Opinion

KARGIL WAR HERO: Gurmehar Kaur’s heart-warming silent video #ProfileForPeace

May 05, 2016 02:25 PM
KARGI WAR HERO’s daughter’s “Gurmehar Kaur’s peace video Image YouTube

By Radhika Santhanam

The joke goes that learning the secret to making a viral video is like hitting the jackpot. Sample this really curious mix of videos that went viral in India last year — the peppy ‘Every Bollywood Party Song feat. Irrfan’ by AIB; an episode from the hugely popular show for children, Chhota Bheem; an episode from Sony Television’s Crime Patrol; Sujoy Ghosh’s Radhika Apte-starring thriller Ahalya; an episode from the decadent MTV show Splitsvilla. A hotchpotch proving that we are nowhere near answering that vexing question: what makes some videos go viral and others fizzle out?

The daughter of Captain Mandeep Singh, who was killed in the Kargil War in 1999, Gurmehar makes an appeal through placards to all Indians and Pakistanis to “pull up their socks” and make peace, not war. Her father’s death when she was just two years old left her with hatred for Pakistanis and Muslims, she says, before she came to realise that the blame was to be pinned on war and not people or countries. 

Last year, the Harvard Business Review reported that Unruly, a tech company that “gets videos watched, tracked and shared across the Open Web”, analysed about 430 billion views and 1,00,000 costumer data points in an attempt to answer this question.

According to its findings, viral success is often driven by two factors: how the video makes a person feel and his or her social motivations in sharing it. People shared those videos that made them feel warm, fuzzy and happy. People also shared those videos on which they wanted an opinion, or which featured subjects they are passionate about. Videos that capture people’s imagination, or are funny, valuable or meaningful have been found to go viral, according to other studies. However, this by no means provides an answer to how to break the Internet; luck obviously plays an important part too.

Videos promoting peace

In India, where everyday headlines are about failed efforts by the Indian and Pakistani governments in reaching out to each other, or of attacks along the border — news that largely desensitises people or makes them cynical — videos that promote peace seem to strike a chord. Partition may have taken place more than half a century back but its repercussions continue to be felt today; people on both sides of the border still have stories to recount of carnage, torn families, of daughters and sons who grew up without fathers, of displacement.

A video that has gone viral now can tick off both the success factors of Unruly’s study. Jalandhar-based Gurmehar Kaur’s heart-warming silent video #ProfileForPeace, which had been liked by more than a million people on Facebook before being removed, not only brings a lump to the throat but is also being shared because the subject is of interest to everyone. The daughter of Captain Mandeep Singh, who was killed in the Kargil War in 1999, Gurmehar makes an appeal through placards to all Indians and Pakistanis to “pull up their socks” and make peace, not war. Her father’s death when she was just two years old left her with hatred for Pakistanis and Muslims, she says, before she came to realise that the blame was to be pinned on war and not people or countries. “If France and Germany can become friends after two World Wars and Japan and the U.S. can work towards progress, why not us,” the 19-year-old asks. “Share the video if you wish for peace” is the last message on screen before Gurmehar walks out of the frame as wordless and expression- free as she had walked into it. The messages on the 30 placards are razor-sharp, the point is driven home.

The video in its poignancy is similar to a Google advertisement that has been viewed by more than 13,036,440 people since it was released in 2013. In that video, two friends separated by Partition are reunited decades later through the efforts of their great-grandchildren. The themes are similar: India-Pakistan camaraderie, separation, memories, and love between people in the time of hostility between governments.

But this does not mean that every video on India and Pakistan will go viral; YouTube has thrown up many similar ones that have simply not made the mark. Going back to the examples in the beginning shows us that there is no magic formula. India is obsessed with Bollywood, and with all party songs mixing and matching the same elements — women, alcohol, bright lights, pools — it isn’t surprising that the ‘Every Bollywood Party Song’ went viral. Catchy? Tick. Intelligently done? Tick. Good lyrics? Tick. Humour? Spot on. Or, for that matter, why Ahalya was watched by so many people: twist in a mythological tale, great actors, well shot, and a spectacular climax. But it is mysterious why that particular episode of Splitsvilla did well. What made it different from the other episodes? All of them feature women screaming and men flexing their muscles in exotic locations anyway.

Audience is king

There is also a difference to be made between promotional videos and those shot at home. To think content is the sole reason why most videos go viral is naive; companies work hard to make sure that certain promotional videos are posted everywhere — YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, and so on. And it is hard work.

But that’s only the second step. The first is making the video itself. You can put in all the cutesy elements — babies and dogs, for instance. Or make it emotional, funny, or intelligent. Ghastly videos also go viral because human beings are voyeuristic — the one of an Indian woman thrashing her 70-year-old mother-in-law or of the man whose body was cut in two in an accident in Kerala immediately come to mind. But one thing is definite: videos are not about you, they are about what the audience wants. And if you are just yourself with no pretence or obvious effort, most experts say, the job is half done. You are on your way to that jackpot. (From The Hindu, National English Daily )

 

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