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Your Moment Of Horror Is Waiting

Your Moment Of Horror Is Waiting

November 10, 2010

If the latest promotional film from Kerala left you baffled, here’s a handy and humorous guide to its meaning.

Step aside Bollywood: the most intriguing, removed-from-reality, everything-and-the-kitchen-sink film effort out of India this year comes from Kerala. And it’s only three minutes long. ‘Your Moment is Waiting’, a new promotional video for the state, had a gala premiere in London in September and was shown before cinema screenings of ‘Eat Pray Love’. I can only imagine that those who went to that film found it difficult to focus on Julia Roberts finding her true self after the quite extraordinary images of ‘Your Moment is Waiting’, for it is a bafflingly surreal experience and completely arresting – something truly unique in an increasingly bland advertising landscape.

After a few viewings, I think I understood it, though it really doesn’t seem appropriate for a tourism promo. Many are no doubt still unsure as to what it all means. In the interests of our common understanding, here’s my how-to guide for ‘Your Moment is Waiting’.

It begins with a gold-tinged scene of a waterway at dawn. Burnt-out husks of dead trees rise from the water like the Devil’s fingers – and after more than ten seconds, one of them moves! The landscape is alive! Run for your lives! It is in fact a humanoid figure, long-legged and brandishing a spear. There are no signs that it will be aggressive, but one senses that it might become so at any moment.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Welcome to Kerala.

We then meet the film’s central figure, a dark-skinned woman (played by Swedish model Miriam Ilorah) with a striking African-looking face and her eyes closed. She lies face-up on a massage table, but to plant us firmly in an off-kilter world, the camera is flipped so that we see her upside down, as if she is suspended on the underside of the table. Two more shots show off Ilorah’s whole body and a close-up of her face, now right side up and looking serene. Presumably she has just received Ayurvedic treatment.

WHAT THIS MEANS: You’re not in [insert foreign country here] any more, madam – this is Kerala, and while you might feel calm now, you have no idea what’s in store for you.

Suddenly, Ilorah is transported to some tufts of grass alongside a river, wearing the same clothes. Without opening her eyes, as if she doesn’t want to see the truth, she curls her body up into the foetal position. Again, she is shown from an upside-down camera angle, the world inverted.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Kerala will make you feel like a child without a mother: lost, confused and upset.

In the next sequence Ilorah has gathered herself and walks calmly between two compound walls. Looking over one, she sees a Kathakali performer practising his movements and facial expressions sans makeup. This is quite charming until he holds his hands up in front of his face, as if to block out the horrors in front of him, then takes them away and grimaces like a baby, with clenched fists wobbling beside his face. Ilorah looks on, her face remaining expressionless.

WHAT THIS MEANS: The local arts are fascinating, but even a clearly experienced artist is still a little freaked out by his surroundings.

Posed delicately in a canoe, Ilorah meanders through Kerala’s backwaters as another canoe approaches – in which a double of herself rides. They look into each other’s eyes as they pass, faces still somehow motionless. The scenery is beautiful but the camera stays focused on the twin Ilorahs, the palm trees and glistening water all blurry in the background.

WHAT THIS MEANS: After some time in Kerala, nothing – not even being duplicated into two bodies – will surprise you any more; also, this is NOT a film about Kerala but a film about one person’s odyssey into the unknown.

In the forest now, a long-haired person sits cross-legged – hands bound – on the ground, head shaking wildly as drummers tap out a fast beat and a large group of men in lungis look on. The scene appears to be an exorcism. At its close the person is revealed to be Ilorah, still apparently unmoved judging by her flat lips and eyebrows, and a group of children look on with similar apathy.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Ayurveda isn’t the only form of body cleansing in Kerala, though in order to experience this unusual method you may need to be kidnapped and taken to a remote forest area.

