You have to hand it to Aamir Khan. Almost 50, he is the undisputed shahenshah of marketing in Bollywood. For each of his films, Khan has devised innovative strategies that ensure he becomes a trending topic within hours of launching a new campaign.
With ‘Ghajini’, Aamir generated monumental buzz by having ushers in cinemas across the country sport his character’s signature buzz cut. Earlier, he piqued curiosity by flaunting an impressive handlebar moustache prior to the release of ‘Mangal Pandey’. For his home production ‘Delhi Belly’, starring nephew Imran, the spinmeister promoted a feisty music video that exhorted a certain DK Bose to make a run for it. ‘For Dhoom 3’, Aamir ensured that he posed for the press in a bowler hat for weeks leading up to the film’s premiere.
A few days ago, an unsuspecting nation awoke to find the diminutive Khan peering at them in full-page newspaper ads wearing little more than a befuddled expression. From DK Bose to PK, AK has proved that he is in fine fettle, unafraid to pose naked, if necessary, to generate publicity for his forthcoming film.
Expectedly, the media erupted in an uproar and regardless of whether you were leftist, rightist, feminist or being humanist, everybody, it seems, had an opinion on the poster of ‘PK’.
Some lamented that the thinking woman’s sex thimble had betrayed them with his nangu-pangu antics. Others were offended by this “obscenity” and irately filed PILs in remote corners of the land. Snide comments were posted asking what was the need for AK to carry a bulky 2-in-1 transistor radio to preserve his modesty when an iPod could have easily sufficed.
Memes sprang up featuring Shah Rukh from ‘My Name Is Khan’. Salman bhakts were quick to point out that their Bhai didn’t need to resort to such gimmicks to garner Rs..200 crore at the box office. Front-page accusations of plagiarism were made, featuring a similarly unclad musician posing with a strategically placed accordion. Speculation was rife whether AK plays an alien in ‘PK’ and, if so, why was he standing naked on a railway track of all places.
I can just imagine Aamir Khan observing this brouhaha with a satisfied smile playing across his otherwise inscrutable face. The decision to pose in the buff was a brave, even risky one, but it has yielded rich dividend. This quantum of publicity simply can’t be purchased or, indeed, calculated. To paraphrase Arnab Goswami, the nation wants to know what ‘PK’ is all about. And for that, they will have to go watch the movie.
Aamir possesses neither the charisma of Shah Rukh, the spontaneity of Salman nor the physique of Hrithik. What he possesses is acting chops and an abundance of chutzpah. There are many contenders to the Bollywood throne, but it is the astute AK who enjoys the mantle of king of the box office. And for that, you need both method and madness in equal measure.