From Super 30 to Zero: Why filmmakers are sacrificing intrigue for long-running marketing campaigns
Be it Vikas Bahl's Super 30 or Anand L. Rai's Zero, filmmakers are choosing long-drawn PR campaigns over curiosity around a movie.
The very first day schedule of Vikas Bahl’s upcoming film Super 30 made news when Hrithik Roshan introduced the look of his character to his followers on social platforms. It’s not even been ten days and another look of his from the same film has become subject of numerous stories. Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt recently tagged along with director Ayan Mukerji for location hunting of their upcoming film Brahmastra in Israel and what came out were loads of images even when the film is yet to roll. Shah Rukh Khan found it logical to gift his fans on the occasion of new year the new look from his upcoming film Zero even when the release is 11 months away. It seems the concept of creating intrigue about a film is now a matter of past and the digital era is forcing filmmakers to believe in the concept of instant gratification and a long sustained period of marketing campaign. ‘Now’ is the buzzword that’s driving filmmakers to adopt it as a new tool for marketing and promotion of a film.
Gone are the days when producers and actors used to cry hoarse and tear their hair seeing one still of their films leaked to magazines and newspapers. The tables have now completely turned. In most cases the images that we get to see these days are ‘official’, meaning thereby that the original source are the producers and actors themselves. The mantra for producers today is more the merrier. With digital practice becoming a major tool, the conventional structure of a film promotion too has undergone a sea of change. The practice gained acceptance after corporations became the movers and shakers of Tinsel town. The urgency and craving for perfection and being a stickler of defined and set norms spilled over to promotions of films. Thus even before shooting a single reel of the film, announcing the release date of a film has become a general practice these days.
The corporate executives in tandem with their PR agencies are assigned the job of preparing a task sheet where promotion related activities are neatly mentioned against stipulated dates. Their only task is to throw crumb to the audiences so that an awareness is created and the film becomes part of public memory. Right from the pre-production stage till the day a film hits theaters, this practice of throwing crumb is religiously followed.
The intrigue element related to an upcoming release, that once used to be a matter of pride for the producer, has taken a serious beating in the digital era. Nothing is out of bounds and so we now are exposed to workshop related news, to day one shooting stills, to making of posters, to interaction of stars after the wrap up of just a mere song even before the actual film has hit theaters. With thousands of hours of content at our disposal and films jostling with each other to gain space in the exhibition mediums, the fight to be visible everywhere has only become intense. The entire duration of the marketing/PR campaign has been stretched further, and now they start even before the film has hit the floors. Films like Brahmastra, Raazi, Gully Boy and Total Dhamaal are perfect examples where every move of the film is being religiously ‘officially’ reported.
With the absence of intrigue and excessive promotional phenomenon taking over, it has more or less killed the cinema experience. The trend gained momentum only in the past few years else it was the traditional practice of launching the trailer first, few clipping of songs, and finally releasing the film. Now this activity too has undergone a further subdivision. The race to be first has taken a toll and it seems no one is ready to take a chance. Shah Rukh Khan and company did their best to cater to as many TV shows as possible to promote their Jab Harry Met Sejal. Every song launch was made into an event which was graced by the stars themselves. Contrast this with Baahubali, when none of the actors appeared on any TV show to promote the film nor made rounds of events to promote them. The world knows the fate of both the films. It’s no rocket science to deduce that the intrigue element towards Shankar’s Robot 2.0 is more compared to Zero for the basic reason that not much is known about Robot 2.0. Similarly, the mystery in which Prabhas’ upcoming film Saaho is wrapped makes us curious to know more about the film compared to Kedarnath.
It was till the 90's when things largely remained in control of producers and they dictated most of the terms. Right from the plot of a film till the look of actors in a film used to be a closely guarded secret. So when Amitabh Bachchan in his Shahenshah gate up appeared in trade and film magazine for the first time or when Anil Kapoor sans his moustache shocked audiences in Lamhe posters days before the film’s release, such activities helped in initiating conversations about the film which used to last till its release. It used to give audiences’ a jig saw puzzle to figure out about the plot of the film. Even a film as recent as Om Shanti Om with just its trailer had managed to created enough buzz in 2007. Now all rules have suffered a metamorphosis and visibility has become the maxima. The effort is now to make a strong punch based on the promotional activity so that the film is able to collect the maximum in its first three days.
Contrast this with films that come from the Marvel or the DC stable, in most cases it’s just the logo sometimes that’s released for public consumption. There’s thought behind each promotional bit on social media, as there’s content, there’s meat. That’s rarely the case with Bollywood. In effect, films that just depended on their trailer or teaser rather than ‘buzz’ creation, naturally got audiences. Bollywood truly understands the meaning of ‘consumer is the king’, but with intrigue becoming a thing of past will theater going experience be the same, remains a million-dollar question.
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