Posters for a new TV show called M.O.M. – The Women Behind Mission Mangal, produced by Ekta Kapoor and distributed by AltBalaji, look strange. One poster shows four women, presumably the show’s protagonists, flanking a large rocket in the centre that appears to be a Russian Soyuz launcher. Another shows their faces lined up over an ascending NASA Space Shuttle. However, ISRO launched the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) in November 2013 with a PSLV XL rocket.
I wrote this up for The Wire, using it as an opportunity to discuss ISRO’s image-sharing policies and the still-ambiguous guidelines that surround it (over and beyond the Indian government’s occasional tendency to change URL structures on official websites without so much as a 302 redirect). Once my piece was published, I promptly received a call from an AltBalaji spokesperson who said they were “contractually obligated” to not use any official symbols or names because the show was a fictional adaptation.
This was news to me if only because Kapoor had written on Instagram that the show was “partly fictional”, as well as another reason. AltBalaji’s marketing exercise clearly wants to ride the wave of popularity that ISRO’s MOM continues to enjoy. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t have tried to shoehorn the show’s name into the same acronym, instead of picking the 17,575 other options it had. According to AltBalaji’s statement, their M.O.M. stands for “Mission Over Mars”, which doesn’t even make sense – but hey.
With some snooping around, I also found that while NASA had a pretty relaxed image-sharing policy, exempting the use of the Space Shuttle image on poster #2, Roscosmos is stricter: reusing its images for commercial purposes requires permission first. Based on my conversation with AltBalaji, it didn’t seem like they’d obtained such permission. As @zingaroo pointed out on Twitter, the producers could simply have used the image of a completely made-up rocket, obviating the need to receive anyone’s permission.
They didn’t, which only makes it seem more and more like there’s an opportunism at work here that AltBalaji won’t admit to but will still cash in on, all the while providing a confused picture of what really is going on.