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Bollywood's bizarre promotional tactics!

Lie-detectors, dangling dummy bodies, sex phone lines... how far will producers go to promote their films? Priyanka Jain studies the trend.

bollywood Updated: Sep 28, 2010 17:35 IST
Priyanka Jain

The most bizarre and creative promotion strategies are being used to promote movies, as competition in the film world only gets tougher and more aggressive with each passing day.

Take the example of a lie-detector instrument, attached to Saregama’s Jhootha Hi Sahi standees, which will be put up at cinema halls. Patrons are required only to answer a question after they place their thumb on it, and if it changes colour, they’re lying.

One such lie-detector card will also be distributed along with the music CD of the movie, which contains the lyrics booklet and an extra karaoke CD with only the instrumental track.

Jhootha Hi Sahi"Audience involvement has been used as a key factor for Jhoota Hi Sahi’s on-ground promotion," says Apurv Nagpal, CEO, Saregama.

Outlandish promotion
Last year, condoms were sent along with an invite to the premiere of Dev D, and a phone line was set up and widely promoted for people to call on and discuss lust and relationships. “The promotion for Dev D was completely outlandish because of the kind of film it was,” says Shikha Kapoor, Senior Vice President, Marketing, UTV Motion Pictures.

Regular film marketing tactics wouldn’t have worked even for a film like Peepli Live, which had an offbeat mix of actors. The director and the cast of the film were initially kept out of promotional rounds while marketing wizard Aamir Khan wore the PR gloves. “We used the viral medium, which is a guerrilla form of marketing, to promote the film. Khan’s presence created space in an already cluttered regular film segment,” says Kapoor.

Director Anusha Rizvi agrees: “Without Aamir’s (Khan) support, the film would have been limited to rounds at the film festivals and a not-so-grand release.”

When news broke about singers of Mahangai dayan (a popular track from Peepli Live) being underpaid, the Badwai mandali from Madhya Pradesh were invited to perform live for the music launch. But the controversy soon died.

Emotional connect
Udaan, a film about a rebellious boy, too, caught eyeballs when the film’s co-producer, Anurag Kashyap, and actor Rajat Barmecha resorted to car bashing in public as part of the film’s promotion.

Kapoor says, “It was destructive but therapeutic and tapped into the need to let out the pent up anger in each of us. Hence it struck a chord with the audience.”

Trying too hard?
But there’s such a thing as trying too hard. When filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma hung a dummy dead body on billboards for the promotion of Agyaat, a police complaint was filed against him. Varma was also asked to get all the billboards removed. The strategy sure backfired, but ended up generating a certain amount of curiosity.

Varma says, “Anything out-of-the-box calls attention. A dummy body hanging would have been a bizarre sight for anyone. Imagine yourself travelling by car and you suddenly come across dead bodies hanging!”