Paisabazaar gets (branded) content right with its Wedding Speech film!

This was a thoroughly engaging branded film by Paisabazaar. It got me curious in the beginning when they added that small twist of the groom’s brother being mute. And his insistence that the groom be his voice for his speech – very clever narrative device! That alone made me sit through it fully.

The emotions, acting, the song that plays briefly in the end (by Hanif Shaikh)… all worked perfectly well within the context. The mention of Paisabazaar did seem oddly forced in the otherwise natural film, but I do understand the compulsion to add the brand name at some point considering they are the one bankrolling this effort.

There are small nuances that added to the film’s charm; like that almost whispered ‘Nice’ in the background (from some lady in the room) when the brother goes, ‘Par tera sahara kabhi nahin banoonga‘ (you can hear this only when you have your headphones on).

My biggest grouse with this film is beyond the script – there are no subtitles for this one, while the groom is speaking in Hindi! (Dubbing won’t help given the setting that may not work for different states.) This was such a great film that it truly deserved multilingual subtitles. With subtitles, given that the emotions are so universal, it can be used pan-India!

Overall, fantastic effort by Enormous, the agency.

PS: A comment on LinkedIn (to this post), from Saurabh Chandrashekhar, suggested that I watch a 2016 film by Singapore-based insurance brand, Income, called ‘Best Gift’, in context. Here’s that video:

I started watching it with absolute dread, literally praying that the Paisabazaar idea was not copied. Thankfully, it wasn’t. The basic premise (of using a wedding speech to make a speech that starts on a contrarian tone and then moves to a positive tone) seems similar, but beyond that, the Paisabazaar video is fully original in thought, and particularly narrative technique.

There is another perspective to look at this Paisabazaar film. That is through the lens of how advertising (in India, in particular) showcases people with disabilities. This is a fairly recent trend, but a trend, it definitely is. Take a look at some of the examples in recent times. Let me start with the one that is closest to the Paisabazaar film.

KFC Friendship Bucket

Samsung India Service

Nescafe India

Kajol for Joyalukkas

Khud Ko Kar Buland, by Birla Sun Life Insurance

…and its 2019 cousin, by HDFC Life

Paper Boat presents Rizwan

Google Photos: The Story of Amit

When you watch them all together, you’d almost think that the advertising industry is full of miserable people out to mine disabilities to gain attention and sell their products and services… almost like they start with a list of disabilities and build their stories by picking one by one. But that’s just one way to think about this.

(Though, it seems actually the case in the film industry, when films started using special medical conditions in their narratives, going beyond conventional cancer or visual impairment):
– Ghajini: anterograde amnesia
– Naan Sigappu Manithan: narcolepsy
– Peechaankai (Tamil), Sankashta Kara Ganapathi (Kannada), Savyasachi (Telugu): alien hand syndrome
Hickhi: tourette syndrome
– Paa: progeria
– Taare Zameen Par: dyslexia
– Black, U Me Aur Hum: alzheimer
– Margarita With A Straw: cerebral palsy
– My Name Is Khan: asperger’s syndrome)

There are usually 2 kinds of narratives when ads use people with disabilities: one, they reveal the people with disabilities outright, at the very beginning and then proceed to show how they are normal people like everyone else, barring that one disability. Two, they keep the reveal for the end, hoping that you’d sit through the film and be surprised by the reveal. The Paper Boat Rizwan film, Joyalukkas’ Kajol film and Samsung India’s ‘service’ films are in this narrative, while the rest (above) are based on the first narrative. The Paisabazaar film too is from the first narrative, which, in a way literally made me sit through it.

These ads can be seen in (again!) 2 different perspectives: one, that they use disabled people to add the element of surprise, and most importantly, to manipulate us to feel emotional. The other perspective is that they are merely enhancing the broader acceptability of disabled people in our society and not make them seem like outliers; a form of equal representation in mainstream communication.

It would be a very subjective debate if we start looking at all the ads above in these 2 perspectives. For instance, if you do not have a mute brother in the Paisabazaar ad, would it be as impactful? To begin with, he would have spoken for himself. So, was the addition of the mute brother to manipulate us to ‘feel’ for him, and their relationship? Of course, but is that ‘manipulation’ or ‘better representation’ (of people with disabilities)? That’s a difficult question to answer. Now, if you start arguing for and against each of the ads listed here, using these 2 perspectives, you’d have a lot to think about!

Having said all this, let me leave you with my favorite ad that features people with disabilities. It’s for Canadian Tire, and the reason why it is my favorite is because it doesn’t involve adults at all – just children, being thoughtful and caring, in surprisingly touching ways! Also, this ad starts by showing the disabled character outright, but still manages to surprise us in the end, with the way others behave!