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To combat faux information, attain villages, Karnataka debuts on TikTookay

Chitral Rangaswamy as Manjamma, whose movies emphasise social distancing

Manjamma pops up on the display screen, carrying a giant purple bindi and sari, and launches right into a tirade in rustic Kannada: “Why ya? When you go out to buy vegetables and fruits, why you have to fall over the next person? Can’t you listen to what they are saying? Stay 3 feet away no! Stay one metre away no! 3 feet means one metre. Keep it in your head. Or else, remember these numbers: 3 feet by 6 feet — the size of your grave.”

This could possibly be simply one other 30-second video on TikTookay, the hyperkinetic brief video social networking app with 200 million lively customers in India, besides that it marks the debut of the federal government of Karnataka on it — the primary state to make use of TikTookay to succeed in out to the agricultural hinterland with info on COVID-19.

“One of the many suggestions we got was to look at TikTok because it has a huge reach, especially in rural areas. All the other social networking apps, whether Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, are largely urban. We needed to reach out to the remotest parts of the state,” says Shikha C, the IAS officer heading the taskforce for public well being communication and social media.

“It is not a conventional medium for a government because of how uninhibited the platform is, but I think the pros of TikTok far outweighed the cons. The way it works, we have to reach out through humour and sarcasm, which also cuts down the panic,” says Sushma Bhardwaj, who runs a digital advertising company that’s overseeing the TikTookay creatives and scripts.

Since March 23, @covid19awarenessgok, a verified deal with on TikTookay, has posted movies of Kannada actors like Puneeth Rajkumar asking folks to remain dwelling, animation movies for youngsters speaking about their superpowers towards the virus (staying dwelling, coughing into the elbow and never listening to rumours), and, after all, Manjamma berating fellow villagers for violating lockdown guidelines.

“I imagined Manjamma as a village woman, not very educated. I modelled the way she speaks on my mother, who also speaks a rustic Kannada typical of the Mandya region,” says Chitral Rangaswamy, a 28-year-old actor who stars within the movies. With a follower base of 182.7k followers, she posts the movies on her timeline as nicely.

So far, the deal with has mopped up near 70,000 followers, which is a modest quantity on condition that TikTookay “influencers” have followings that run into hundreds of thousands. But the movies are relayed additional by way of a community of WhatsApp teams run by panchayat officers or district administration. “It is an experiment. We need a counterweight to the fake news and misinformation, by reaching those who do not have access to either print news or television,” says Srinivas Alavilli, an activist and veteran of a number of public campaigns in Bengaluru, who’s working with the federal government on COVID-19 consciousness.

Alavilli has additionally roped in a pool of TikTookay influencers and movie professionals. “For instance, I asked Kirik Keerthi (an actor with 517.9k followers) to do a video on how to wash hands, but without running water,” he says. In the primary few days, the deal with barely acquired traction, but it surely has since then picked up. “Till April 8, we had managed to clock over 18 lakh views,” says Bhardwaj.

The exuberance of TikTookay, nevertheless, wants a restraining affect in terms of public well being communication. “All the creatives have to be vetted by the government before we upload them. We often end up rejecting a lot of videos because they don’t fit a government handle,” says Bhardwaj.

Background music, songs or dialogues from movies can’t be spliced with the movies — a typical function of TikTookay movies — to keep away from copyright tussles. Some movies have been rejected as a result of they’d double that means, Alavilli says. “In one, the artist was holding a mask in one hand and a sanitiser in another — and talking about how they are the most important things in his life now. It was a funny video, but because he was holding the mask all wrong, we rejected it. Even visually, a government handle cannot give out wrong information,” says Bhardwaj.

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