Superstars Turn Star-salesmen
A Bollywood buff since its bygone era, reading the above news I was shocked and amused at the same time on the sea change advertising has gone through in the industry since the early years of Hindi cinema. Actually, producers never promoted their movies, much less the stars. Having finished the film, they had done their job, and now they just had to wait for the viewers' verdict. Advertising was entirely left to the distributors and exhibitors, who did it by putting billboards and posters of their forthcoming films on the city streets and the cinema halls where the film was to be released, apart from exhibiting some stills from the film in the lobby of the theaters. As time progressed, they started showing trailer of the film with the movie currently running. That was it as far as film promotion went. From the early decades of cinema I can recollect only two instances of exception when stars and producers did play a role in promotional effort:
The time was early 1940s when singer-actor Surendra's film Gharib was to be released. It was Surendra's first film after his near fatal accident during a film shooting which kept him hospitalized for over six months. The distributer, instead of showing the trailer of the film, showed an interesting 2-reeler short on how the hugely popular actor spent his time with doctors and nurses in the hospital and who all the celebrities and dignitaries were who came there to wish him speedy recovery and most interestingly, the postman carrying cartons full of his fan-mail to the hospital every day. It was, indeed, a unique way to profit by star's popularity to promote his film.
The second example was the enthusiastic participation of film industry's all time super showman, Raj Kapoor, in promoting pictures produced by him in 50s, 60s and 70s, the Golden era of Hindi Cinema. He made it a point not only to be personally present at the premier of his films in prominent cities, particularly Delhi, his most favorite, but also to address the audience on salient features of his film. Later, some other stars and producers followed suite and would appear in theaters on the premier night.
That was then, now it is entirely a different scenario. Bollywood is going through a crazy trend of promotional era where the stars are beating each other in the race to promote their respective films. They have to adopt new and interactive ways to promote their films. Star's promotion of movies is a must today, as much as his good performance in it. Most of the time they are under the producer's pressure to do uncommon things to promote their movies. If one is doing it, then another has to do it as well because it becomes an expectation for the audience to watch such things. Superstar Aamir Khan travelled across the country in disguise, Shahid Kapoor and Genelia D'Souza spent a night together in a car, Amitabh Bachchan read news on a TV channel, while actress Neha Dhupia threw condoms at a college crowd – all this to publicize their films. After these unusual activities were successful in creating a positive buzz around the films, it has now triggered a new race for fresh and more aggressive marketing methods. Shahid Kapoor reportedly turned weather forecaster for a day to promote his film Mausam. Amitabh Bachchan turned guest principal of colleges across the countries for Aarakshan. Mallika Sherawat made jalebis to promote the song Jalebi bai for Double Dhamaal. Ekta Kapoor promoted naughty threesome parties during the promotions of Ragini MMS. Ranbir Kapoor milked cows to promote Rockstar. Tusshar Kapoor turned bootlegger and earned money from selling books on the streets for the promotion of Shor In The City.
In earlier times the stars used to do their bit sincerely and were never part of promoting the films. These days the actors are begging the audience to watch film and doing cheap publicity like distributing money, dancing on the popular television shows and shamelessly doing any and every action to promote their future films. And with the importance given to marketing and promotions, no one’s blaming them. From tattoos to haircuts, merchandise to trips to the most interior areas of India, actors and actresses are leaving no stone unturned to publicize their film well before it releases. Who says only films can be entertaining? The antics and promotion gimmicks used by film stars to promote their flicks has become even more amusing and entertaining. It is all for box office and the magic Friday when film actually releases. Wonder does this really pay? The answer maybe yes, the hike they create rakes in huge opening weekend returns. And this is all that matters and makes everyone happy if the superstars turn star- salesmen.
And this is very serious business. Since 70 percent of the earnings typically come within the first week of the movie’s release, marketing virtually shapes the film’s destiny, says producer Riteish Sadhwani of Excel Productions.