Shah Rukh Khan can write a book on carpet bombing. He’s everywhere promoting his Chennai Express. He’s romancing supermoms, serenading Madhuri Dixit on national television, matching his wits with Madhubala’s RK and what’s more he’s done a double appearance on Comedy Nights with Kapil. To rephrase the by-now famous dialogue from his forthcoming film, SRK ki dictionary mein overselling ka shabd hi nahin hai.
The way business is conducted in Bollywood these days, overselling is hardly a bad word. Given that film business is now primarily about the opening weekend —everybody wants to make the big killing in the first three days. Promotion and publicity thus become important cornerstones. A star’s job doesn’t wrap up with the film’s shooting, he has to then become a salesman and sell his movie to everyone. Studios now pencil in the number of promotion days in the contract of stars.
Everyone wants to stand out in the promotion free fall. Appearance on reality shows are passé. Everyone’s looking for the big idea — a clutter breaker of an idea that adds the instant recall value to the film. Think back to Vidya Balan promoting Kahaani as a heavily pregnant woman just like her character Vidya Bagchi. The film’s promotion team initiated a campaign with “Missing” posters of Arnab Bagchi plastered across town. Balan was made to go to local train stations to search for him. People whose loved ones have gone missing might have found the idea to be tasteless but as a promotion gimmick it worked. It got eyeballs and for a small film like Kahaani, it translated into box office numbers. Incidentally when the same idea was repeated for Ghanchhakar with Balan going everywhere dressed up as her OTT fashion disaster character Neetu, it didn’t click. Both the campaign and the film bombed.
Senseless promotions don’t work. Smart is what clicks and the basic rule is that everything should be about the film. Ekta Kapoor recently threw a grand iftaar party to promote her Independence Day release Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobaara (OUATIMD). It was a lavish affair attended by heavyweights from politics and Bollywood. Akshay Kumar in a pathani suit posed happily with Emraan Hashmi who played the character of Shoaib in the prequel. The vibe and the ambience of the party was a perfect representation of the world of OUATIMD. That’s a good sell.