Searching for Memories

The new Google ad recorded half a million hits went it online on Wednesday afternoon. Overnight, people were sharing, tweeting and sinking into nostalgia over the ad that talks about separation, friendship and the celebration of a long reunion. It follows the story of two childhood friends separated during Partition and who find each other after six decades with help from their grandchildren who use Google's search engine.

The scriptwriter for the ad, Sukesh Kumar Nayak of Oligvy and Mather, says that he was pleasantly surprised when a tech giant like Google specified in their brief that the only thing they wanted was to see was how meaningful the search engine is in real life. "Our entire life revolves around Google, it is our instant response to something we don't know. But we wanted to make the connection between real life and Google magical," says Nayak.

The three-and-half minute ad was shot in different areas in Delhi, including an old haveli in Connaught Place, Red Fort, India Gate and a small scene in Lahore, Pakistan. "We have all heard stories about Partition and how friends and families were separated. So the background for the ad was set. But we wanted to make sure we did not adhere to clichés," says Mumbai-based Amit Sharma of Chrome Pictures, who directed the commercial.

As the ad begins, we see an 80-something Baldev (VM Badola) in his small store in Delhi narrate the stories of his childhood to his granddaughter Suman (played by Auritra Ghosh). He reminiscences about times with his best friend, Yusuf (MS Sathyu), flying kites in a park in Lahore and stealing jhajariyas from Yusuf's Fazal Sweet shop. This sends the granddaughter on an online search until she speaks to Yusuf himself. And on her grandfather's birthday, she arranges a reunion between Yusuf and Baldev.

The ad has got an overwhelming response on YouTube. "A viewer told me that his grandfather handed his business to his associates, when he moved to India after the Partition. After seeing the ad, he looked it up, and found it thriving. Now he's planning to connect with them again," says Sharma. The production team were teary-eyed even after they had watched it a million times during editing, says Nayak.

"The real magic happened on the sets," says Sharma. Badola and Sathyu knew each other from before and would often tease each other on the sets. They have been lauded for their performances, especially the moment they meet each other for the first time. "It was a very emotional moment. Two children who separated when they were 12 and see each other for the first time as 80-year-old grandfathers," says Sharma. "I don't work on a computer and I have no idea what Google is. But I am glad to be a part of what I thought was a very sentimental story," says Sathyu.

The original ad, almost five-minute long, was cut down to its current length of three and a half minutes. Ghosh says, "There were some light and touching moments, for instance when I drive my grandfather around on a Scooty and he tells me of his old friend. There is also a beautiful shot of them dancing in the rain."

With the ad going viral, people from India, Pakistan and abroad are sharing their Partition stories over social media. "What's interesting is that the younger generation have only heard stories about Partition, so it's fantastic to see them so attached to the story," says Sharma.

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