” policy.

“Our mandate is to reach out to a constituency which is beyond the government and media. And, through imagination and innovation this platform gives the opportunity to fill in the blanks as to what India is…” said Chakravarty.

The Division’s digital diplomacy began with an account on Twitter and followed it up by signing up for Facebook and YouTube.

Currently, YouTube has an estimated 50 million users in India and 2 billion globally. With rising social media users, both Google and MEA through Public Diplomacy say they seek to “improve their visibility” to a young, dynamic, changing India.

“Five films put together by Anurag Kashyap’s team, built around the theme of India on YouTube is a great example of how the video platform can be used to engage with users worldwide and build the India Brand further on a global stage,” said Rajan Anandan, Vice-President and Managing Director, Google India.

The MEA has been commissioning a range of documentary films that enable diplomatic missions to showcase different facets of India. The division has a select list of feature films that they screen at various film festivals throughout India’s missions abroad.

After a year of the Division’s commencement in 2006, the Twitter page of Indian diplomacy has more than 26000 followers and Facebook page has more than 44500 followers.

‘India Is Global Video Challenge 2012’, saw participation from over 60 countries and over 500 video submissions.

Meanwhile, each of the five films of ‘India Is’ explore a common theme “India Is a Visual Journey.”

“As part of the Ministry’s Public Diplomacy allows us to find not just new content but also new voices and new ways to connect, say and communicate,” said External Affairs Minister Khurshid.

The “Epiphany” by Neeraj Ghaywans is the story of a divorced couple on a road trip who are forced to scrape the wounds of the past.

Vasan Bala, who debuted in Cannes last year has come up with “Geek Out” which redefines the young Indian geek, who is no longer the lad who sits in the corner.

Kashyap’s sister Anubhuti Kashyap debuts as a director with “Moi Marjaani” a film about a spirited independent single mother from Patiala who runs a small Internet cafe and finds love knocking on her door.

“Chai” by Geetanjali Rao explores a sequence of montages shows four different people in different parts of the country making tea in a tea shop.

“Hidden Cricket” by Shlok Sharma depicts how cricket is part of every Indian’s life. -PTI

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