We Were and Will Always Be Secular, Says Tanishq Ad Maker Joyeeta
An exclusive chat with the filmmaker who created the Tanishq Ekatvam ad which has now been withdrawn.
Ad filmmaker Joyeeta Patpatia, who directed the Tanishq video commercial, themed around an inter-faith godh-bharai (baby shower) ceremony, has been receiving numerous threats and hate on social media since the video was officially released and then withdrawn.
Talking about the controversy, the award-winning filmmaker who has made commercials and music videos for Asia and UK, tells me that there’s also been a lot of love coming her way, “There’s a lot of horrible, horrible, dark stuff coming my way on social media, but I don’t want to constantly share that on Instagram, I think it’s much more beautiful to share the beautiful art work and the beautiful quotes and all the love that’s coming our way for this campaign.”
Joyeeta, whose first film got her a Cannes nomination, says that when she was approached with the scripts of the ‘Ekatvam’ campaign by Tanishq, it was the concept of unity that struck her and she saw nothing wrong in it. “The campaign came from this idea of unity and oneness and that’s why it’s called ‘Ekatvam’. It was a campaign of four films and the scripts were wonderful, we saw nothing controversial, nothing wrong in showing a story where two women are looking out for each other. Our serials show mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws in such negative light some times. So, that was my first takeout when I read the script because it was the story about two women and it was about the love that this woman was receiving, and the fact that her mother-in-law and her family has gone out of their way,” she says.
Talking about the making of the commercial, Joyeeta stresses that the idea was based on a secular India that is not new to inter-faith marriages. “So, if you see in the film, they are making puli kudi which is a very specific thing that Malayalis have during this ceremony (baby shower). We researched and we found out and we put these little details just to kind of showcase the love that the family is showering on her.”
“And of course, this is not unusual, this is how India is, we are a secular country, we are in a generation of children and young adults who are also products of inter-faith marriages, who don’t think twice about showing and sharing love.”Joyeeta Patpatia, Ad Filmmaker
However the backlash that has come her way and the brand’s way has been shocking, she tells me. “After all these years of independence and so many conversations, we were really hoping that we had moved forward. I would not say we have moved past, we did expect some conversation and maybe a little bit of discussion around this, but the level of hatred and the level of venom that has been spewed, I would say has come as a shock. It’s an army of trolls, an army of bots. So many people, faceless people, abusing, sending horrible slurs my way, the brand’s way, the creative team’s way.”
“It scares me personally a little bit, but having said that, this is where we are, this is the truth and the more love and positivity we showcase as brands, as individuals, as storytellers, I think it’s more and more important for people to see that there is good in this.”
In some of the online discussions around the commercial, some people believe that the controversy would not have necessarily taken place if the ad had shown a Muslim bride with Hindu in-laws. However, Joyeeta thinks that the reactions would have been no different even if the religions were reversed, “The sheer idea of seeing the two religions in one frame seems to be the trigger, so it would have received the same response if reversed,” she says.
When asked if she thought that Tanishq’s decision to withdraw the ad based on the hate and abuse from right-wing trolls on social media was an overreaction, Joyeeta says, “Tanishq took a call for the safety of their employees and stores. We are in an economic crisis and they have gold showrooms.”
Joyeeta now wants to focus on the love and support she has been getting post the controversy. “Of course there is always going to be bad things happening around the world, not just in India, there is racism around the world. There are so many communities in India and it’s a heated topic here, but as a country, don’t we want to show the good side to the world? We were always a secular country and we always will be and I really hope the generation that we are talking to changes things around, because the kind of amazing love and support I have got from the younger generation has been overwhelming,” she says, choosing to look at the brighter side.
The filmmaker’s social media has also been inundated with good wishes, positive vibes and solidarity from other artists. “They created artwork, they created such lovely slogans, they’ve taken it to another level and this campaign has also got so much love. We set out to make a simple sweet film but it’s turned out to be some sort of talking point in a good way and I would take only good out of this,” Joyeeta says and I can’t help but agree. So, instead of choosing a headline that expressed the shock and fear over the backlash, I chose to go with the good I got from Joyeeta’s positive vibe - the thought that we were and always will be secular.
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