Madhya Pradesh (MP) is the “Heart of Incredible India”, having borders with UP, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. It is the center of India, with pristine nature, abundant wildlife in its 11 national parks, 24 wildlife sanctuaries and six tiger reserves, lakes, rivers and hills. It has 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites, imposing forts, pilgrimage places, flourishing arts, and culture. As a tourist destination, MP has something for everyone.
Until the early 2000s, the Indian government’s effort at promoting Indian tourism was not yielding significant results. Credit goes to V. Sunil and Amitabh Kant (then in the Ministry of Tourism) who envisaged the “Incredible India” concept to promote India as a tourist destination. Under this banner, states and union territories were encouraged to promote and develop local areas and sites of interest. Tourism was sluggish in Madhya Pradesh till the mid 2000s. Ashwani Lohani was brought in to MP Tourism Development Corporation to build tourism to MP. He revived the Corporation and brought in Ogilvy India to promote MP tourism.
Advertising for MP Tourism
Ogilvy made two successful advertising campaigns. One was the “Hindustan ka dil dekho” campaign and the other was “Bioscope”. For the third ad campaign, Ogilvy was looking for a fresh idea that would resonate with the rustic theme they had conceptualized. Mahesh Garat and Pradyumna Chauhan, led by Abhijit Avasthi, scripted the new commercial. It was shot by Vinil Mathew. The jingle was sung by actor Raghubir Yadav, a native of MP.
Making the “MP Ajab Hai” TV Commercial
A lesser known performing art form called shadowgraphy or ‘ombromanie” was used for the execution of the television commercial. Having ancient roots, this art form uses hands, finger movements, and positions to depict various forms by way of shadows on a curtain.
The black and white shadowgraphy showcased tigers in the wild as the jingle rang, “Ek nahi, do nahi, sekado yahain sher hai”. Legendary Mowgli found mention too. The hand movements seamlessly moved to showcasing the Mandu fort, the gigantic chandeliers of Jai Mahal and the ancient Sanchi Stupa. Geographic marvels like the marble cliffs were depicted too, “Sangemarmar…choota asman hai”.
The lyrics and music were Indian and set a mood for depicting a culturally rich and geographically varied tourist destination. The storytelling-by-hand gestures that took form of deer, birds, elephants, tigers, forts, hills, and people, moved seamlessly like a cinema from scene to scene. The agility and skill of the shadowgraphers from Bengal was noteworthy.
The television commercial ended with the energetic jingle playing on, “MP ajab hai, are sabse gazab hai”. (MP is truly astonishing). This ad allowed a degree of imagination and drama to develop in the audience, as sites and objects were just shadows and not photographs.
MP Tourism, over the years, has been the recipient of many awards, like the “Hall of Fame” award for “Best State for Comprehensive Development of Tourism” for three consecutive years. They have also won “Most Innovative and Unique Tourism Product” for developing Hanuwantiya Tapu (island) as a sightseeing and adventure location amidst Indira Sagar, and the Hanuwantiya Jal Mahotsav, promoting backwater watersports and rejuvenation.
Its Tourism website also promotes many festivals, events and contests like “Sketch the Heart of Incredible India”, to create awareness and engage with the people.
The “MP Ajab Hai” TV commercial has brought MP tourism into the homes and minds of people. It is part of the larger “Incredible India” promotion initiative, and remains iconic for its uniqueness and catchy jingle.