KARACHI: In times of an outbreak, the mantra 'prevention is better than cure' is championed by all segments of society. If the outbreak evolves into a pandemic and the disease in question is new, the slogan moves a step further to 'prevention is the only option'.
A case in point is the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. The pandemic has seen even the most technologically advanced medical infrastructures collapse in the face of a large influx of patients. This state of emergency makes the awareness on how to avoid the contagion all the more necessary for a developing country like Pakistan.
A major challenge that even the most well-intended local awareness campaigns face is that of catering to a linguistically and culturally diverse intersection of society.
In simpler words, the clever, more entertaining and hence more effective pieces of social awareness content are primarily presented in Urdu and at most in English. Meanwhile, a sizeable segment of the population is left with stale, run of the mill PTV-esque infomercials.
That being said, such is not always the case. Director Zeeshan Parvez recently developed an animated short in Pashto that promotes personal hygiene in wake of the corona outbreak in Pakistan. The protagonist Pabo Badmash is presented as the only man standing in the way of coronavirus and his people.
The quirky short sees the townspeople present various weapons to Pabo to tackle the impending threat of coronavirus. From a cricket bat to a 2013 model of a rocket launcher, Pabo rejects them all in favour of a soap.
Leading by example, Pabo washes his hands for 20-seconds and encourages the town folk to do the same if they want to defeat the evil coronavirus. Aside from hygiene the Parvez's short also promotes the message of social distancing with the protagonist urging everyone to avoid crowded spaces.
For Parvez, making the video was his way of contributing to the fight against the deadly virus. "I have a production studio called Studio ROKHAN. We sometimes make public awareness videos. This time it was on Corona. Upon meeting up with the Health Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, I thought I could help out by coming upfront with a contribution from my side in creating awareness," he told The Express Tribune.
According to Parvez, the concept was developed by cultural critic Fasi Zaka with whom he has collaborated on several occasions before. The aim was to take one particular preventive measure (out of many) against the coronavirus and to build a story around it. “The concept was drafted by Fasi Zaka. I animated/directed the whole sequence. Sarmad Ghafoor did the music production as well as voiced the main character. Hamayoon Khan (of Coke Studio fame, who also helped me out as being the character Sabir lala in our previous videos) lent his voice as the narrator,” he concluded.
Cartoon animations that promote hygiene in kids isn't something new in Pakistan. Brands including Safeguard and Lifebuoy have come up with their own series, Commander Safeguard and Germ Busters respectively.
However, unlike the boy scout and flashiness of the two, Pabo comes across as real. Unlike these two Parvez's short instills the message that we can all be heroes if we do our part. Such a message has never been more apt than it is now.
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