Mumbai: All it takes is one reminder. A familiar smell, an old photograph or even a song, to trigger a memory that comes flooding back, still as real and palpable as the day it was created. Capturing that moment is a new ad by Google India for Google Photos—its product for storing, searching, editing and sharing of photos and videos.
The five minute film , created by Lowe Lintas and directed by filmmaker Anand Gandhi, chronicles the journey of Amit Tiwari, a resident of Jhansi, who suffered from severe corneal dystrophy in both eyes, which left him almost completely blind when he was in high school.
“I can’t see anything. Just know that something is there… but that doesn’t help,” says Tiwari as the film shows him crouching next to a television set, trying to listen to a program.
In the film, his sister narrates Tiwari’s life and struggle with the disability for 15 years.
“He would want to participate and enjoy every family function, but his disability would hold him back,” says the sister.
The film captures in many parts the aching loneliness of the man and his journey as he undergoes a life changing operation to restore his eyesight, with his family next to him.
“This is a story that touched many of us. At Google, across the globe, we pride ourselves in finding powerful human stories which demonstrate how technology can benefit lives. When we were thinking about this product, we wondered, what if Google Photos helped someone who had never seen their memories, relive them? To bring this alive, we began looking for true stories around this premise, reaching out to organisations and institutions for help. The Nirmalaya and Tej Kohli Foundation introduced us to Amit’s family. Amit was about to undergo his transplant and regain his vision, and his family were keen to make that moment special.” said Sapna Chadha, head of marketing, Google India, who claims the film was “Not an (advertising) campaign per se.”
“It’s about how technology can change someone’s life.”
Due to an acute shortage of usable, transplantable corneas, Tiwari had to undergo one surgery completely before proceeding to the next. His family allowed Google India to chronicle his journey.
“Google Photos helped make a life-changing moment a little more special. The family turned to Google Photos to digitise and organise their family albums,” said a statement from the company.
The advertising agency picked Anand Gandhi to shoot for the film, as the film called for a documentary–type approach. Gandhi is a filmmaker and a media producer based in Mumbai, known for his debut feature film Ship of Theseus, which won the National Film Award for Best Picture.
One of the characters in the film is a visually impaired and celebrated Egyptian photographer in the process of undergoing a cornea transplant that will restore her vision. Though the surgery is a success, the character has trouble adjusting to her new found sense of sight.
“Finally, here’s a film that makes me feel good about so many things. It stopped being an advertisement. More like a slice of truth and humanity that I’d like to see more often and feel more often. From a pure brand perspective, it is not that Google has to do much to gain more market share, or relevance. It is already a behemoth of a name and brand, and these sort of stories make them part of the social fabric of what makes India,” said Prathap Suthan, chief creative officer and managing partner, Bang In The Middle, an advertising agency.
“Of course, the growing presence of Facebook is always imminent. There was no search involved, and the surgery or technology to bring sight back had nothing to do with Google, besides, from a product perspective, this is such a generic story. Anyone with a phone or camera could have done this story. But Google brought so much more meaning by getting into the soul of photos. And what photos mean and hide and contain. Memories, moments, life. There’s so much in photos. It was such a warm feeling to travel with Amit as he regained his sight, and I know for sure my tears were as real as his tears,” Suthan added.