By Priyanka Bhadani
Making a film is no mean feat. But once the film is complete and is up for release, the difficult part is to create the right buzz about it across a cross-section of cinegoers. The best way to reach out to the masses then is to address them directly and that’s why more and more films travel to different cities with its casts and go all out to connect with the masses in malls, youngsters in colleges, viewers in theatres etc.
In an attempt to create the right buzz and connect with viewers, Farhan Akhtar along with his Fukrey team visited colleges across the country, sharing chai and samosas with the college kids. In keeping with the theme of the film, Vidyut Jamwal, too performed stunts at different places to create the right buzz for Commando. It would not be wrong to state then, that film promotions require the cast of the film to be on its toes. Little wonder then, the frenetic pace and energy with which these drives are undertaken led Ranbir Kapoor to state that he felt like a “salesman” while promoting Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Shah Rukh Khan had even gone on to compare these multi-city promotional tours to “election yatras”. During the promotion of Don 2, he had tweeted: “Off to Ahmedabad, kem cho?? And then Jaipur, Ghani khamma!! Our promotions feel a little like yatras during election times… ha ha.” This was in 2012.
Cut to present day. We have completed the first half of 2014 and although Shah Rukh’s statement seems apt, there’s a slight twist — the films that travel to multi-cities for promotions are mostly those that have a younger/new star cast; established stars are increasingly keeping the promotions limited to few cities.
Salman Khan, while promoting Jai Ho restricted himself to a limited number of cities. Except for his hometown Indore and the customary Delhi, he had only visited Ahmedabad. The film became one of the highest grosser in the first half of the year by crossing the Rs.100 crore mark. Promotions for the Priyanka Chopra-Arjun Kapoor-Ranveer Singh starrer, Gunday was limited to Delhi and Dubai. It did good business as it crossed the Rs.75 crore mark. Dedh Ishqiya that starred Madhuri Dixit Nene and Naseeruddin Shah, was promoted in Delhi only.
A noticeable trend this year has been that while big star films limit the promotions to select cities, films with newcomers or small budget films undertake mult-city tours, that could even stretch to 10 cities in some cases. For instance, 2 States went for a 10-city promotion that included the customary Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Pune, Indore, Chandigarh, Kolkata among others. Tiger Shroff went to five cities in India and also covered Dubai to promote his first film Heropanti that has crossed Rs.50 crore at the box-office. The recently released Ek Villain starring Sidharth Malhotra and Shradha Kapoor that has already raked in over Rs.81 crore was promoted across six cities including Kolkata, Jaipur, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Indore.
Building a connect
The marketing strategists associated with these films think it’s important to go and tell the public about the film and connect with them, especially when the cast is fresh, new or young. The films with established names manage to do good business even when the promotion is low key. Producer Vipul Shah says that they skipped going to various places for Akshay Kumar starrer Holiday A Soldier Is Never Off Duty and still made good money.
Prabhat Choudhary of Spice Bhasha, a marketing communications agency that has handled films like Jai Ho, Heropanti, Ragini MMS etc, says that multi-city promotions was on top of the agenda in their promotional strategy. “Now, it has evolved. Just going for a customary visit to a town/city doesn’t help much into translating into good business as the public in most of these places have become immune to regular promotional events,” he remarks and adds that a new pattern is emerging in terms of marketing the film well by making a connect with people.
Citing the example of Ragini MMS 2, Choudhary explains that besides the regular regions, the film was promoted in three different cities — Chandigarh, Jalandhar and Ludhiana, because the song Baby doll… with Punjabi lyrics became hugely popular in the area. “Surprisingly, that’s an area where genres like horror or thriller doesn’t work that well, but Ragini.. worked probably because we created a connect by promoting the song in the region,” says Choudhary.
“Visiting six to eight cities is a norm these days, especially when it’s a young cast,” says Tanuj Garg, CEO, Balaji Motion Pictures, who thinks it isn’t about the costs involved in going to these cities, but tapping the target audience. “For Ek Villain, considering we had a young cast, we went to usually uncovered cities like Jaipur and Indore and have seen good business from those regions,” says Garg, adding that the activity wasn’t just confined to interacting with the public but doing interesting activities. “We wanted the film to come across as a dark-sinister thriller. So, we followed a macro-strategy across cities and our marketing team had designed villain hoodies and smiley masks that Riteish and Sidharth wore at the promotions. It created a lot of interest, intrigue and curiosity at the same time,” he says. The marketing team was sure that the film would do well, when the crowd at these promotional events started shouting the characteristic line from the film, ‘Ae Villain’, while addressing the cast.
Amrita Pandey, Vice-President and Head, Marketing and Distribution, Studios, Disney India, who was involved in planning the marketing of the film, Heropanti, says considering the film had a new star cast, it was a huge responsibility for the team to plan well-designed marketing strategies to launch new talent, and multi-city tours only made sense in reaching out to people. “The action in Heropanti goes beyond stereotypes and includes complex martial arts like Parkour that has never been seen in Indian cinema before. So we were very clear that the positioning had to be youthful and action-packed and thus the campaign was meticulously planned with brainstorming sessions with Sajid Nadiadwala, director Sabbir Khan, Spice (media promotion team) and our team —all contributed to the success of the campaign,” says Amrita as she talks about Tiger Shroff visiting Varanasi that is an unusual choice to promote films.
In fact, the call to go to the temple city was taken because Shroff is a big Shiva bhakt. However, the team wanted it to be more than just a regular visit and thus special activities were planned. “Tiger performed stunts at the Tulsi ghat which succeeded in getting a lot of media mileage resulting into good business from that region,” says a Disney-UTV employee, who thinks going to different cities and customising the event is a great way to connect with the locals.
Big gains, limited exposure
Even as the younger actors made efforts to assure that their films attracted attention, the established stars relied more on their star-power. Publicist Parul Gossain, who was associated with Dedh Ishqiya, says that there was so much hype around the movie because of it being Madhuri Dixit Nene’s comeback movie that a multi-city tour wasn’t required.
Choudhary, too echoes a similar sentiment, stating that it didn’t make sense to take Salman Khan to a city only for an interaction. “You take the star to a city where there’s an inherent connect, rather than it just being a distribution exercise,” says Choudhary explaining why Indore, Salman’s hometown, was chosen for promotions over any other city.
Only time will tell, whether this trend of multi city promotional tours gains impetus or loses steam in the coming years. Sidharth Kadam, an executive from the marketing team of Dharma Productions, cites two of the biggest releases of last year — Chennai Express and Dhoom 3. “While the first was promoted extensively across various cities, Dhoom 3 kept a low profile. It all depends on the marketing team and the film’s theme,” says Kadam.
Experts, however, think that it is very difficult to figure out what works in a certain region. “Inherently, a particular kind of content works in certain areas. Like an action film always does well in Rajasthan and a romantic film usually tracks well in Delhi,” says Choudhary.
“But just going to Jaipur with an action film won’t assure that the film will also do well in Rajasthan, it has to be clubbed with interesting activities that creates the right buzz and interest. While, out-of -the-box innovative marketing surely helps, “It has to be clubbed with compelling content and a good product,” concludes Garg.