I WANTED TO MAKE CONTENT THAT WOULD MAKE PEOPLE SMILE: AD FILMMAKER AATISH DABRAL - The Daily Guardian
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I WANTED TO MAKE CONTENT THAT WOULD MAKE PEOPLE SMILE: AD FILMMAKER AATISH DABRAL

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NewsX was recently joined by Aatish Dabral, an independent ad film-maker and the founder of The Human Touch for an exclusive conversation where he spoke about his journey and using the online space to remind the world that there is kindness all around.

Talking about his journey, Aatish said, “I was studying to be a journalist until I realised my love for cinema and that overshadowed my commitment to journalism as a career. Hence, after graduation, I got on a train to Mumbai on a whim to pursue a diploma in filmmaking. There I got a chance to work with one of the most brilliant ad filmmakers at that time, Prahlad Kakkar. It’s important for people to have the right mentors early in their career and I was fortunate to have him as a guiding light. He took me under his wing and my ad filmmaking journey began. I worked with him for a few years and then moved on to production houses for 4-5 years, which were, as they call it, ‘slog years’, where you’re doing everything under the sun like production, casting, art direction, props on the set. Slowly, as time progressed, I learnt the ropes and made my way towards becoming a full-fledged director. I started doing independent commission projects and having an identity of my own. I have been directing for six years now and have worked on commercials not only for the Indian market but for the Middle Eastern and South Asian markets as well.”

Explaining his initiative, The Human Touch, Aatish said, “I have done more than 100 commercials but the work done at The Human Touch is the closest to my heart. So, what is The Human Touch? For viewers who haven’t come across our work until now, I will lay it out for them. It is a unique video platform created a few years ago, with an impressive digital presence by now, where we make short films and video content about themes related to kindness, humanity and other lovely human emotions. All these videos, fortunately, have been very well received by the audience. Over the period of a few years, we have gained followers from all over the world on our Facebook and YouTube pages. The response is phenomenal and we get messages from all over the world telling us how a 3-4 minute video on our page resonated with people, made them smile and gave them hope at a difficult time in their lives.”

Sharing his real reason for starting a page on a digital platform, Aatish shared, “I was observing the kind of quick-fix, sub-par, senseless content bombarding social media platforms and I wasn’t too happy with it. I had a burning desire as a filmmaker to make content that would make people smile and warm their hearts, remind people that kindness and humanity still exists, despite all the chaos. I wanted to leave them with the thought of hope and that it depends on the individual to be the change that he or she wants to see in the world. Our videos inspire people and tell them to start with something: a kind deed, a warm smile, a selfless act, which goes a long way in creating a chain of events that truly has the potential to transform the world.”

Talking about nepotism in the industry, Aatish said, “It’s everywhere—in business, politics, sports—and no industry is untouched by it. In my immediate ecosystem, I unequivocally condemn any kind of favouritism or preferential treatment. I truly believe that everyone should get a level playing field and opportunities, incentives should be provided solely based on merit. Nepotism is a very real thing and it exists in every field and it would be naïve to deny its unfair presence but there is no replacement for hard work and talent. Many people have been able to make a name for themselves based on these two qualities, without connections or high- ranking relatives. It’s a balance and people have succeeded without using such antics. As a defense for the advertising industry, I truthfully say that people who are at the top decision-making positions are first-generation advertising professionals and have no family background in the industry. They have been able to create their own success stories. There haven’t been any dynasties or legacies. In our industry there are many stories of self-made professionals whom newcomers can take inspiration from.”

When asked for his advice to any newcomer joining the ad industry, Aatish said, “My number one advice is always, be observant. Filmmaking as an art form has always been inspired by life and it is very important for budding ad filmmakers to be aware of real life, real people and real incidents around them. Understanding and learning techniques are important but a filmmaker should stand out and create work which resonates with the audience. Your filmmaking has to be relatable for a large group of people. If you keep your eyes open to faces, sounds, colours and experiences around you, and get knowledge of the real world around you, it will add depth and a natural flair to your filmmaking. So, keep your eyes and ears open to everything happening around you and learn to find beauty in all things.”

