The spread of COVID-19 has put the Kerala Police on high alert. Two wings under the department — Kerala Police Social Media Cell and State Police Media Centre — are working non-stop to create awareness about the virus, precautions to be taken and social distancing through videos, posts, memes and trolls on social media.
While the hand-washing dance video posted by the Media Centre on March 17 has been watched by over 31 lakh people with nearly 40,000 shares, the ‘Break the Chain’ video posted by the Social Media Cell released on March 20 has got close to 3 million views.
“We didn’t expect such a reach for the videos. Whenever there is a disaster, the police department is physically present to handle the situation. But in this case, social distancing is the need of the hour. So we have to stay away from people but have to be with them as well. That’s where digital means come into the picture,” says Manoj Abraham, ADGP, Headquarters, and nodal officer of the Social Media Cell.
He adds that the department wanted to do something different from the posts and videos that had flooded the social media. “It had to be reassuring, should leave an impression on the conscience of the people and, at the same time, be light-hearted because we didn’t want to instil fear in the society. The reach of the videos prove that people have connected with the content. It is important to note that we have only policemen working in front of and behind the camera in these videos,” he says.
The dance video has six policemen in the uniform showing the right way to wash the hands to the tune of the song, ‘Kalakkatha’ from the movie Ayyappanum Koshiyum. “It was an amateurish attempt and so the overwhelming response for the video has surprised us. The shoot was done in our office itself with our own staff members shooting it and handling the camera and editing. We decided to stick to the uniform so that people would notice it. The policemen had rehearsed just for an hour. Easy steps were chosen because none of them are dancers,” says VP Pramod Kumar, deputy director, Social Media Centre, which has nine policemen as staff members. The video went on to be appreciated by international media, including networks such as BBC, Reuters, AFP, ANI and BBC, besides channels in the US, Russia, the UK, China, Italy and the Netherlands. “The US Embassy in Delhi also shared it on their page. I also got a photograph from London where they showed it on the LED Wall at one of the tube stations,” adds Pramod.
The ‘Break the Chain’ video by Social Media Cell is dedicated to the “officials and staff members of health department, volunteers, police personnel and journalists who stand bold and fearless in the face of the disease.” Directed by Arun BT, a member of the Media Cell, it is inspired by a scene from Lucifer in which Mohanlal’s character, Stephen Nedumbally, is bashing up a gang of goondas. The ‘virus’— created using VFX — is chasing our hero, a common man clad in a lungi and T-shirt. Then comes the saviours – a doctor, a policeman, a mask and hand sanitiser. He challenges the ‘virus’ for a dual, with ‘Kadavule Pole’, all to the track from Lucifer playing in the background. He folds and tucks his dhoti and twirls his moustache,a la Mohanlal’s character in the movie, and challenges his opponents with his dialogue, ‘Vaada’. And the virus runs for its life!
The video, shot on the premises of Tagore Theatre in the capital city, has six members of the Media Cell and policemen from other offices of the Department working on it. “This include 3D Animation & VFX as well, which is done by Bimal VS, a member of the Media Cell,” Arun says.
Launched in April 2018, the Media Cell became the talk of the town after its Facebook page with trolls and memes went viral. It now has 13 lakh followers and is listed among the best Facebook pages of police departments across the world. “Interested police personnel were asked to appear for a written test. Those who cleared it had a practical exam, which tested our computer knowledge, command over Photoshop and video editing and skill in making trolls,” explains Arun.
Both Media Cell and Media Centre, also started in 2018, have been uploading videos based on scenes from Malayalam movies relating them to steps to be taken to stay safe. “In one video we had mimicry artist Sudheesh Thiruvambady dubbing in the voice of Suraj Venjaramoodu. He is a follower of our page. The second video has the voice of Prem Nazir, dubbed by Santhosh Saraswathi, a member of the Cell,” says Arun. Fahadh Faasil was roped in for another awareness video, relating it to his character of Harikrishan from North 24 Kaatham who has OCD.
While the Media Cell takes care of all social media handles of the Kerala Police, such as Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Helo, Sharechat and Twitter, the Media Centre takes care of public relations of the police department.
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