A most bizarre set of images follows. Theyyam artists are given close-ups in sequence: one gyrating (for an almost subliminal half-second), one sitting completely immobile, and a third jabbering in tongues into Ilorah’s ear. Their costumes and makeup remind one of those 16th Century depictions of the nine circles of Hell. Naturally, Ilorah STILL shows no emotion. A wide shot shows all three Theyyam artists, Ilorah sitting with her arms crossed against her chest – kind of a ‘do not want’ pose – and… a stray dog, who looks positively thrilled.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Kerala District Tourism Corporation hired David Lynch and Lars von Trier to collaborate on this promo. (It was actually Prakash Varma, but this scene is almost directly out of von Trier’s Antichrist.)

The final scene sees Ilorah, whose customary blank face has taken on the qualities of a mask to shelter her from the world, caressing an elephant in a stream with sunlight glinting through the surrounding trees. As she rests her head against its trunk, the images are filtered through a brown wash so that everything is more or less the same brown or grey colour.

WHAT THIS MEANS: Having finally turned to pachyderms as opposed to people, Ilorah merges with the landscape, her personality long since stripped away.

A title card appears. ‘YOUR MOMENT is WAITING’.

WHAT THIS MEANS: This is what awaits you in Kerala. Those tickets to Bali are probably looking pretty good right now, right?

Photo credit: Rajesh Vijayarajan


  • Rijas
    05.11.13 12:59 PM
    Though the scenes are somewhat off from reality. The feel created by music and video is really what you can experience in kerala. Its truly, as if you were touched by mother nature.
  • Kanishka Sharma
    Kanishka Sharma
    03.09.11 12:03 PM
    This very strange.Everyone reading this sure understand that there is a particular form of something in kerala that differs in certain respects.
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    14.05.11 10:53 PM
    Hi Dhanya, bizarre isn't it? Who knows, perhaps they would like it? There's a new Kerala campaign attached to the current IPL tournament and it's much easier on the brain, but unfortunately I can't find anything on YouTube.
  • Dhanya P Nair
    Dhanya P Nair
    10.05.11 02:38 PM
    I had been to germany few months back for my work and I did make some good friends there . After I came back to India I invited my friends in germany and asked them if they would be interested in spending a holiday in kerala as they have never visited India before . I was searching youtube for some videos relating to kerala just to give them an idea of how the place is and I came across this particular video and this was the very first time I saw this video . I was planning to send my friends in germany this video but I had this second thought . I watched the video again and then I felt that instead of giving them a pleasant experience the video would give them a negative and unpleasant response .
  • Varun
    30.11.10 06:58 PM
    Leaves the typical kerala 'ingredients' out of the picture.. Seems more like an african voyage incorporated with a few of the x factors in kerala.

    I definitely would say it was to highlight an adventurer's journey into kerala!

    2.5/5 with a mediocre concept, good cinematography and decent music
  • kerala tourism
    kerala tourism
    22.11.10 03:42 PM
    Great work me also Working For Kerala tourism" rel="nofollow"> kerala tourism" rel="nofollow"> Software Development" rel="nofollow"> kerala tourism
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    17.11.10 10:33 PM
    @Mathew - his argument is pretty sound, but the picture he paints isn't the same as what was in the ad.

    @Soni - thanks anna! Yes, I did know that NZ took the 'God's Own Country' tagline first. We even occasionally refer to NZ as 'Godzone'. To be honest, in both cases I think it's pretty arrogant!

    @Stanley - I'm assuming that the makers expect captivated viewers to go and seek out info from other sources about what they saw... because it definitely isn't in the film! I genuinely hope it's working.
  • Stanley George
    Stanley George
    16.11.10 10:36 PM
    The Theyyam is a lesser-known dance form in Kerala. I was actually surprised not to see something with a Kathakali background in that ad but for that little hint of a Kathakali dancer sans the make-up. Interesting read though because Kerala sometimes does put the "unsatisfied" thing on a platter at the end of the day and that is the reason why there is an ad to bring in the crowds because you like it or not it is dwindling.
  • Soni Somarajan
    Soni Somarajan
    16.11.10 10:25 PM
    Having worked in this field for many years now, your take had me in the splits. It's 10 pm here and if I laugh any harder, the neighbours might start wondering about my mental state. I have simply believed that this ad doesn't get Kerala at all, surreal experience or not, and at it's best can remind a potential Western tourist(they form a major chunk!)of what they ought not to visit, unless you are a serious noir buff. I sent the vid link to couple of my friends in New York and, frankly, their comments don't augur well for the future of Kerala Tourism. But you must really read the comments that are on the Kerala Tourism page of Youtube.

