On Friday, May 11, this year, Yash Raj Films’ Ishaqzaade hit theatres and promptly sprinted to the bank with a Rs. 16 crore weekend kitty. Habib Faisal’s tale of star-crossed lovers starring debutant Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra was a superhit even as it received mixed reviews.
But even before the film’s first scene, Ishaqzaade gave viewers something extra – a 1.31-second first-look at the upcoming Ek Tha Tiger (ETT) that went on to become a hit in cyberspace. Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap tweeted, "Ek Tha Tiger’s trailer is super awesome... very slick and very intriguing... jaldi dikhao sir.”
Then, on the following Friday, the teaser popped up on screens bang in the midst of Arjun and Parineeti’s gunshots and kisses. Wrapped in a dusty shawl, Salman Khan fired guns, leapt off roofs, ratted down cobblestone streets in wooden crates and signed off with his silhouette against the Istanbul skyline. The response was unanimously overwhelming. It almost seemed like Ishaqzaade was attached to the ETT trailer instead of the other way around.
Son of sardar: A sneak peek of Ajay Devgn’s Son of Sardar in a darkened theatre is worth the money
Peek a movie
Fast forward to August 15, Ek Tha Tiger opened to massive success. But before Kabir Khan’s kitschy spy romance could smash the Rs. 200 crore ceiling, it had to share a tiny portion of the spotlight with another teaser – an abrupt montage for Yash Chopra’s untitled directorial comeback that comes out this Diwali.
The Shah Rukh Khan-Katrina Kaif-Anushka Sharma teaser managed, in its own little way, to upstage the biggest theatrical blitzkrieg of the year. The impact was instantaneous.
Picking where and when to show off the first look of a new film is the smartest new move in movie marketing. “This is something that has really come into being with the advent of multiplexes and the back-to-back releases of several films all vying for play-out in theatres,” says Rafiq Gangjee, marketing head for Yash Raj Films.
The strategy is not just for film production and distribution behemoths. An exciting trailer will arouse curiosity even if it’s attached to a small film. Case in point, the teaser of English Vinglish, the tri-lingual film touted as Sridevi’s comeback. The promo slipped into theatres during Ferrari Ki Sawari, and featured Sridevi as an English-challenged housewife, reading out the film’s censor certificate.
“At that time, FKS was the only film that our distributor, Eros, was releasing,” recalls English Vinglish producer R Balki, who was responsible for the teaser concept. “Even if it was a small film, it was appropriate.” The teaser also released online simultaneously and garnered one million hits in seven days on YouTube. The film then tied up with PVR, its promos popping up during screenings of Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi and Ek Tha Tiger, while the film itself readied for a gala premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). With a debut like that, did it need a kick-ass trailer after all? “There’s no second guessing its impact,” admits Balki.
Ek Tha Tiger: Ishaqzaade gave viewers something extra – a 1.31 second first-look at Ek Tha Tiger
Shroff explains the typical marketing rollout for a film: “A 60-to-90-second teaser is released four months prior to the film’s release. This is followed by a two-and-a-half- minute trailer three months before the film hits theatres. The music is usually released six weeks before release and press interactions, live events and brand tie-ups are put into place two weeks before D-day.” Attaching a trailer to a film helps track how many people have seen it. But trailers also release independently, filling up the Next Change slot that all theatre-owners have.
“A trailer is the most important marketing tool a film can have.”
That explains why trailers now have independent clout in the publicity machinery of a film, often meriting stand alone-events and brand associations with the film or its cast. English Vinglish’s full-length trailer was unveiled at a special media event in Mumbai on Sridevi’s birthday, August 13. Trailing trailers
Devika Shroff, marketing head for Excel Entertainment, stresses the importance of a trailer strategy. “Trailer launches have been proven to be quite effective,” she says explaining how the press is invited to view the trailer and gets a brief Q&A with the big names, making the launch an event in itself.
Trailers are especially crucial to create the right first impression for a smaller release. Two years ago, actor-director Aamir Bashir’s film on Kashmir, Harud, was selected for a world premiere at TIFF. As soon as the film was selected, producer Rucha Pathak sent out a trailer on their website so film buffs, sales agents and critics worldwide could get a taste of what the film was about.
ZNMD: The trailer for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara highlighted the film’s key elements
She recalls how the trailer for Excel’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara played a major role in promoting the film. “We wanted to establish the fact that it’s a film about three friends on a road trip,” she says. “We wanted the audience to take away the following elements: friends, holiday, Spain, adventure.” These were deliberately put in through scenes, dialogue and accompanying text.
As the industry wakes up to the financial and creative importance of a good teaser or trailer, a parallel industry focused solely on cutting, editing and curating trailers has mushroomed. Producers have upped trailer budgets from R4 lakh to R5 lakh a couple of years ago to the vicinity of R25 lakh today. The first look of a film is no longer a matter of some in-house splicing song and dance vignettes. It’s treated as a film in its own right, always cut by a specialist.
“Audiences today are instinctive, and get a feel of the film immediately – it can make or break a film,” says Chinni Nihalani, the creative head at PromoShop, which worked on the trailers of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Don 2 and Aamir Khan’s next, Talaash. He says it takes anywhere between three to four weeks to perfect a promo film about two minutes long.
Theatre or Twitter?
All filmmakers acknowledge that it makes good business sense to exploit theatrical releases as well as online media. The jackpot of course is when a trailer goes viral, earning a million hits and all that free publicity just on the basis of the few morsels you’ve carefully let out. Balki, also the chairman and chief creative officer at the ad firm Lowe Lintas India, affirms that both theatre and online media complement each other. But he does add that an online response tags a little behind the real-time, heart-thumping instant viewer response in a theatre.
Gangjee agrees “What is great about theatres is the thrill of immediate audience reactions. That’s when you know if it’s working. Online viewers get into analyses and react or comment after discussions and thought. The ETT trailer got us over six million hits online, but in theatres, that response is measured by whistles!”
Nihalani says the Internet is an “on-demand youth medium”, but there is “something very old-school about sitting in a movie hall, and watching a forthcoming movie trailer”. Shroff sees the darkened cinema hall, with its captive audience, as the base catchment area. “You eventually watch the film in a theatre. When you are in a cinema, the mindset is that of the ‘movies’; not only do you want to watch the current film, that you have already purchased a ticket for, but you also want to know what lies ahead.”
Talaash: A two-minute promo of Talaash could take between three to four weeks to create
For viewers though, artfully orchestrated sneak peeks only provide tasty amuse bouches for the film itself. You may have read with much delight the shenanigans between Yash Chopra’s romance and Ajay Devgn’s Son of Sardar, both of which have a November release – and are indulging in good-natured hectoring – spawning headlines like “Ajay versus Shah Rukh, why Bollywood can’t afford a Diwali clash!”. But catching an unexpected glimpse of a Khan or Devgn in a nifty little teaser, while you munch popcorn in the dark… that’s the stuff Bollyphiles thrive on firstname.lastname@example.org
From HT Brunch, September 9
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