Blood relation

Here’s an ad film from March 2019, scripted by Chennai-based Chirpy Elephant and made by Lemurian Productions.

I quite like the narrative angle here – to connect a blood donor as a ‘blood relative’, and use the obviously disparate (using broad-stroked stereotypes, for a reason) person in the family photo opportunity to showcase that visually. Many Indian languages have a blood-related phrase – ‘khoon ka rishta’ in Hindi, and ‘rathathin ratham’ in Tamil and so on. And this script gives an all-new spin to those phrases.

From a narrative perspective, it is very impactful in imparting the importance of donating blood using a highly emotive theme (family) that works for both the donor (in terms of the impact of his/her act) and the receiver/family of the recipient.

But the film also had me wondering about some deeper nuances.

First, the identity of the donor.

Is the identity of a donor always revealed as a specific donor for a specific patient? Not when the blood is secured from a blood bank, of course. And we have seen and heard many calls for blood (not the violent, political variety; I mean seeking blood donors) on social media by someone in need, and some stranger picking up the much-forwarded post and helping out by heading to the hospital and donating blood.

Twitter handles like BloodDonorsIn are doing this as a full-fledged service and there are many, many replies to the many, many curated tweets that they share – many replies are filled with heartfelt gratitude.

But, to a large extent (with exceptions, of course), the gratitude is towards the broad act of making available the right type of blood at the right time. To the recipient/family, the availability of blood at the right time (particularly the rarer types and ones that are not available on the blood bank) is a huge relief and literally a matter of life or death.

I believe there are people who donate blood for money too, out of compulsion (having no other option to make a living) and that’s another kind of donor.

So, the film does exaggerate the donor-recipient connection to some extent, but it is done with a genuinely good intention of creating a heartwarming narrative. When you see the kind of exaggerations advertising indulges in, in utterly pointless and wasteful ways, this one seems far more useful and productive.

Second, on blood donation vs. organ donation.

Wouldn’t organ donation work for this narrative better given the lasting impact of an organ in another person, compared to blood that replenishes itself?

But the identity aspect is magnified in organ donation. In most cases, the identity of the organ donor (whether alive or dead – live donors are usually rare and probably related to the patient in case of kidney donation; most organ donations are from deceased people) is not revealed to the recipient’s family. So, this narrative becomes stretched.

Of course, films like Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha (and its Hollywood original, Return To Me) have dramatized the relationship and connection between an organ donor’s family and the recipient (to generally poor box office results). In a way, the Apollo ad film is a simpler and sharper variant of those films’ plots, and for blood donation.

The film’s narrative touches a chord because it brings strangers together through an act of selflessness. It sure seems like an exaggeration and has been dramatized, but for someone (or the family) at the precipice of life and death, to have received timely help from a complete stranger who has no obligation to help and come to donate blood out of the goodness of her/his own heart, it sure is a miracle.

And when you look at the number of people seeking blood online just as a glimpse of the BloodDonorsIN handle, you realize the magnitude of the problem, particularly during the pandemic when people are scared to go anywhere near the hospital for fear of contracting the virus.

See: COVID-19 has hit blood donation, even as plasma saves lives (The Week, August 1, 2020)



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