The launch of the trailer of the Hindi film Udta Punjab last month was accompanied by a rash of controversies. Several people were affronted by the movie's theme — the rampant drug menace in Punjab — while some objected to Alia Bhatt's portrayal as an uneducated labourer from Bihar. Swati Kumari was among those irked by the role. It was a stereotype, she felt, one that gives the false impression that Bhatt represented every girl from Bihar.
Kumari, a published author, responded by writing an irate article for PatnaBeats, a website dedicated to promoting Bihar. The site's founder, Bashshar Habibullah, who is her friend, joined in the brainstorming. In that moment was born the campaign #IAmBrandBihar.
"I've been told by people that I don't look like a Bihari," Kumari told Scroll.in on phone. "The idea that Biharis look a certain way has always rattled me. It is this stereotyping that I wanted to address with the campaign."
Habibullah's moment of realisation came a while ago when he encountered an online encyclopedia of swear words in which Bihari was listed in the Hindi section. In response, the 25-year-old started sharing images and news, especially on the Bihari diaspora. "I wanted to change that image, not just from that very website, but from the mindset of everyone." The site now has a team of eight people.
For the campaign #IAmBrandBihar, Habibullah and his team approached several locals and celebs to pose with a placard bearing the message. Most of them eagerly agreed. Within 25 days, everything came together. In the little time since the campaign has gone live on Facebook, the album has received 8,200 shares — all without the help of adverts.
Here are some of the images that promote #IAmBrandBihar:
All images courtesy PatnaBeats.