“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting,” said noted artist Andy Warhol.
Bollywood seems to have taken his words to heart. It has become the new mantra in Bollywood to get the audience chock-full of anticipation for an upcoming film, and the new fad has even surpassed the old one of numerology-induced crazy spellings.
Long, teasing build-ups are now the standard operating procedure leading up to the climax of film making – the release. Promotion and marketing is key to making a movie work. Without it, the film is sure to fail.
Word of mouth surely counts for something, but release a film – no matter of what quality – with great promos, billboards, some active participation from a big Tinsel Town star and the movie is bound to cross the '100 crore mark'.
The posters of Aamir Khan’s ‘PK’ began making headlines five months before its scheduled release. Aamir’s near-naked poster, with just a transistor covering his modesty, turned into a full-blown controversy complete with a court case and prime-time coverage on news channels.
The buzzword from ‘Happy New Year’, Indiawaale, is now capturing the imagination by means of dance shows in different cities of the world, including US, Canada and UK.
Every film’s cast is on some reality show or the other each night on television. On top of that is the superstars’ own Twitter presence, by which they post links to trailers and songs and generate buzz among netizens as well.
The fear of flops is rather minimal for the three big Khans – Aamir, Salman and Shah Rukh. Their names are enough to ensure a huge turnout. But production houses have gotten wiser in making sure they utilise these mega stars as much as possible. Their high visibility around the time of a release works like a magic wand in attracting the public interest – and if the fans ‘can’t wait’ for the movie to release, the job is done.
There are some who are still trying to make good cinema but, since they don’t or can’t employ this marketing juggernaut, they often slip by without attracting any attention.
Rajat Kapoor’s ‘Ankhon Dekhi’ is not a movie many would have heard of. Starring some big names from theatre and television, this low-budget movie was a gem that passed everyone by. It stands out among the plethora of releases in March, though what sets it apart from another good small-budget film, ‘Queen’, is just the difference in marketing. Not surprisingly, ‘Queen’ was one of the few films not to bomb that month.
Anticipation means different things for different people. I, for instance, was eagerly counting down the days to October 2, when ‘Haider’ would release. I would’ve given an arm and an eye to be able to see it first day, first show, but that wasn’t to be. Eventually, I did catch it within its first week.
The trailer had come out two months ago, and it had blown my mind. I suspect that the fans of William Shakespeare, those of Vishal Bhardwaj and a combination of the two (‘Maqbool’, ‘Omkara’) were in the same boat as me.
Fortunately, the film was well publicised, and saw a great response first up, followed by the word of mouth publicity that has taken it beyond the Rs 50 crore-mark. Even though it has not joined the Rs 100 crore club the movie has been picking up due to the positive response it has got.
The quirky ‘Finding Fanny’ also followed a similar path. It knew its target audience, it knew what it had to sell – the performances of its unusual ensemble cast of Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapur, Dimple Kapadia, Deepika Padukone and Arjun Kapoor – and it was able to do so. The movie was not that successful at the BO but the target audience was quite happy with the quirky sense of humour that Homi Adjania brought to the big screen.
Marketing is important, but unfortunately, it is the marketing drives that are seemingly dictating success. Bad movies are gobbling up viewership while better pieces of work are missing out. Smaller films are now trying to steer clear of the bigger dates – the likes of Diwali, Eid and Christmas – so that they can attract some viewers too, and not get lost in the wake of the marketing juggernaut. There is also the all-year-round cricket season to consider, for that has now become a viable alternative to cinema as an entertainment option, especially during the two-month IPL.
It is a tough world out there, and more and more people are taking the easy way out. They are relying on the strategy of spending money on marketing than on making a better product.
Fortunately, things are not as bleak as before for small-budget films. The competition is immense, but big production houses are now more willing to give chances to fresh filmmakers – if nothing else then as a way to keep the wheels turning between mega releases.
Probably a culinary metaphor can explain it best – the buffet has a lot of variety to offer, from light and healthy to heavy and indulgent. And that’s probably why the marketing machinery’s primary task is to make sure the audience is hungry enough.