Friday, 11 November 2011

Is it just me, or is this just...scary?

If you're lucky enough to have visited the Indian state of Kerala, you will know that it's not a hard place to promote as a tourist destination. It's famously gorgeous, has a beautifully laid back feel, truly fantastic food, and a local culture that's both interesting and open. It's also one of the wealthiest states in the country with some of the best developed infrastructure, making travel there a stress-free experience compared to some of the more chaotic parts of India.

What I remember best about Kerala is the colours. Much of North India is rather arid, and the cities (Delhi included, though I've commented before about the richness of colour to be found here) tend to feature rather a lot of grey-brown concrete. In Kerala, the fabrics worn by locals are as dazzling as elsewhere in India, but they shimmer against a backdrop of blue skies, lush green palm trees and rice paddies, sparkling seas, long expanses of sand and brightly painted boats. I haven't made it to the famed Kerala backwaters yet, but from what I've seen they continue the theme.

All of which makes Kerala Tourism's latest promotional campaign seem rather bizarre. Ignoring its natural bounty of beauty and colour, the authorities have invested in a series of frankly weird images that, while they capture the imagination, don't exactly make me desperate to go to Kerala. Here's an example, which appeared in this week's Economist:

Now, I think I understand the logic behind this. Kerala doesn't want to be just another "sun, sea and saris" destination; it doesn't want to be another Goa (which has every reason to view tourism as a mixed blessing). And clearly they were going for an ad campaign that was more than just another snapshot of a couple of palm trees on a beach, and which reflected something of the state's cultural offerings. Something eye-catching and different.

OK, mission accomplished. Except that the result is plain scary, and the muted colour scheme - bordering on the depressing - doesn't seem to me to reflect vibrant, uplifting Kerala. It looks like one of the darker panels from the Sandman series (which I've just finished re-reading and which hasn't got any less amazing). I mean, "your moment is waiting"? What moment? The moment when that terrifying white-faced guy with  no eyes drags me off to unspeakable horrors? Because that's what he's going to be doing tonight in my dreams. I understand they want to show another side to the place, to give it more depth - but couldn't they have done it without giving everyone the willies?

So what do you think? Does this make you want to visit Kerala? Or run away from the scary man with no eyes?

(Just to show you what I mean, here are a couple of photos I took in Kerala in January - I didn't have a whole lot of time so they are not that good, but they give you an idea...)


Kay in India said...

Scary! It looks like an ad for a horror movie. Can't wait to visit Kerala, I've heard great things about it. I also love Kerala's cuisine the best when it comes to Indian cuisine.

Chris said...

Well I'm glad it's not just me! And yeah Kerala is gorgeous - hoping I get to spend some more time there soon. And the food is scrummy.

Helen Gray said...

It looks like the promo movie to an indie horror flick... give me tropical paradise any day...

Emily said...

Scary. Scary. Scary. My first trip to India was Kerala. It was AMAZING. Maybe the Economist has a different demographic? Definitely strange.

Anonymous said...

I've never been to Kerala. The first picture wouldn't entice me at all. Your pictures on the other hand are pulling me in.

Point proven!!