The Hari Putar Dialogues - 22
(IANS: 9th September; New Delhi: Guess which Indian ring tone is being downloaded the most all over the world? No, it is not the latest Bollywood chartbuster, but a public health message that goes "condom, condom". Its makers are amazed by the popularity of the ring tone that was launched last month and aims to promote safe sex, the use of condom and to thus tackle the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country where about 2.5 million people are estimated to be living with it.)
Putar: According to a report by IANS carried in various newspapers and websites, an Indian ring tone is being downloaded all over the world.
Hari: I haven't read that story, putar, but I guess it must be some Bollywood tune.
Putar: No, it isn't Papaji. It's actually a public health message that goes 'condom, condom'.
Hari: That's interesting. It will be a way to promote AIDS awareness. Do you think that people all over the world are downloading this tune because of the message?
Putar: That's not the only reason. It's more to do with the exciting voice and music. By the way the fresh voice, sound and music are totally Indian.
Hari: Music and melody is really important, isn't it putar? You can put any words to them.
Putar: Well, the words have to match the music don't they? Music composers spend hours trying to find the right words to match their music.
Hari: And vice versa. There is a story that the music composers Laxmi Kant and Pyarelal had once composed a tune and were trying to find the right words for it, but the lyrics for the duet were just not coming'
Putar: And then'
Hari: And then Laxmikant said, 'I'd better be going now' in Hindi i.e. 'Accha to hum chaltey hain?' Pyarelal replied, 'Phir kab milogey?' or 'When will you meet next?'
Putar: And so?
Hari: And then Laxmikant said, 'Sit down. These will be the lyrics.' And it because the hit duet, 'Aacha to hum chalte hain' from the film Aan Milo Sajna.
Putar: That's interesting. The music composer and the singer of the 'condom ring tune' really deserve a lot of credit. The ring tone has been composed by Rupert Fernandes and sung by Vijay Prakash, who is a professional singer, and he has chanted the word condom more than 50 times.
Hari: Yes, you can have a big bash for AIDS awareness, call film stars and have the event telecast and raise funds, but something simple like this ring tone could have a greater impact. Of course the two are not mutually exclusive.
Putar: In the three weeks since its launch, the makers have already received 257,744 SMS requests for download and over two million hits on the website.
Hari: How do I hear this ring tone?
Putar: Just go to the website www.condomcondom.org and you will at once start hearing the ring tone. Once the ring tone finishes you can enter the main home page where you learn of various activities concerning HIV/ AIDS. You can also download the ring tone from the website free of cost. If that's too complicated the ring tone can be downloaded by SMSing "CONDOM" to 56887 but download charges will then apply.
Hari: It must have taken a lot of time and effort but the results are well worth it.
Putar: The report quotes Yvonne MacPherson, country director of the BBC World Service Trust, as saying that the ring tone has international appeal. It has quirky music and sound. They have received complimentary messages from people as far away as Denmark and the US who have loved the ring tone.
Hari: I wonder though whether many Indians, especially women, will not feel self-conscious about using such a ring tone.
Putar: Well, the number of Indians downloading it suggests that that is not an issue. There is an advertisement of the ring tone, in which a wedding is shown, where someone's mobile rings with the sound of 'condom, condom'. The man holding the phone is embarrassed but he finds people react normally. The tagline to the advertisement is: 'Jo samjha wohi Sikander'.
Hari: All the same, putar, I'm sure that some people will feel self-conscious.
Putar: There are two ways you can use a ring tone. The first is the ring tone that someone who calls you hears, and the second is the ring tone that you hear along with other people standing close by. You could use the ring tone only for people who call you.
Hari: I hear that nowadays mobile technology has progressed so much that you can have different ring tones for different callers.
Putar: If that is the case then the ring tone could be used for specific hints to some people.
Hari: How do you mean, putar?
Putar: Take sex workers for instance. Some of the high class ones used to be called call girls, weren't they?
Hari: Now that so many people have a mobile phone, not sure if the term would still apply in the same sense.
Putar: That's true, but if these women put this tune on their ring tones, they are reminding the customers who call them that they have to practice safe sex.
Hari: That's true.
Putar: Of course preventing the spread of HIV means everyone in society and not only certain target groups.
Hari: That's true. And condoms not only prevent HIV, they also prevent pregnancy, which helps contain population growth.
Putar: True. So a woman, who already has had too many children, and wants a break from pregnancy, can use this ring tone to remind her husband to bring a packet of condoms when he comes home.
Hari: How will she do that?
Putar: If she prefigures her mobile to sound the condom ring tone, when he calls her from office it will act as a reminder.
Hari: That's an idea! Just as long as other men don't hear that ring tone, otherwise they might get the wrong hint!
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: They say that this is the first case where a ring tone is being used for a product.
Hari: Quite possibly, putar.
Putar: The marketing people in Coca Cola, Pepsi, Nike and of other product manufacturers could be watching this development with interest. Wouldn't they love it if people started using ring tones of their products?
Hari: I'm sure they would but it's very unlikely that would happen.
Putar: Is that because the ring tone for the condom often sung so that is sounds like condum has more dum to it?
Hari: I don't know, putar.