Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury’s “Debi” Bridges The Gap Between Tradition & Marketing

~A warm short film from Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury on the occasion of Bengali Festival Durga Puja~

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It is the ambition of every brand to become part of the consumers’ lives in a way that they choose it with supreme comfort to a point that it almost becomes second nature. The best branding case studies are always those where the brands have immersed themselves so deeply in the consumers’ lives that they assume a role that represents and adds to the well-being within the societal culture. In Asian societies where cultures are steeped in rich traditions and nuanced customs and rituals, many brands make jumping on the Culture bandwagon a marketing mantra, however very few get it right.

Occasionally we see some interesting work emerge that celebrate the consumer’s culture but does so in an non-intrusive manner – the right formula for endearing it to the audience without too much fuss.One current such example is Emami Healthy and Tasty – a well-known brand of Cooking Oil in India.

Recently they have sponsored a short film directed by the National award winning filmmaker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury called ‘Debi’.

The 13 minute long film uses the backdrop of Durga Puja – a religious festival involving the worship of Goddess Durga in the Hindu Bengali society. Sill fairly religious at its core, over the generations the festival has evolved into a showcase and celebration of family re-union and festive feasting, with nods to contemporary arts, literature and Bengali culture. Debi portrays homecoming of the protagonist – the daughter of the family who lives overseas and has ‘rebelled’ against family custom by marrying outside her religion. She returns home during Durga Puja along with her own daughter who has never stepped into the ancestral home – the backdrop of this wonderfully narrated tale.

As the film does its rounds on Digital platforms during the festival of Durga Puja (Oct 21-25 this year), I took the opportunity to have a quick chat with the filmmaker himself – Aniruddha Chowdhury to get a few insights.

SSZee Media: We noticed that in your short film ‘Debi’ the sponsor tag from ‘Emami’ only came at the very end. So the association was very subtle.

Aniruddha Chowdhury: I am grateful for the patronage of Emami Healthy and Tasty who funded the making of this film. I wanted to tell the story of home-coming and all that it entails in terms celebration and food in a Bengali household and Emami saw this as an opportunity to help bring this to life. There was also some subtle product placement in the film.

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SSZEE: What were the major challenges to making a short-film from someone who is well-known as the creator of feature films?

AC: Perhaps not known to the fans of my feature films, I make a lot of Ad films too – which are all 15 and 30 seconds long. So, for me to be able to tell a story in 13 minutes did not pose any challenge!

SSzEE: The film ends with a poignant moment with the protagonist’s daughter (born to a Muslim father) being presented with a face of a figurine of Debi by a young child of the family, as she departs from the home after the visit. How has this been received?

AC: Most people have said to me that they felt strong emotions at that point of the film – which is really a defining moment. The message is obvious – that bonds of love and affinity are far stronger than man-made artifices such as religion and distance. The spontaneity of the child is the metaphor for the purity of our emotions which is able to connect the dots, unfettered by reason and logic, and love people back unconditionally.

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SSZEE: Do you believe that the short film genre is something you will interested to explore?

AC: The short film pretty much does away with distribution costs of movie releases in the traditional sense. However, it does require careful and substantial marketing. The short film format is not new. Directors like Ridley Scott have made short films and there is a large market for it. The best part is that the Director and Producers can connect with a large audience in a very short space of time, and that is exciting. For example in the short span of a week, the film has already garnered over 250,000 unique views and close to half a million total views.

SSZEE: What can we expect from Aniruddha Chowdhury in 2016?

AC: Let’s see. I have just finished a Bengali script called ‘Café Kinara’ and I am also working on a Hindi language script. My hope is to make one of these films.

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Photos By: RANA LODH

Interview was conducted by Abhijeet Dutta Ray for SSZee Media Canada.

Abhijeet Dutta Ray runs his own consulting firm called Creative Joy Consultancy, based out of Canada. He has had a career in marketing communications that spanned a dozen companies across 5 countries. He attended the Advanced Management program at Oxford, and takes a keen interest in both movies and branded content.

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