A competition is asking you to shoot and upload short videos of your perception of India. On offer is cash, a trip, and the chance to showcase to the world your image of the country
A gola vendor pats togethe a big bunch of crushed ice into a vertical column, and sprays it with colourful juice. A foreign woman samples a tangy pani puri and reacts with a thumbs up and a big, satisfied smile. These are scenes from Chowpatty, captured in a video called The Beach made by Atmika Didwania, one of the participants in the 'India Is' Global Video Challenge, a competition powered by the Public Diplomacy Division (PDD) of the Ministry of External Affairs and supported by Incredible India.
"Through this initiative, insights will be uncovered into people's perceptions about India from across the globe," says Danesh Narang, Founding Partner, Skarma Communications & Consultancy, the agency handling the execution of the competition. The challenge to create three minute videos ends on December 31 and has so far received over 40 entries, ranging from those shot with proper production setups, to mobile phone quality videos and different photomontages, which encapsulate one of the three themes -- India is creative, India is colourful and India is wherever you are.
Navdeep Suri, joint secretary PDD explains, "The third theme is aimed at global audiences. There is a piece of India almost anywhere that you go in the world, manifested in Bollywood, Gandhi, Tagore, yoga, Indian cuisine, festivals celebrated by the diaspora and so much else. You can be in New York or Sydney and still find a bit of India that you can capture on video."
The open format is what attracted 24 year-old Didwania, an aspiring filmmaker, to the competition. "I liked the platform. It was targeting young, modern people. Brand ambassadors (Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor and filmmaker Shekhar Kapur) described the objective of the competition well, when they asked participants to share their perception of the country visually."
Is this merely an attempt to create a feel-good perception about India Inc even as a disillusioned junta grapples with rising inflation and bad news? Narang disagrees. "This is more about the things that go relatively unnoticed. For example, one of the films -- Yeh Galiyaan is shot in Varanasi and follows a foreigner hosted by a local family. After he leaves for the station, the family realises that he's forgotten something behind. The film follows the trail of people (from little boys playing marbles, to Kathak dancers and local sadhus) all linking up to ensure that the train doesn't leave the station without the forgotten item. This is a great example of the 'soft' power of India, which can be visually showcased in many ways."
Suri seconds him. "I don't think we are reacting to anything transient or ephemeral. Our themes and objectives go beyond tourism and are aimed at a global audience."
Twenty-30 finalists will be shortlisted by a six-member jury comprised of individuals working with film in various capacities in prestigious institutes in India and the US, who will then need public votes to win prizes.
The challenge is planned as a three-year campaign, says Suri. Narang adds, "We plan on tying up with film schools in India and abroad, to make this challenge part of their curriculum. We also intend to tie up with festivals and sponsors to increase the incentives for aspiring filmmakers and enthusiasts. After the Video Challenge, there will also be photography challenge, around it's own distinctive theme."
Prize-winners will be announced on March 7, 2012, on the competition website. Log on to www.indiais.org for information on how to participate.