Writing about Sangeetha Janachandran – is like telling the story of the storyteller. A PhD scholar in Social Media and Communications, whose thesis on the ‘Evolution of communication in the age of social media-a case study of Kerala’, was one of the initial researches in Bangalore University on social media – she has been invested in storytelling and social media from the age of Orkut and Blogging.
Being the topper in Calicut university in BA Functional English and in Bangalore university for MS Communication -her laurels in literature and studies could in itself account for a story. But I’m more fascinated in the journey of this ‘butterfly’ (her blogworld name from 2008) – who would hug and talk for endless hours, who would blog so melodiously about hand-picked songs and sing for you whenever you ask, who would have adorable pet names for each one in the group like luttapi, chakkara, muthu and call them all with equal passion! Her warmth and compassion for every single person in her journey cannot be contained in the words here – if you have been a part of her journey, you would just know.
I’m fascinated with the metamorphosis of this carefree butterfly into the ‘penning butterfly’ of Malayalam Movie Marketing. Movie Marketing across India is a male-dominated industry with a few exceptions. Mollywood alone has very few females like Seetha Lakshmi, Manju Gopinath, Athira Diljith and Sangeetha Janachandran (Stories Social) as the marketing and media planners of movies.
Publicity and promotions of movies in Kerala has evolved much from the simple poster designing and televised interviews to a vast expanse of activities. Sangeetha takes the untrodden route of the complete gamut of online + traditional movie marketing here. While the rest primarily focus on media co-ordinations. Stories Social does entire movie marketing and communications- it encompasses PR, Social Media, Offline Activations, Alternate Platform TieUps, service provider tie ups, Digital and OTT. The efforts behind such a coordination is more than what I can list here and to take the onus of that single-handedly and come out successful is admirable. Stories Social was launched in May, 2020 amidst all the chaos of Coronavirus! In one of her interviews recently, the host describes her as a ‘pheonix’ rather than a butterfly – and I should say I’m tempted to steal those words.
Sangeetha took a very conscious and bold choice as she stepped into handling celebrity accounts, Kochi Music Foundation and W.C.C. All of it had endless online, verbal abuse and she took it all in as she managed these accounts. Malayalam movie buffs should ideally take pride in educated women like her who carve spaces for the future females and explore the unexplored roles behind the screen – but as you can see that doesn’t happen here. Having a female voice in promoting movies is more critical than we can imagine because movies often mould the minds of the young and how you project them, makes a lot of difference to the society.
Opening up on her journey through these less travelled roads – Sangeetha said that she has been working as a communications professional handling PR and corporate communications since 2006 soon after her MS in Communications. The academic in her couldn’t help commenting to make a note that it is not MA (the art of communication) but the science of communication she took up 😊. She was picked as one of the 10 staff in India of Vox Public Relations(subsidiary of Text 100 Public relations) and started her stint of PR in the software industry with IT giants like IBM, BMW and American Express Bank.
2008 was a major turn in her life with a brief but hard struggle with tuberculosis and a sudden arranged marriage which took her to Dubai. While she was on a break from work for her son’s birth and initial few months, she continued to freelance and study just to stay connected. In Dubai, she worked for the Kalyan Jewellers family and other brands Like Aster group through an agency and got her first film – Odiyan. In 2013, she reapplied for a PhD in Bangalore University and moved to Bangalore to complete the course. This bit, albeit sounding like a cake walk – was the walk on fire that would strengthen her. Her lone days prepared her for starting afresh and alone with her child in Cochin.
2018 – a decade later, she found another turn. The public hatred that her soul sister and actress Parvathy Thiruvothu and W.C. C received impacted her deep enough to volunteer for them as their social media manager. What ensued was unbelievable verbal abuse from the public. While I could sum the event in 10 words – it is much harder to explain what one emotionally undergoes. All the negativity and abuse for something we did not do or for a cause we dared to stand up for. It is extremely easy for many to brush WCC off as an unwanted ‘feminist’ fashion. It is tough to convince that people who fight for the cause of justice for females in the movie industry today, very well knowingly take the heat for making the place better for future generations.
Sangeetha’s immensely grateful to her parents and sister for the freedom they gave in making these choices and the trust they had in her all along. It wasn’t easy and they feared for her health, but they gave the wings to her dreams by being the pillar she needed at all times.
2018 also gave Sangeetha the film ‘Uyare’ which was her first independent project. She calls Uyare ‘her bravest and most precious first in her journey’ as she found a foothold after deciding to start on her own and years of abandonment that came along with that hard decision. From there, it was a steady stream of beautiful projects like Kochi Music Foundation, Virus, Android Kunjappan version 5.25, Anugraheethan Antony, Aaha, One Movie, Minnal Murali, Varthamanam etc. As she weaves out beautiful stories for each one of her projects giving them the much-deserved zenith of success in people’s heart and box offices, she says that she picks projects that tell a good story!
“I thrive in stories. I always have and you would know. My email signature is ‘we are the stories we tell ourselves’ – and I believe in that”. We all do I thought as she said her signature line. We all love stories. But, to be able to fall and pick up ourselves with a new story and to weave loads of positive ones out there for everyone else while getting a steady stream of negativity is not an easy story in itself 😊 While Sangeetha and her ‘Stories Social’ take wings in the Malayalam movie industry, here is hope that Kerala will have many proud, progressive, feminist stories for the future.