‘Rasputin’ to ‘Drishyam': Meet the team behind Kerala’s viral ads on COVID-19

Thiruvananthapuram-based Ten Point Media has made quirky advertisements that stress on washing hands, physical distancing and getting vaccinated.
Covaxin and Covishield vials dancing
Covaxin and Covishield vials dancing
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A 17-second video from Kerala had social media in splits earlier in May. The video has two vials of Covishield and Covaxin shaking their animated legs to Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’. Evidently, the advertisement is inspired by the Thrissur medical college students’ viral dance number which broke the internet when it came out this year. But the Kerala government quickly hopped on to the trend thanks to Thiruvananthapuram based Ten Point Media - a firm tasked with making quirky ads for the government on COVID-19 awareness. 

Over the last few months, Ten Point team has been making one viral ad after the other. Their Vishu campaign for the Kerala government had a squishy green animated virus dancing to “Thiranurayum” a song from the movie Ananthabhadram which has Manoj K Jayan playing a black magician and dancing to the song. As the virus dances, a vaccine vial rolls close to it and explodes, turning the virus into ash. The video ends with a - ‘Happy Vishu. Get Vaccinated at the earliest’ - message to the public. 

“Our recent videos are focused on vaccination awareness,” says Sandeep MM, one of the founding partners at Ten Point. The Vishu and the Rasputin ads are part of the Kerala government's Crush the Curve campaign in the second wave, both of which were ideated and created by the Ten Point team. 

On May 21, when actor Mohanlal celebrated his birthday, the team released another ad based on Drishyam, a film where he played the lead as Georgekutty. The video uses Georgekutty’s final dialogue from the first movie where he talks about ‘an uninvited guest’ and ‘sending the guest back in a way that he never comes back’. While the ‘uninvited guest’ in the movie is a teenaged boy who threatens the family, in Ten Point’s ad it is a virus which comes knocking at Georgekutty’s doorstep. His wife, Rani sprays a sanitiser and kills the virus. The ad was so popular, it was shared by Jeethu Joseph who directed the film.

These are just three examples of their popular ads. Since 2020, the five founding partners of Ten Point, along with their team, have brought out ads and posters which have helped Kerala spread awareness on the pandemic across the state. The firm was hired in early 2020 to work on the state government’s ‘Break the Chain’ campaign to ask people to wear masks, wash their hands and follow distancing. 

“We designed five logos overnight and the Kerala Health Department team under KK Shailaja Teacher picked one logo which they liked. This became the ‘Break the Chain’ logo. After this, we released many posters focusing on SMS - Sanitising, Masking and Social Distancing,” Sandeep says. This was done in a phased manner to slowly initiate the public into the pandemic protocol. 

The team

The team comprises five best friends — all 24-year-old engineering graduates from the Idukki Government Engineering college who, in Sandeep’s words, ‘have nothing to do with engineering now’. 

“Back in college, all of us were active in the arts and culture field. Our friend Vishnu Babu was the Arts Club secretary, and Jewel Babu, another partner, used to coordinate programmes and cultural events. Another friend Vishnu VKT was into short films,” says Sandeep. In their final year, the group started taking up outside projects - wall art for restaurants, brochure designs for shops and other branding works. But it wasn’t until 2018, when they graduated, that they decided to start a firm and move to Thiruvananthapuram. 

“We were good at what we did and we were getting enquiries. So we decided to upgrade from being a WhatsApp group and actually start a firm. Initially we got the opportunity to work with Kerala government’s C-DIT (Centre for Development for Imaging Technology) by coming on board as their creative consultants. I am guessing this is how we were found by the Health Department and asked to work on the ‘Break the Chain’ campaign,” Jewel Babu tells TNM. 

Some of their viral tag lines include ‘Mughamethayalum Mask Mukhyam’ (Whatever the face is, masking is important); ‘Soappittu Maskittu Gapittu Nilkkaam’ (Put soap, wear a mask and chit chat); and ‘SMS’ (Soap, Mask and Social Distancing).

The campaigns made such an impact that Sandeep says, they had celebrities reposting their ads and calling in to find out if they had content which they could repost. “We had Vinay Forrt who reposted a post on COVID-19. We tweaked his famous dialogue from the movie Premam on ‘simple and powerful Java’. Instead of Java, we used the word ‘Prathirodham’ which in Malayalam means to fight back,” Sandeep says.

Celebrities such as Mammootty, Manju Warrier and others too, have shared a few posters. “We had the mask campaign for which we used Manju Warrier’s face with a mask. “The ad created such a hype that we had people calling in to ask if we could use their faces. So we released a huge poster with over 3000 faces in masks,” Jewel says. 

The team at Ten Point adds that the videos and posters are aimed at bringing positivity to the people. “We try to make our content as light as possible without diluting the message. This is because when you’re dealing with serious issues like a pandemic and a virus — people will not watch if the videos and posters sound grave. All we want to do is to make people chuckle a bit while getting the message across,” Sandeep adds. 

Watch the ads here:

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