[Inspired by this article in the Telegraph about sponsorship strategies of Durga Pujas including a Puja committee that has sold all branding rights to an US company and another that has a promotional music video and about Zee Bangla coming up with the ultimate business plan, telecasting live the beautiful people at Maddox Square, my field of Pujo dreams.]
Setting: A Puja committee meeting, somewhere in Kolkata. Circa 2010.
Sujit-da (Mamata-fan and president of Puja committee) : Nontu, so have the people from Sheyal TV Bangla (Fox TV’s Bangla venture) sent in the 30 lac check for the Pujo sponsorship?
Nontu, secretary: Sujit-da this year we decided to do things a little bit differently. Do you remember Habla?
Sujit-da: Of course how can I not remember Habla? A Jadavpur engineer but still so committed to the cause. During the Singur andolon, he was a front-line warrior with us, beating up the people who tried to enter the plant. I still remember Habla standing in the afternoon sun, throwing stones at the Nano plant and shouting Tata-Bye Bye. So what about him?
Nontu: Well after the Singur andolon, he joined Tata Consultancy Services as a business analyst and then went to US. There he did an MBA or something and has opened a marketing consultancy of his own in Manhattan. When he heard that we had given Sheyal TV Bangla exclusive sponsorship last year, he was pretty upset.
Sujit-da: Why has Sheyal TV Bangla said something against Didi, (dubious) PhD? Do we have to go and break some chairs and computers at the Sheyal TV Bangla office?[Getting up]
Nontu: No no not that. He feels that we should sell rights of different parts of the Pujo to different commercial entities. He called it “more bling bling”. He seemed so knowledgeable that we have decided to give the Puja rights to his firm and he will sell it out to different companies. He says we can get lots more money that way.
Sujit-da: (a bit worried): I don’t know….how much more?
Nontu: Sixty lacs he says. Double of last time.
Sujit-da: The problem with corporate sponsorship is that they make us do so many compromises. For instance, I have been wanting to do Ma Durga-r face in the image of Mamata-didi and the Asura with 2 heads—Ratan Tata and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya but every time Sheyal TV has shot my idea down. I am sure even this time…
Nontu: Come on Sujit-da. Be rational. I know that we owe a Didi a lot —after all had not Didi made all industries leave Bengal, we wouldn’t have such beautiful open spaces to have our Puja pandals.
But come on, even then we cannot just put Didi’s face on Ma Durga ! If we do, how will we ever get “Red Bull” Sarad Somman, which you know has strong CPM connections? We have a big tradition for Ma Durga’s face—-Deepika Padukone, Jessica Simpson and Angelina Jolie. Surely we cannot compromise on that?
If you insist, we will put Didi’s picture on Kolabou (Ganesha’s wife depicted by a banana-branch covered by a white sari)….
Sujit-da: Okay okay….whatever. So what does Habla recommend we do?
Nontu: Well first of all, he has negotiated a sweet deal with the Sheyal TV guys. This year they will pay 20 lacs but for that they only get rights for putting the television cameras in front of our pandal and not exclusive sponsorship like last time. Nontu talked to the Sheyal TV people and advised them to be more upfront with its promotion of their program—no more “Sharod dorshon” (Durga Puja “darshan”) like last time which he felt didn’t quite convey the message.
Sujit-da: Not convey the message?
Nontu: Yes. This time he recommends calling it “Bari theke Jhari” (Ogle From Home). The message is simple—why come and jostle with the thousands to catch a glimpse of the boudi in a backless blouse or didimoni in a tight kameez, all the time pretending to be watching the idol, when you can sit at home, open a packet of Lay’s chips and ogle in peace. Of course every 15 seconds the camera will cut away to an image of Ma Durga so that when thakuma (grandmother) comes into the room, she will not know what you are doing.
Sujit-da: Sounds good. What about this year’s music video? Can I dance in it this time? I have lost 4 Kgs since last October. And I have even started dyeing my hair.
