In Conversation With Pranav Harihar Sharma, GCD, Linen Lintas On Dabur Vatika Campaign
By pranav harihar sharma
Monday, 23 Feb 2015
While Dabur Vatika may have always stood for “woman of substance”, using a cancer survivor as a protagonist is an inspired departure. What was the inspiration here?
Woman of substance, in absence of a story is just a word or an adjective. Dabur vatika’s ‘vatika woman’ was among the first few that started the new advertising philosophy of celebrating woman achievers. These are those women who fought the society, traditions and a lot other things that come in the way of their dreams. Women, who fought, won and achieved what they wanted and destined to achieve. That’s the real meaning of ‘vatika woman’ and that’s the definition of ‘woman of substance’.
Now, I don’t see a woman who has defeated cancer to reclaim her life, her dreams, as a departure here. It’s not a departure because it is the same ‘woman of substance’ but here the enemy is not society, traditions or anything outside. Here her fight is with her own body. She has fought one of the toughest battles in her life and she came out as a winner. But the battle never ends here; the real battle begins when she has to fight with herself. When she has to face the world with her new look. That’s the toughest fight. Here I am telling the story of this woman and her fight. She is vatika woman and she is indeed the biggest achiever. While working on the campaign that one thing was in my mind that I should not be telling just another story of a ‘woman with substance’ or for that matter a cancer survivor. The story here is not about the battle only with cancer but yourself.
It’s a brave statement from a hair oil brand, which has traditionally celebrated long, black, thick tresses. Was it easy selling this approach to the client?
This i give it to client. Actually the brief in itself was to do something brave in the category. And brave doesn’t mean weird. It was like, head in the cloud, feet on the ground.
When we were working on the brief, one thing was common in our and client’s mind that whatever we will decide to do, it has to have a strong connection with the category. You may call it a CSR campaign from Dabur. But if you closely look at it, it’s actually not just another CSR campaign where the client just signs off with the logo, with no connection with the cause. It's not ‘save tiger supported by Dabur Vatika or ‘save water initiative’ from Vatika. It is a campaign where the idea is hinging on hair, or rightly, the absence of it. The biggest difference that sets the idea apart is the creation of the paradox. My acid test for the idea was that- it has to work even as a statement.
So when I wrote the line- "Some people don’t need hair to look beautiful" and put Dabur Vatika shampoo as a sign off, I was confident that within the context, this has the potential to catch attention, even if it gets tweeted from Vatika’s twitter handle. And the same argument in front of the client made the idea sailing smooth. For the client who is in the business of hair oil and shampoo, it is a brave step to keep their main product lines on back-end and saluting cancer survivor for their bravery. And not just that, declaring, ‘hair’ as evitable is a brave step from a shampoo brand. Brave and beautiful is born from the bravery of client and beauty of the idea.
Viewers are speculating about the lady who plays the cancer survivor. Is she a cancer survivor? If not, how did you convince her to shave her head?
Parul Chaudhary is a brave woman. No she is not a cancer survivor but an actor. And there is a reason for calling her a brave woman. When we started, I was damn sure that I wanted the leading lady who could act, express and shave off her head too. As process grew and work progressed, I realized that this was a very difficult combination to achieve. The film, with no dialogues into it, was a pure play of emotions through mere expressions and that needed to be subtle. Even a smallest hint of an over act could have killed not only the film but the whole campaign.
Finding a great actor was not that difficult a task but finding a great actor who would be ready to shave her head was. And over and above this one thing I learnt during the process that even playing the role of a cancer survivor has a stigma attached to it. It was quite a shock for me. In fact from your question here - people think Parul is also a cancer survivor, now I can understand the apprehensions of the actors for not donning the role. But during the pre-production process neither the acting nor even shaving the head, but this stigma was the biggest hurdle in our way. You won’t believe it, but I selected three good actresses (as back up) for the role who were ready to shave, but two of them refused to play the role 4 days before the shoot and the last one chickened out a day before the shoot. When the whole unit was upset because of the developments and when the shoot was almost got cancelled, I got Parul’s audition and I instantly liked her. She was a perfect fit for the role and ready to shave off her hair too. That’s brave.