Speaking about the hardships that one faces in creative fields, Aatish said, “It may be a notch up in the ad industry but if one is passionate about the whole art form deeply, it won’t feel like a hardship. It would be physically and mentally draining and you might be made to slog, but if you are patient and committed enough, your passion for the art form will make you go through hardships with your head held high, and you will come out on the other side a very satisfied and happy filmmaker, raring to make amazing films.”

Lastly, talking about the new normal for the ad industry, Aatish shared, “At the start of the lockdown, it was tough. There was an air of uncertainty, fear was palpable and a sense of apprehension in the industry. We know how many people are required at a set for any film. This had people thinking, will we be able to shoot again? Then the ‘unlock’ rules came and shoots resumed. A genuine effort is being made by all of us to conduct orderly shoots and create a safe environment with minimum crew members. Every crew member is required to wear a mask, go through temperature checks and spot checks. I have heard of entire crews being put in bio-bubbles for the entire duration of a shoot especially when shoots extend beyond a few days. So, of course, we have to embrace the new normal and take precautions as per the SOPs provided by the government.”

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KAILASH KHER OPENS UP ABOUT HIS NEW SONG ‘SHRI JAGANNATH ASHTAKAM’

In conversation with NewsX, singer and music composer Kailash Kher spoke about his latest song dedicated to Jagannath Rath Yatra, his devotion towards Lord Shiva and more.

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Kailash Kher recently joined NewsX for a candid chat as a part of NewsX India A-List, wherein he got recognised for excellence as an Indian Entertainment Icon.

Talking about his newly-released song dedicated to Jagannath Rath Yatra, he said, “We, at Kailasa Entertainment Pvt. Ltd, create such a rendition on every Indian festival. In the 15 years of my career, God has made me realise that we should share valuable things from our rich heritage. This is my responsibility. Our heritage remains, even if we don’t. Sambit Patra is my friend and we keep interacting frequently. I told him that we would also make him sing one day. The occasion of Jagannath Rath Yatra was coming. On 4 July, we were talking and that’s when I pitched this idea to him and he graciously accepted it. He came on 7 July, my birthday and we recorded this song the entire day. In just four days, we were ready with this miracle called ‘Shri Jagannath Ashtakam’. Today, this song is out there for the entire world to listen and people are praising it a lot.”

Kher added, “We have urged the devotees of Lord Jagannath to offer their prayers from wherever they are as this time our country is going through a tough phase. We should rather pray for the earth and this challenging phase to pass.”

Expressing his devotion for Lord Shiva and Kanwar Yatra, he said, “Kanwar Shravan Kumar is a symbol of devotion as Shravan Kumar took his parents to the Chaar Dhaam Yatra and offered the holy Ganga Jal in a Lord Shiv temple. In lieu of this tradition, many people now take items of devotion, along with Ganga Jal, which they offer in temples. This happens on a massive scale as India is a huge country but, if Kanwar Yatra is not happening this year, then it is good news (given the Covid-19 situation). We strongly believe in Lord Shiv and have strong devotion towards him. We live by his name. I have a hit song in my Kailasa album, that has become a sort of an anthem for Kanwar and Shravan Kumars. They complete their entire trip while listening to that song.”

Talking about the audience’s response to his show ‘Indian Pro Music League’, Kher said, “This was a very unique show, that’s why people loved and praised it a lot. The reactions that came in were very good, saying that ‘Wow, it’s a beautiful concept’. A show like this, featuring emerging artists with established artists as not just contestants but sitting on the judge’s seat for a day, was amazing and different.”

Sharing his thoughts on how manages to remain positive level even amid such trying times, Kher said, “I strongly believe in the power of God. The law of nature is not within our hands. If you completely surrender and devote yourself then, whatever happens, will happen for good. Everything happens for good, so why not stay cautious a little and not try to take things, that are not in our control. If you can do something, then do truthful work and good work. Help someone genuinely as your instinct is your God.”

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Breastfeeding: Dealing with advice of ‘well-wishing’ aunts and uncles

Dr Emine A Rehman

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Aunty 1: The baby looks so thin, baby needs cow’s milk, my dear. 