    As a Kiwi, you might anyways be aware that Kerala Tourism lifted the "God's Own Country" moniker from your country where it has been used for more than a century.
  • Mathew Mathew
    Mathew Mathew
    13.11.10 09:39 AM
    Here's one straight from the horse's mouth:
  • babu varghese
    babu varghese
    13.11.10 06:47 AM
    Still wonder how could such a freaky advt to sell Kerala the people behind these should be made answerable with their empty headed actions
  • cinematters
    12.11.10 10:38 PM
    At laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaast, there are people who are every bit disoriented as me watching God's Own Ad Campaign for His(?) sliver of Land. The results of the 'virality' should be evident end of this FY, but there are other things that infuriates me, starting with the crappiest website any country has ever made to market itself. Its Baba Maal who is behind th music, though it again puzzles me as to why they need to reach across to Madagascar to structure the music for a land ripe with its own divine music.
    Fantastic perspective B, very very chucklicious :)
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    12.11.10 07:16 PM
    A Singh, I watched those - they are somewhat similar but definitely not as striking and unusual in my eyes. I think to say that they 'ripped off' those films is going a bit far. 'Were inspired by' might be more accurate.

    To the other commenters who enjoyed the film, great! I think I enjoyed it for different reasons than most, but I'm glad that people are proud of it.
  • A Singh
    A Singh
    12.11.10 06:13 PM
    I read a claim that they have ripped off earlier promo films for The Mexican Tourism Board.
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    12.11.10 08:21 AM
    Yikes. Prospective tourist expects a one page tourist handout and gets Salvadore Dali's "Metamorphosis of Narcissus" instead ;-)

  • Bhavesh
    11.11.10 01:38 PM
    Totally agree with 'Ad'.Not sure if we all noticed the most binding of all ;the music.Really loved Sivamani and A.R. Rehman kind of composition (not sure may be they have some credit to the music).I saw this ad almost a fortnight ago and was thinking what does it conveys,kudos to Morris for putting it in words,yes the Theyyam part is a bit 'too much' else it all is putting Kerala to a totally new kind of terrain.
  • Mathew Mathew
    Mathew Mathew
    10.11.10 10:51 PM
    The viral media is giving "Your Moment is Waiting" unprecedented mileage. Whether Stark Communications (ad agency), Kerala Tourism (client), and Prakash Varma (director) expected such exposure for the ad is anybody's guess.

    An ad's main purpose is to create awareness with whatever means. From my experience as an ad man, I would say it was a successful marketing effort.

    Please see S. Anil Radhakrishnan's take on the ad in Hindu:
  • Ad
    10.11.10 08:24 PM
    I actually think it was quite good all the way through, except for the bit with the Theyyam artists - that was a little off-putting. I think if they had left that out it might have been a great ad. Certainly done in an original way and an attempt at something different.

    For your comments on the foetal position etc I didn't get that at all. Her feeling of being relaxed and enjoying her relaxation was palpable, to me at least.
  • sharell
    10.11.10 07:07 PM
    I don't think I'd like to see that ad. I get disturbed just watching a festival parade in Kerala...there are some pretty scary looking characters in that alone!
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    10.11.10 06:49 PM
    I agree that it certainly captures the attention, and I do genuinely like it - after initial revulsion - for its purely surreal atmosphere. But I don't think it reflects a tourist experience in Kerala at all. Of course I hope that it achieves its aim and brings more visitors to the state, but I honestly can't imagine too many foreigners rushing out and buying tickets after watching this!
  • Joseph
    10.11.10 04:41 PM
    was fun to read your version of the add.
    But playing this add before eat pray and love can really bring in some foreign exchange.
    adds are supposed to grab attention to what it wants to say.anyone who watches this add will know there exists some place called kerala and that there's something worth visiting there.

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