Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Making Ghandi talk again

Sixty-one years after the father of the nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was killed,, an NGO, and Publicis India, its communications partner, are all set to launch a campaign that will give voice to his philosophies and teachings. Titled Let Gandhi Talk, the campaign will give Indians the opportunity to rediscover Gandhi.

The campaign has been conceptualised by Shailendra Uniyal, founder, The project will not only attempt to resurrect Gandhi's much-needed philosophy of peace and non-violence in today’s turbulent times, but also make people realise that it is possible to dissent, demand and drive change without resorting to violence.

Citing the reasons for the campaign, Uniyal tells afaqs!, "While travelling to various parts of the world, I discovered the impact Gandhi had left with his teachings. Gandhi has left an indelible mark on all of us. This made me think that considering some of the burning issues like corruption, violence, terrorist activities, communal backlashes and oppression that bother us in our own backyard, it’s high time we Let Gandhi Talk!"

The campaign will kick off on January 30 – the day that we mark Gandhi’s assassination – from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. A two minute silence will be observed in his memory, which will be marked by a short film clip on Gandhi, the core idea being, “You can kill the man, not the idea.”

Next, the gathered people will be asked to sign a petition in the form of a giant postcard, with a commemorative Gandhi stamp and a message blurb addressed to the President of India, demanding that Gandhi's quotes and messages be included on currency notes and other representations of the Mahatma.

Following this, people from the crowd can step into a large-size replica of Gandhi's sandals and take an oath of non-violence and also voice their opinions.

These activities will be followed by a campaign, wherein people will hold placards with thought-blurbs consisting of Gandhi's quotes and messages next to his statues, murals and other representations in different cities of India.

The petition will also travel to various places of public interest, including schools, colleges and youth hangout zones, where people can sign it and convey their opinions to the President.

What impact will such a campaign have? Will it see mass participation and actually push the masses to adopt ‘Gandhigiri’ as a part of their lives?

Emmanuel Upputuru, national creative director, Publicis India, explains, "Much has been done to propagate Gandhi's thoughts. However, we wanted to start a conversation among the masses with this attempt. We are trying to make the campaign contagious, so that people talk about it, take part in it and have fun, while soaking in Gandhi's principles.”

He adds, “Have you ever tried taking stock of the number of statues, the amount of currency notes that change hands every day, or the number of Gandhi murals and stamps on postcards? It's like having all the touchpoints at the right places, which now need to be interconnected and integrated into the campaign to start off a movement."

He states, "In India, Gandhi is on a pedestal right now. We need to bring him within the reach of the masses." Not to forget that Gandhi himself was against honours being bestowed on him. Instead, he preferred a simple life.

However, when we questioned whether his participation in the initiative was with one eye on various international awards, Upputuru states diplomatically that he is not taking this initiative solely to win awards, but to execute an idea that has a lot of potential to bring about a change.

He says, "Even if the campaign doesn't win any awards, but ends up creating a stir and helps the masses raise their voice, then the ecstasy is as good as holding a metal." However, he does acknowledge that he will enter the campaign for various award shows.

As far as the reach of the campaign is concerned, Uniyal maintains that they would like to take the campaign to any region of India that has witnessed violence, tyranny, state-sponsored oppression, corruption and exploitation. On receiving a positive response, the campaign might even travel abroad, since there are statues and mementoes of Gandhi spread across different countries, including the US, the UK and South Africa.

The campaign has been funded by Publicis India, Uniyal himself and some of his fellow partners. As of now, they have no brand association, but Uniyal welcomes any brand that would like to be associated with the cause.

As far as spreading awareness about the campaign is concerned, Upputuru maintains that a mix of digital and on-ground activations and events will do the job. The film, which is nearing completion, will be for private circulation and will also be in the public domain through sites such as Youtube.

The team behind the campaign includes Anup Sharma and Saurabh Dwivedi, who are working alongside Uniyal and Prasad Raghavan, who has designed the Gandhi sandals. The team from Publicis India is led by Upputuru and includes Publicis Dialog, the activation partner. Nomad Pictures is the film production partner; Hanmer MS&L is the public relations partner and Publicis Modem is the interactive partner.


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