‘Initiative that is using Facebook to engage with the youth on violence against women is the on-going One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign, launched internationally by Eve Ensler, American playwright and founder of V-Day, the global movement to end domestic violence’
Azera Parveen Rahman
No longer is Facebook, or any other social media platform, just a place to hang out, chat or share pictures. Innovative campaigns, which refrain from the usual lecturing mode and speak in the language of the youth, are encouraging youngsters to connect with social issues like gender violence and spin the wheel of change.
One initiative that is using Facebook to engage with the youth on violence against women is the on-going One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign, launched internationally by Eve Ensler, American playwright and founder of V-Day, the global movement to end domestic violence. Women from 160 countries, including India, have responded to this global call by launching OBR campaigns in their respective countries.
No one today, especially the youth, likes to be talked down to. As Sanyukta Das, a Delhi University student puts it, “Nothing puts me or my friends off more than a long winding speech by a person claiming to know it all. If anything, such speeches end up getting youngsters disengaged from, rather than connected with, an issue.” So, instead of giving advice on what to do, these new-age campaigns involve people in active discussions on a particular subject.
The online OBR campaign does just that. Elaborates Jagori’s Prabhleen, who has been working on creating OBR Delhi’s Facebook page, “The OBR campaign is spread over a few months so we have designed it in a way that people can get involved with fighting violence for a longer period of time. The idea is also to create synergies. It’s essentially a people’s campaign and those who join in are free to share their thoughts, stories and even give updates of any events being planned around the issue of gender violence in their community.” Jagori, a Delhi-based women’s resource centre, that has previously launched successful online campaigns like the Safe Delhi campaign, has partnered with SANGAT, which is anchoring the OBR initiative in South Asia.
How Facebook specifically works is that the greater the number of people who access the page, the more popular it becomes on the search list. So once a page is set up, links are sent out to as many people as possible, at times accompanied with a personalised message asking them to join. Adds Prabhleen, “It’s a rigorous process and it takes at least two weeks for people to start joining in. Now we are in the process of making an India page although the Delhi page has already been created.”
The Youth Collective’s Manak Matiyani (28), who is the brains behind the now well-known Must Bol (must speak) campaign, a by-the-youth/for-the-youth movement on gender violence, also understands the relevance of going online. “We went online because we realized that youngsters spend a lot of time on the Internet, chatting and networking,” he says. As an experiment, they thought of using this space to raise awareness about violence in young people’s lives, talk about it, and then address it.
Led by 30 youngsters - all college-going kids - one of the campaign’s themes that got a huge response was violence in intimate relationships. Underlining the fact that violence can be of varying degrees, the core members threw open a discussion on the social media with simple questions: Does your boyfriend read your SMSes and tells you whom to talk to and whom not to? Does your girlfriend know your Facebook password and screen your female friends? Where does concern end and control begin?
The topic touched a chord immediately, and the responses and discussions began to roll. Based on the comments, the campaign team held workshops in colleges across Delhi, and then made short films, which were uploaded on the Internet as well as screened in colleges and public spaces. “We have reached across to 3,000 people till date and are partnering with youth organisations in other states on similar initiatives. Every time I see youngsters talking to each other on social issues on our social media page, and learning from each other, I know we are bringing about change,” Matiyani adds.
On a similar subject, Breakthrough has been leading the Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell) movement against domestic violence since 2008. The campaign, which has become popular, courtesy interesting print and TV advertisements, and through the social media, asks people to ring the bell of a home where a woman is being subjected to violence.
Besides such pan-India campaigns, there are some that focus on a particular geographical area, dealing with specific yet crucial issues. Like the Gurgaon Girlcott movement against sexual harassment of women, an innovative campaign launched this year that caught the fancy of the public and the media. Richa Dubey, who initiated it, says that while she always understood that the social media was one of the best tools for mass awareness, she could not fathom the extent of its power until her own campaign was born. “I remember sending out just one email. The rest was taken care of by the social media. Friends were telling their friends, there were discussions, and before I knew it I was giving interviews about my campaign,” she says. (Women’s Feature Service)
Opening windows into diverse India -Bollywood style
‘From Parsi and Marathi to Gujarati and Bengali, filmmakers are bringing diverse cultures to the Hindi film firmament’
Bollywood is going pan-Indian. The Punjabi mundas and kudis – the staple of so many movies – are making way for Marathi mulgis and Parsi dikras as Hindi films roll out a tapestry showcasing the diversity that is India.
From Parsi and Marathi to Gujarati and Bengali, filmmakers are bringing diverse cultures to the Hindi film firmament. And the credit for this versatility goes to changing tastes and mindsets of the viewers.
Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani is a case in point. Made in Hindi, it had a strong Bengali flavour and was also shot in Kolkata, appealing to audiences so much so that it earned Rs75 crore -- almost 10 times more than its total cost of Rs 8 crore.
Lauding the new trend that he believes is a great time for India cinema, Ghosh said, “We make films with themes we are familiar with. For me, it was easy to write about Bengali culture, as I am a Bengali. Thanks to the audience, they are allowing us to experiment.”
Another small budget film, Vicky Donor, wove both Punjabi and Bengali cultures to show an interesting cultural contrast. And it worked.
A film’s success is estimated on the basis of its box-office earnings and this Rs 5-crore project, made by director Shoojit Sircar on an unconventional theme of sperm donation, got the thumbs up from the viewers, earning Rs 45 crore.
It is a win-win situation for all - the viewer gets fresh stories to watch, directors are able to explore and experiment and producers are laughing all the way to the bank.
Said an excited Sircar, “This is a new trend, which is very fascinating; and the best part is that these films are accepted by the audience. I really appreciate this era. This is a tribute to Indian cinema.”
Sanjay Leela Bhansali gave insights into the Gujarati community in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Catholics in Khamoshi - The Musical, Anglo Indians in Black and Bengalis in Devdas. His sister Bela focussed on the Parsi community in her debut film Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi and it was satisfactory, businesswise.
“Parsi community talk is very bindaas. They are very bold and sweet. I just picked up this aspect because I wanted to show them as nice and fun-loving people,” Bela, whose directorial debut was about a 40-plus Parsi couple, said.
The success of these films is proof of the viewers’ open-mindedness.
Umesh Shukla, who is enjoying the success of Oh My God, which was set in a Gujarati community, says the film worked in all the circuits.
“You get to see different cultures in films these days. Your story should be good. For example, my film had Gujarati culture and it worked well in all the circuits. It worked even in Punjab, Maharashtra and many other places. It's like a cultural exchange,” Shukla said.
Sometimes, such films give a place or a culture much-needed attention.
Before Gangs of Wasseypur, for instance, few knew about the small town of Wasseypur in Jharkhand.
Writer Zeeshan Quadri, writer of Gangs of Wasseypur, says he grew up in the town and spent his childhood closely observing crime in the area and decided to share his experience.
Now that the trend is here, filmmakers are using this as an opportunity to experiment with various cultures and share interesting stories from different parts of the country.
Director Sachin Kundalkar delved into the world of Marathis with the recent Aiyyaa. Rani Mukerji plays a Marathi mulgi in this drama that shows how a simple middle class girl falls in love with a guy for his peculiar body odour. The film didn’t do well, but it was like a window into Marathi culture. (IANS)