Nontu (hesitantly): Actually Sujit-da why don’t you do it next year? This year Sheyal TV has already conceptualized the promotional music video. There will be Bangla mega-star Prosenjit dancing with a bunch of models from Uzbekistan, all clad in traditional Bangali white-sari-with-red-border(lal paar sari) to the tune of ” Jibonto Protima Darshan” (seeing live goddesses), which Habla says succinctly conveys our Pujo’s USP. Not sure yet but Sheyal TV says they can get Himesh Reshammiya to sing the song. If that doesn’t work out, we always have Aneek Dhar. Or the man whose claim to fame is that he sings “Kajra Re ” and Sachin Dev Burman songs perfectly in a female voice.
Sujit-da: Sounds good. So what about the rest of the sponsorship?
Nontu: Habla has another idea here. Get individual corporate sponsorships for each God. For instance, Lord Ganesh will be sponsored by Dr. Sen’s Weight Loss Clinic, Laxmi Devi will be sponsored by Vyasa Bank, Sharma IIT classes have expressed interest in sticking a flier on Saraswati Devi’s head and Lord Kartik will get a deal from Raymonds.
Each of these sponsorships for approximately 5 lacs.
For 10 lacs, Ma Durga rights have been sold to Kolkata Knight Riders. In exchange, Ma Durga will wear a KKR golden helmet, her trident will be replaced by a stump, the Asura will look like Salman Khan (who as you know is Knight Riders owner Shahrukh Khan’s sworn enemy) and the slogan “Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo Re” will be written in a semi-circular fashion behind Ma’s head.
Sujit-da: Excellent. So will Mithun-da be the brand ambassador of this year’s Pujo also?
Nontu: Slight problem. Mithun-da is associated with the ICL. If he is there, Kolkata Knight Riders will withdraw sponsorship. Plus Mithunda might insist that Lord Ganesha’s face be modeled on Mimoh’s with the Asura wearing a T-shirt that says “Am I a rejected person?”
Sujit-da: Ha Ha good joke. I still remember thirty years ago, when I was a kid, Sukhen Das wearing a jean jacket covering his paunch would inaugurate the Pujo. In any case, if not Mithun-da then who?
Nontu: We might try Rituporna..
Sujit-Da: No no are you crazy? Not that……em…. man ! He is always obsessed with bodily fluids, be it urine or other things of a periodic nature….how can we have him as part of a Pujo..
Nontu: I mean Rituporna and not Rituporno.
Sujit-Da: Ooh good.
Nontu: In addition, we have the usual sponsorships for food-stalls, the Grihini (housewife) Games every afternoon, basically everything we had last year.
Rathin-da (60 years old Vice President): Call me an old stick but is this Pujo?This seems to be a gigantic corporate enterprise—where is the personal touch, the feeling of community and togetherness, the simple joys of Pujo?
Sujit-Da: Rathin-da, you don’t understand things have changed….
Rathin-Da: I know I know. You guys have it so easy. In our days, we had to fight for every paisa as we went from para (street) to para begging for chanda (subscriptions). I remember writing fake receipts from last year and shouting at people saying “You had paid Rs 500 last year. Why not this year” even when we knew the poor guy moved in a few months ago.
And then there were the turf wars with Four Friends Boys Club with pipes and hockey sticks and hours spent standing on the main road, often in the pouring rain, stopping trucks and collecting “Ma Durga” tax.
Aah those days.
Things were so simple and personal.
Intimidating the Chatterjee widow for Rs 100, vandalizing that miser Dr. Sarkar’s car every year—sometimes slashing his tires, sometimes scratching his bonnet with Gold Spot caps, peeing on the door of that crazy ass Pandey, puncturing the rice sacks of old Lalaji. I still remember the look of hurt and anguish on the face of the people when we would armtwist subscriptions —ah the spirit of the Pujos.
Nowadays you guys snap your fingers and so much money comes from these faceless corporate behemoths who don’t even beg and plead and grovel. Where is the fun?
Nontu: Yes those old days sure sound good. But then again Rathin-da, as you know times have changed, some may say for the better.
Wait, that’s my cellphone….seems to be Habla from Manhattan….what ? We got Himesh? And what? Wow ! Hey Sujit-da hear this. We got Rakhi Sawant for Hayward’s 5000 Bhashan naach (“immerson dance”)? No kidding………