Me: Cow’s milk is for cow’s baby, my baby needs my milk.

Aunty 2: Oh God! such small breasts you have, how will your milk be enough? 

Me:  My body has the capacity to create however much milk is needed for my baby and you know it is the best food for the baby.

Aunty 3:  Don’t feed your baby for so long, you are pampering him, he will never leave you. 

Me: How can you pamper your baby by nourishing him?

Aunty 4: Look at you with the baby all the time. In our times we used to do all the household work and brought up so many kids as well. 

Me: Bringing up a baby with love, care, and breast milk is our choice as parents and we need all your help and support to successfully do it

Let’s ponder, how many of us have been the aunty or me in the above conversations in our lives? Almost all, right? Being a first-time mother at the age of 33 was not easy for me, to have a baby late was not a choice as well. Being a paediatrician was a privilege and my personal life took a backseat in the pursuit of higher studies. I thought I knew the solutions to all the challenges of breastfeeding but the reality was far from different. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to bring up a baby”, in modern times “it takes an entire family to breastfeed a baby”. Urbanisation, nuclear families, and career goals have made the art of breastfeeding less familiar to many millennial to-be mothers. 

We want the best for our baby and know that breastfeeding is the best path. However, many of us land up being a bundle of nerves when our babies arrive, not sure where to start and how to go about it. Agreed that breastfeeding is natural both for the mother and the baby but we forget to warn the to-be mothers that it is a helluva painful, stressful, and exhilarating ride. 

To top it all, mothers also have to deal with the benevolent, free-advice churning aunties and uncles amid this roller-coaster. Many a times, the well-wisher could be our own father, mother or even husband. Equipped with knowledge and confidence, I could defend and retort to many of them. However, the dream is to equip every Indian mother with enough knowledge to be the ‘me’ in the above situations.

Adequate breastfeeding is a single practice that can prevent lakhs of children from dying worldwide. World Health Organisation and UNICEF recommends that breastfeeding is initiated within the first hour of birth, the baby is given nothing but mother’s milk till 6 months and breastfeeding to be continued till 2 years of age and beyond. The global rates for breastfeeding are 43%, 41%, and 45% at the first hour, 6 months, and 2 years, respectively. So, it is not as universal as it has to be. A survey by POSHAN revealed that the exclusive breastfeeding rate is 54.9% in India. Mothers face many challenges like the feeling of inadequate milk, household chores, expectations from the workplace, and pressure to supplement with formula etc. She needs the support of her near and dear ones as well as the community to overcome these hurdles. Currently, mothers can get guidance from ASHA/ Anganwadi workers and gain knowledge through materials circulated by the Government of India via radio and TV. She can also access various peer groups in social media as well as consult trained lactation counsellors. World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year in the first week of August and this year the theme is “Protect breastfeeding — a shared responsibility”.

Breastfeeding can no longer be left as “ladies’ matter”. Confident and knowledgeable mothers are the foundation of future generations. Hence, let’s come together to support our mothers and become the true “well-wishing” aunties and uncles for our younger ones.

The writer is an Assistant professor, paediatrics department, AIIMS, Hyderabad.

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COMING OUT OF THE SHADOWS: HOW TO PROTECT MENTAL HEALTH OF TEENAGERS

We should expand social-emotional learning programmes to help build resilience in the growing minds.Capacity building for mental health management is an immediate must to meet a looming calamity.

Suravi Sharma Kumar

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Emerging from waves of Covid-19 pandemic, more than ever, we must prioritise the mental health of the growing minds — the children and adolescents. It is our collective responsibility to keep the well-being of young ones at the forefront in the preparation for future Covid-19 waves and recovery plans. Generation Z is quietly perceiving the layers of changes in our lives since the virus encroached on our spaces in early 2020. Now, while the much-awaited return to school is exciting for many, there would be children feeling anxious or even frightened (UNICEF, Aug 2020) to go back to regular school.

