Wed, 18 Sep, 2019

“Kina Udcha Sabunman”: A Wonderful 'Help Nepal Today' Project

By Ashmita Kunwar

Screenshot by: DWIT News

Paul and Yme are best friends, who are also an award-winning creative team from Holland.  Yme was travelling around the world, and Paul setting up for their new project back home. He had just left Kathmandu when the earthquake struck. That's when they thought they should help Nepal “instead of just being armchair activists”. Since then, they've been trying to help Nepal by collecting funds from their website helpnepal.today. They started with a relief mission, and have gone beyond to develop new and creative ways of helping the people.

At first, they reached out to the NEA (Nepal Engineers' Association) to see if there was anything they could help on. The NEA was working on the issue of sustainable housing for earthquake affected people. They wrote a proposal and sent it to the NEA and NSET (Nepal Society for Earthquake and Technology), but neither of the organizations got back to them, even after several follow ups. This was because the organizations in the shelter cluster (a general assembly of international NGOs and Nepalese organizations) had not yet decided on which designs to use and how to best train the workers. The organizations first had to agree on the technical details before they could commit on advertising the proposals, which could take a long time.

However, they wanted to do something, something they could do on their own without relying on other organizations (who are heavily divided on the idea). Hence, they decided to do it with the help of Music. They met up with an INGO and put forth their ideas for the new project - a song for the people in village that teaches them about health and safety. Oxfam got back to them with what they thought would be the best subject for the song - “hand washing for children”. Yme met up with Pranab Joshi (the filmmaker who had made Resham Filili). It is the same film whose theme song, Jaalma, had recently become a national hit. With the help of Pranab, he met up with the composer of the same song, and they finally turned their idea of a song into reality.

The song with the title 'Kina Udcha Sabunman? (How can Sabunman fly?)’ was released on October 14 (Global Hand-washing Day) and it has been going viral in the Nepali media-sphere ever since. The song basically is trying to impart children with the awareness to wash their hands. The chorus of the song goes like: “hero bannu cha vane dhunu haat-haat” which means “if you want to be a hero, wash your hand-hand”. As mentioned earlier, it is directed by Pranab Joshi, and sung / composed by Almoda Rana Magar Uprety, who has done a great effort to make it informative, catchy and attractive in every possible way. The actors are Vinay Shrestha and Menuka Pradhan (the same actors from the movie Resham Filili).

The song, in my opinion, is cleverly thought of, in that it tries to reach out to the children with the help of some superhero sort of thing, which every child is fond of. Like Superman, here we have Sabunman (Soap Man). He can fly and is very strong too. The video shows that this is possible only because he washes his hands with soap. It is a really beautiful project by Help Nepal Today in order to aware the children about the benefits of washing hands.

Most of the people have appreciated the video and encouraged Help Nepal Today to continue with their creative projects to help Nepal. There have been encouraging comments like “hats off for the concept and the composer”,  “Just washed my hands”,  “Great promotion on hand washing...song is pretty catchy too” and so on. People also commented that this was the best way of delivering message to targeted group of audience (i.e. children in village areas): “Awesome!!!!!!!!! What acreativity!!!!!!!! Message is clearly and easily delivered to the targeted mass in such a fun way. Good job Help Nepal. Today, your entire team has done a marvelous job. Best wishes to Director Pranab Joshi. I hope you will come up with more amazing and creative videos in future”.

Of course, there are also other kinds of comments, not entirely negative, but can be thought of as constructive comments, I guess. Most of the constructive feedback givers were stuck in the semantics, rather than the overall act. Someone has criticized on the lyrics saying: “The song is saying "Wash your hand-hand." which is odd as it sounds in English. What I said above is it could say "Wash both of your hands" or "Wash your hands" which both rhymes in Nepali language and fits perfectly in the current song without change in music”. According to some people, instead of  “dhunu haat-haat (wash your hand-hand) ”, it should have been  “dhunu dubai haat (Wash both hands )” or  “dhunu aafno haat (wash your hand)”.  While it does not seem to be negative, I don't think it matters whether its haat-haat or dhunu dubai haat. At the end of the day, what matters is whether the point got across. I'm sure the children understand that dhunu haat-haat and dhunu haat-saat mean the same thing. It does not make any difference, and the song sounds completely fine with the current word choice. Besides, Contrastive Focus Reduplication is also a thing, although I'm not sure if it works here (and for Nepali language).

In another comment, someone complained about the shape and color of the soap shown: “Overall, it’s good song plus creative too. But I wonder why they did not use dettol soap; I mean, if its about making people aware about hygiene, why that soap..... It’s not like dettol is not available in any part of Nepal....” to which the Help Nepal Today team replied: “Great point. We thought about this. The reason why we picked the soap bar is because Oxfam will be distributing soap to children in Nepal that is similar to the one used in the video. Besides, the soap was based on an orange hand wash soap we bought in one of the shops. So there are at least some orange hand wash soaps out there.” Here also, people are stuck on a trivial thing, in my opinion. The video is not actually about recommending a product, but about making people aware. I think the baseline or a plain product is shown in order to represent the thing – it does not mean people have to use it. For example, in advertisements of toothpaste, you'd see the advertising toothpaste would be compared with plain white toothpaste without any name on its cover. The plain toothpaste is used to represent the other toothpastes in the market. Although it’s not an advertisement in this case, but their showing the orange soap is used for representation purpose, and not exactly to say that it is just the soap that you should be using. It just seems to me that people are looking for things to complain, when there is not actually anything to complain about. The Help Nepal Today team is not doing it to promote a brand and Dettol is a brand. Dettol, obviously, is not the only soap that works. The structure or shape and size of the soap do not matter. What matters is the value of the message. And, if I can recall, most of the soaps that I have used till now have been similar to the orange soaps as shown in the song. It’s the baseline product; it represents the common soap, so it seems to me that there should not be any issue with it at all.

Over all, the people seem to like the video. There have been some constructive feedbacks, but I could not find any negative ones. The video is so good that we can easily see the immense effort of the team to make it successful and make it reachable to the targeted audience. And as one of the commentators said: “This is a great example of Creating Shared Value. The value of the video is so great that the people share it themselves.”, and truly so, people will continue to share it. Let's just hope it reaches the audience who it is meant for. Thank you Help Nepal Today for such a wonderful video and we look forward to more creative projects of the team.