Ad on Kashmir hospitality gets bouquets, brickbats

Wanted to highlight that a place can''t be a paradise if it has gardens but non-friendly people: Jaibeer | Critics say it reinforces image of obliging nature of Kashmiris towards outsiders

HAROON MIRANI
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 26 2017 12:14AM | Updated Date: Sep 26 2017 12:14AM
Ad on Kashmir hospitality gets bouquets, brickbats

Barely hours after its release, a J&K Tourism department’s ad titled ‘Warmest Place On Earth’ has become a hit on social media with over two million hits being recorded on Facebook alone, but it has invited brickbats too.

The film by J. Walter Thompson, a marketing communications company, depicts Kashmir as a place of exquisite landscapes with warm hearted people.

“Everybody knows that Kashmir is a beautiful place and we wanted to go beyond this known fact. The next biggest attraction in Kashmir is its hospitality, so the idea of incorporating traditional hospitality as its central theme was born,” said Jaibeer Ahmad, executive business director and vice-president J. Walter Thompson, who is a Kashmiri himself.

The film has been directed by Amit Sharma, who became famous for a touching Google Ad showing reconnection of Indian and Pakistani friends.

The ad shows how an old Kashmiri out to buy sugar in market, ends up taking a tourist couple to sightseeing as they mistake him to be their driver. The Kashmiri doesn't spoil the mood of the couple and instead obliges them by taking them to a journey that goes to panoramic landscapes, Sufi shrines, traditional villages and even a Wazwan party.

“Those who have said that Kashmir is paradise on earth have also said this after experiencing the hospitality of locals. A place cannot be paradise if it has a beautiful garden but non-friendly people,” said Jaibeer. “And we wanted to highlight the fact. One can get those stories even while talking to random tourists.”

The film has been a hit on social media. On the J&K Tourism’s Facebook page the video has two million views, 20,000 shares and around 2,000 comments. The statistics from other platform is also similarly high. On Youtube, it got around 50,000 hits and numerous shares on Twitter.

The feedback to the video has not only come from locals but even celebrities too. Bollywood director Imtiyaz Ali penned a heart touching story of hospitality shown by a Kashmiri family to his family in his student days. The five-minute film has also been shared widely by Bollywood celebrities like Karan Johar and Alia Bhatt.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made Twitter debute by sharing the link of the film on her account. Many people have written about their Kashmir experiences after watching the film.

“There is a negative portrayal of Kashmir in media and with this ad we wanted to change that perception,” said Jaibeer, an ace adman who is currently overlooking brand Pepsi.

The creative side has a big Kashmir signature: it has been sung by Mudassir Ali and VibhaSaraf. A bureaucrat, Shah Faesal, has penned down the lyrics.

 “We have poured in our heart in the film and result is everyone to see.” 

The film was made in two months.

Though the film has got huge positive response but some viewers have expressed their anger on showing “digressing, obliging nature of Kashmiris towards outsiders.” Others have pointed out some technical mistakes too.

“It (film) reinforces how - the best Kashmiris are capable of historically is through serving ‘Indian tourists’. This time, it is not a Kashmiri running into the arms of a soldier, but an old man, who could be anyone's father, easily digresses from a home errand and decides to do a voluntary ‘begaar’ for a honeymooning Indian couple. He drives the two around while ignoring his wife's calls; the poor woman can stay on hold while he practices an extreme bout of misplaced compassion,” wrote Ather Zia, a political anthropologist at the University of Northern Colorado in the US.

“We love feedback from people and we have taken note of all technical mistakes. As far as attacking the ad for showing docile nature of Kashmiris, I wanted to ask a simple question, aren’t Kashmiris highly hospitable?” said Jaibeer. “Rest we hope this ad will try to meet the objective for which it was made and our future campaign will be even more brilliant.”

The agency is currently busy making the autumn ad campaign due to be released shortly.