This is a time of the year when adolescents would have been spending days at school and college in the company of hundreds of others, preparing for school rituals, sports events, carving out their future plans, but, throughout the last year and a half, they are instead trudging through a difficult new normal. The virus brought in many stressors to the psychological environment, the impact of which is yet to be played out in statistical data charts and graphs to analyse the repercussions on society and the upcoming generation. The pandemic control measures have contributed to new mental health issues or a worsening of existing ones in all but the impact ripples are far and wide or even beyond what we can think now in the teens and adolescent age group.

Some children or youth may be grieving the loss of a parent or a loved one, others may be living in fear of the disease or fear of losing a bread earner in the family or a job. Millions in our country have been dropped out of school despite their and parents’ best efforts to educate them due to their inability to get a device or internet connectivity.

Adolescents across all socio-economic groups have been struggling to adjust to a life without the structure that a traditional school day provides. Social isolation, lack of peer support and the need for personal/ real-world connection seems to be growing. The lost sense of school life’s demands and timely examinations to keep the learning minds occupied have been creating tension in the psychological environment of every child. Out of all, children of essential workers and homeless children are at increased risk for having to live within the confines of homes on their own without adult supervision and the other without the basic amenities of life now made worse under the pandemic.

Across socio-economic conditions, there are children trapped in dysfunctional families with physical, verbal and even sexual abuse, and there’re those living with stressed adults who have been resorting to substance abuse within the confines of homes. To add to the list, flaring up of cyber dependency has been alarmingly on the rise as screen time for children are now the highest in our recent history.

With increasing stress comes an increased risk for mental health symptoms or reemergence of dormant disease, at a time when there are fewer options for getting the support that can help lower stress levels. These are various factors identified as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), and we know from research studies that when young people have these early experiences, they face an increased risk of lifelong morbidity or mortality.

When schools begin to reopen, we will need to implement more formal structures for mental health screening in the institutes and community settings. We must take precautionary measures against stigma and superstitions affecting caregiving, and there should be social laws in place to minimise the stigma around mental health conditions.

We all know law affects the operation of stigma in society and is the most efficient tool for blunting the effects of prejudice and stigma by protecting the diseased person against harmful conduct from miscreants/ ignorant lot in the society. The authorities must propagate strong messages in the society to create an inclusive environment for the people needing psychiatric help. India’s mental healthcare system needs strengthening. The authorities should now proactively implement the Mental Healthcare Act 2017. And this is a time when there is a dire need for integrated mental healthcare policy in the country covering all aspects of a sick mind.

We also need to enhance mental health awareness and stigma-busting programs in the local dialect or language through government and private sector initiatives. We should expand social-emotional learning programs to help build resilience in the growing minds. Capacity building for mental health management is an immediate must to meet a looming calamity, and suicide prevention programs should be revamped. There is a serious shortage of mental healthcare workers in India, the numbers of which according to WHO are: psychiatrists (0.3), nurses (0.12), psychologists (0.07) and social workers (0.07) for a population of 100,000.

Tele-psychiatry may be an immediate possible solution with such deficient conditions and it has proven to be a promising tool with children and adolescents, more so in emergencies.

Authorities must support schools and behavioural health care agencies in working together to ensure that when schools reopen, students will have the mental health services they need on campuses and in their communities to provide screenings, interventions, and referrals.

Our young people are the future of our country. We must remember that the period from age 10 to 25 remains a critical time of brain development and maturation. Both the experiences our young people face now and the support they receive from us in coping with and navigating these challenges will have profound impacts on their abilities to be successful adults, parents, and citizens for years to come.

The writer is a medical doctor (pathologist) and holds an MA in Creative Writing from the University of London. The views expressed are personal.

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NCPCR going to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse in Chandigarh

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The National Commission For Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is going to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse. On 26 July 2021, NCPCR is going to instruct Chandigarh Administration to utilise all mediums to check beggars’ kids for substance abuse using medical tests in case required. This whole program would be managed under the recently launched Joint Action Plan (JAP), in which the Narcotics Control Bureau, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Education are actively involved as stakeholders. NCPCR is going to start such initiatives under JAP across India.

