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Old campaign gets a quirky new twist
NIDHI GUPTA  1st Dec 2012

Patricia Malone can be seen playing chess

ven in her sleep, she does the head wobble, that quintessentially Indian way of saying yes and looking pleased at the same time. She's been seeing it everywhere – from the aviators sporting anna somewhere in palm ensconced locales of south India to the colourful turban clad fellow in Rajasthan, offering her sweetmeats as she breaks across her whirlwind trip through India. What is incredible about this latest commercial to promote tourism in the country is that it has succeeded in looking at India the way a tourist might – with its quirks, warts and all.

The Incredible India campaign is now a decade old. Launched in 2002 by the then tourism minister Amitabh Kant, it is considered to be one of the better marketing campaigns, judging by its wild popularity, initiated by the government so far. It won the best travel campaign prize at the World Travel Market in 2010.

Now, with a new minister – Chiranjeevi was appointed to the position last month – and a brand new commercial, it would seem as if there are new doors being unlocked for how we see — and want others to see – India. Though it has been criticised in the past for not paying attention to infrastructure building, and painting a rosier picture of India than it really is, the ads have ensured a steady rise in footfalls.

The 2013 campaign is divided in two parts – the 'Discover Anew' segment, which encourages the foreign tourist to explore India in a new way, and the 'Go Beyond' version, pushing the domestic tourist to take the off-beat route. This 'paradigm shift' is in response to and responsible for some very encouraging numbers: 2011 saw a 13.8% rise in domestic tourism over the last year, while the number of foreign tourist arrivals between January and October 2012 saw a growth of 6.2% over the same period last year.

My attempt was to look beyond the clichés and posit India as an overall destination where you can do whatever you want – go clubbing, walk in a field of drying chillies, swim in a pool or with an elephant in a river. — Prakash Verma

Prakash Varma of Nirvana Films, who has directed the last two commercials for the campaign, says that it has been an amazing experience making the videos. "It took over 60 days of shooting on location to capture the right moments. Patricia Malone, the lead in this commercial, has ensured that this one's getting very good reviews too," he says.

Patricia Malone enjoying herself at chilli fields in Incredible India’s new advertisement campaign

In both commercials, Varma has tried to focus on the experience of being in, rather than just seeing, India. Along with the usual suspects – Kerala, Rajasthan and Ladakh are prominent – this one seems to project India also as a destination for high-octane activity, be it zorbing, rock-climbing or just racing to get a seat on the local bus.

"My attempt was to look beyond the clichés and posit India as an overall destination where you can do whatever you want – go clubbing, walk in a field of drying chillies, swim in a pool or with an elephant in a river. Of course, my biggest challenge was to assimilate this vast multitude into a caption-sized video," laughs Varma.

He also says that the main aim of the commercial is to establish a sense of relatability, make it more real than simply colouring India's various locations into postcard prettiness. "A tourism film works if it can make the traveller come back for a second visit," he points out. So, in the 2013 commercial, when someone on a boat asks Malone if this is her first time here, she proudly says, in Hindi, "doosri baar". Judging by how widely the video has been shared on social media platforms, it is safe to say that the campaign is making home runs, even at home.

 
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