By Malay Desai
Mumbai based steel major JSW has unveiled a new brand campaign featuring Geeta Phogat, the first Indian woman to win a wrestling gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The film,shot at the village Phogat hails from in Haryana, traces her journey to the medal and the challenges she faced. With a male voiceover, presumably that of a regressive village elder, going on about how wrestling is a male sport and women belong to the kitchen, the visuals tell a contrasting tale of Phogatrising through local, regional and finally international platforms. ‘Will of steel’, the copy reads amidst a rockbackground score.
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In the middle of last year, Parth Jindal, son of JSW Group’s chairman Sajjan Jindal unveiled at a press conference in Mumbai a sports excellence programme, a long-term plan to uplift Indian sports. This was already after the group’s football team, Bengaluru FC, had lifted the coveted I-League title on debut and more importantly, set a new standard in corporate run teams.
It may seem a tad late for JSW to recall GeetaPhogat’s story, given that she won her outstanding Commonwealth gold in 2010, but I’m not complaining. Uplifting sportspersons and investing in sporting infrastructure, especially in India, is a long process, and the benefits it reaps come along slowly, over years. But given the post AbhinavBindra India, bubbling with talented non-cricketer sportspersons and giving us hope at every international tournament, investments in sports have become the new, sexy way of CSR.
JSW has been among the ones who’ve done it right, and the initiative cannot fortify the brand if not for films such as these. Having got on the top people of the industry, PiyushPandey& co., the Group is now flaunting its sponsorship of Phogat, thereby taking part credit or as we say in sporting terms, ‘basking in reflected glory.’
Even with its subject having been forgotten by mainstream media after her feat (Geeta missed the 2014 CWG due to an injury but her cousins won gold), the film does a fine job revisiting the Haryana of today, a hotbed of budding sports stars but also the land of regressive notions. The male voiceover is striking, the village ‘tau’ doling out chauvinist lines is in complete contrast with the deftly shot visuals, and therein lies the strength of the film.
Metaphorically using steel for willpower is perhaps the only way to make a film such as this, but the treatment and eventually subtle plug of the mammoth company does the job well. Could O&M have picked Bengaluru FC’s riveting team story for this? Yes, but ‘strong women’ is the flavour of Indian advertising, so why not retell a 2010 phenomenon?
Sorry can’t help saying this, Parth, but when are you uplifting Indian bowlers?
(To watch this film,feed this link in your browser - bit.ly/Feb9ViewTube)
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