NCPCR has identified 272 such vulnerable districts across the nation where State stakeholders would extensively work on Children who are substance abused and would wean away drugs from their lives while adopting various mediums. A recent study by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment identified 4.6 lakh children in the country who are addicted to inhalants, the only category of substance in which the prevalence was higher among children than among adults. The five states with the highest prevalence of inhalant abuse among children were Uttar Pradesh (94,000 children), Madhya Pradesh (50,000 children), Maharashtra (40,000 children), Delhi (38,000 children), and Haryana (35,000 children).

Priyank Kanoongo, Chairperson of NCPCR told The Daily Guardian, “We introduced to have exclusive De-addiction and Rehabilitation Facilities for Children in 272 Vulnerable Districts. The MoSJE shall expedite the process to establish exclusive de-addiction facilities meant for children. However, if there are any constraints or lack of space, a separate portion in the existing facility has to be identified and partitioned for the children. Also, there has to be a provision of separate toilets; and safety and security of children have to be ensured.”

“The action plan mandates that ‘Prahari Clubs’’ be set up in schools in collaboration with Gandhi Smriti Darshan Samiti, in which children will discuss issues related to drug abuse and become monitors of the abuse,” he added.

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TECHNOLOGY WILL BE A KEY PART OF FASHION INDUSTRY’S GROWTH: SUNAINA KWATRA

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Fashion & lifestyle leader Sunaina Kwatra spoke to NewsX India A-List about doing business during the pandemic, the impact of technology in the fashion industry and more. Sunaina has proven expertise in international retail management, brand positioning, and turnaround execution. She has almost 20 years of work experience, the majority of which has been leading fashion brands at the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennesey (LVMH) group in the Asia Pacific. Sunaina began her career as an entrepreneur in the homeware and lifestyle industry working with retailers in the United States including Barneys New York and Pottery Barn. She pivoted into luxury fashion brand management after completing her MBA and has held strategic positions to expand and reposition brands within LVMH’s Asia Pacific portfolio.

In her most recent role, Sunaina was the country head of Louis Vuitton in India and legal director for all operations in the country. She was responsible for developing and expanding Louis Vuitton’s omnichannel retail operations, people and brand equity in this high growth market. She successfully led her team to achieve the highest sales, client experience and brand growth that had ever been achieved for the brand.

Excerpts:

Q. Tell us more about your background and how your Indian roots brought you back to India?

A. I’m from Thailand. I am ethnically Indian but fourth generation, born and brought up in Thailand. I was very blessed to have an international upbringing. I have worked in five continents, travelled extensively. My last few roles have been within the LVMH group based out of Hong Kong.

My first role within the group was as the Regional Head of Asia Pacific for Emilio Pucci. In this role, I managed the entire scope of the brand’s direct retail business in Hong Kong and China as well as franchise, department store and multi-brand distribution in the Asia Pacific. My next role within the LVMH group was as the Commercial Director for Givenchy to identify and execute growth strategies to maximise brand development and repositioning. In my tenure, I oversaw 61 locations, opened 24 stores in line with the brand vision and improved productivity across the network. When they offered me the position to come back to India to amplify the Louis Vuitton business in India, I was thrilled at the opportunity and I am very proud of all we did to build the business and our team in India.

Q. What are the tools that have allowed you to succeed?

A. While growing up my father always said that travel is the best form of education. I had a very international education in Asia, Australia, and Europe and have worked in five continents. This allows me to be sensitive to people and cultures while executing different strategies to grow businesses. I am a commercially driven leader and am passionate about people and delivering excellence. My general management and end-to-end experience overseeing teams, networks, finance, logistics, merchandising, client development, and marketing allow me to be detail-oriented yet see and set the big picture.

Q. What have we learned in retail during the Covid-19 pandemic?

A. The biggest learning is that we have to embrace e-commerce and the online experience. The word ‘omnichannel’ was a buzzword a decade ago. I think successful businesses during the pandemic had to integrate different methods of shopping available to consumers. You have had to expand the supply chain through localities, fulfilment centres or direct consumers. E-commerce has been a key to successful businesses in the pandemic. Businesses had to be agile and responsive to different means of reaching consumers. The lockdown has also led to less physical interaction with consumers. Brands have had to re-think the consumer experience and how they engage with clients. The big thing is how we engage with clients in a number of different ways.