However, with the help of our prosthetics artists and CG people we managed keep her hair intact. Your question about shaving her head is actually the compliment for my freelance prosthetics crew and CG team at Famous Studio.
Often a path breaking expression is difficult to follow up with an equally effective one. So what’s the next film about?
If you are asking about what’s next in brave and beautiful campaign, then I can assure you that it’s just a warm up exercise and soon you will see things which no Indian hair brand has done so far. Making a statement like- some people don’t need hair to look beautiful, is the reflection of the bravery that has been shown by the client in this campaign and with in a month this has become multifold in terms of what we call it ‘legs of the campaign’. But there are bigger and braver things in the foray. ‘Faulad’ film is just an announcement. The campaign is not just about one film and you must have seen towards the end of the film that we are asking for the stories from cancer patients. So its not just a lip service in terms of a feel good film but there are things that we will do at ground level to make the campaign, ‘brave and beautiful’ more meaningful and effective. There are activities on-ground already in place and radio campaigns are taking the thought forward. The song, ‘tu faulad’ is being played as the part of the programming.
We have got a very encouraging response and got thousands of survivor stories through different platforms. Now we are shooting viral films and print ads with real cancer survivors as the face. Apart from these, there are few surprising things that you will see in coming weeks.
Can you explain the background song and its inspiration?
The song ‘Tu faulad hai, tu hai phool’ is the back bone of the story. In the absence of the dialogues, the song does the crucial job of not only taking the story forward but also expressing the emotions of the protagonist.
While writing the song, I was certain that ‘Women are always stronger, mentally, when it comes to facing the drearies of life. The three women in my life- My mother, my wife and my sister has proved it time and again. A woman is a great combination of beauty and bravery. Not necessarily a cancer survivor but any woman has these two in her. With this insight combined with the name of the campaign, "Brave and Beautiful", I reached to the ‘mukhda’ of the song, ‘Tu faulad hai, tu hai phool’. After cracking this, writing the following lines wasn’t difficult, as they needed to express the mental state of the survivor in third person format.
The song ‘tu faulad hai, tu hai phool is the tribute to every single woman in the world. Because irrespective of the geographical boundaries and color, every woman has these two as the two strands of her DNA.
Click to see the work
This inspiration, did it need researching or did come out of first hand exposure to cancer survivors?
It is a human insight when combined with India’s socio-cultural fabric and beliefs become inspiration. When a someone defeats cancer and reclaims life, what could bother him/her post that? Absolutely nothing. Once you are a cancer survivor, hair and looks are the last things to bother you. Just like a soldier who is not ashamed of the bullet marks endured in the battle, he is proud of those marks as the medals of his bravery. Likewise, for a cancer survivor the baldness is the trophy. Yes, there are societal norms and the pressure to blend in but than again, do you want to blend in when you are already a notch above the ordinary! In fact, India is not a vanity society, where looks are pivotal. We all believe in fighting, winning and celebrating without any frills. We believe in original, in genuineness. We believe in pure emotions. I have no exposure to cancer personally, nor did I do any research. These things, as an emotional guy, I can understand and express.
Any directions/suggestions for young creative to help them think out of the box.
Hey! Im not that old to give gyan to the young! I myself in early thirties and pretty young. But still, not just to the (comparatively) young, this I will say to everyone in this (not so noble) profession of advertising:
Be a fearless dreamer and always remember: An idea is like a bastard child, either no father or many.
Team behind the Dabur Vatika "Brave and Beautiful" film. Gobinda Bhowal , Shubhi Pandey, Deepak, Sirish Gudibande, Rohan Bhasin (names from left to right).