Q. How do you think technology will impact the fashion industry in the future?

A. Technology will be a key part of the growth of the fashion industry. Coming out of the pandemic, sustainable materials are important and a key focus for a lot of brands. Opting for materials that are good for the environment as well as good for us: non-toxic and more breathable. We know that there are now going to be ways to bridge e-commerce and the successful physical presence of stores. We can have VRs, augmented reality to help you try out clothing; jewellery, fashion and many brands have done it successfully. Just the engagement of technology and digitisation is the key to the success and supply chain management. This is an exciting time for us and technology will enable future growth in retail.

Q. What advice would you give to business owners in India as we come out of second Covid-19 wave?

A. I am sitting in the US right now and we are starting to see lines in retail stores again. People really want to embrace human connection. I would just like to say that there is hope and light. I hope that businesses now use this time to strategise and further activate their omnichannels, integrate, and improve their e-commerce presence, engage with their communities on social media platforms and really use technology to enhance the supply chain and logistics to better prepare them for the future.

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Time out: Yoga asanas amid busy work meetings

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Work from home means longer working hours, with more emails and even more work meetings. Attending those long back to back video calls can be boring, hectic, and it definitely makes your body stiff and sore due to long sitting hours at the work desk. It also affects your focus and productivity. Obviously, how can one properly concentrate while in pain? However, a little movement and stretching in between busy work meetings can save you from unwanted mind and body stress.

On International Self-Care Day, let’s decide to prioritise a healthy lifestyle amid busy schedules. 

Try these simple yoga asanas that you can do while sitting on your chair or while standing in between breaks:

1. GARUDASANA

This asana can be done while sitting on a chair or while standing. It is a great shoulder and upper back opener. It also works towards removing stiffness from the lower body as well. Remember to repeat this asana on both sides.

STEPS

· Sit up tall on the chair with your spine erect and feet flat on the floor 

· Bring both your hands together, elbows touching each other. Take the right arm around the left and bring it around so both palms are facing each other

· Lift your right leg and place it over your left thigh, tucking your right toes around the left calf

· Gaze straight and breathe normally. Remove the bind to come out of the pose

· Repeat on the other side 

2. SITTING SIDE BENDS 

Sitting at the desk for a long time can make the upper body very stiff. Hence, it is important to engage in some simple movements like side bends.

This pose can also be performed while sitting on a chair or hile standing.

STEPS

· Sit comfortably on a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the ground

· Inhale, raise both your arms up in the air and palms facing each other 

· As you exhale, take your right arm over your head, stretching it over to the left

· Simultaneously, bring your left arm down to the right side

· Breathe normally, feeling the stretch in your right-hand side of the body

· Hold this pose for 30 seconds

· Repeat on the other side 

3. TADASANA 

This is one of the most simple and effective poses. It is beneficial for overall health. It helps with aligning body posture, relieves back pain, increases focus, and balance.

STEPS

· Stand straight on the floor and keep a small gap between your feet

· Inhale and raise both your arms

· Interlock your fingers and stretch your arms upwards

· Now come on your toes, raising your heels 

· Feel the stretch in the sides of your body and be in this pose for a few seconds

· Release your arms and come down on your heels

4.  SHOULDER OPENER

This is an excellent stretch for the shoulders as well as the upper back. This stretch not only helps with stiff shoulders but also calms the mind as you fold forward.

STEPS

· Sit comfortably on the chair with your feet flat on the floor

· Take your arms behind your back, interlacing your fingers 

· Bend your torso forward, bringing your hands over your head, straightening it as much as possible

· You can place your head on your lap if that’s comfortable or else, just gaze towards the floor 

· Be gentle and know your limit 

Remember to do deep breathing during these asanas. It will help you relax and destress. Take out at least a few minutes every day to rejuvenate and recharge yourself.

The writer is a Yoga Instructor at SARVA.

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