Trust Ekta Kapoor to do the unthinkable. For the first time in the history of Hindi films, the producer has used consumer research as a tool to make casting decisions for her upcoming biggie, Rock The Shaadi. But although lead actor Abhay Deol’s pairing with Katrina Kaif was high on the rate charts, it was Genelia D’Souza who topped the likeability test amongst other options.
And Ekta is content with the results. "Genelia was one of our choices even before we did the research. We’re glad the sample’s choice matched ours," says the TV czarina, adding that Genelia is "extremely popular with the youth and families". "It’s proven by the number of brands she endorses."
Ekta’s Balaji Telefilms, which has its own research cell to monitor responses for its TV serials on a weekly basis, conducted the research in eight major Indian cities. The sample size of audience was around 600 in each city in the age group of 15 to 25. Abhay was a constant since he had already signed as the male lead.
According to Ekta, the idea "came up during a brainstorming session with our co-producers and senior members of the Balaji Motion Pictures". "We often use research for pre-release marketing, so why not extend it to casting as well?" she says. Among several parameters, the on-screen pairs were rated on the excitement to watch them together, how they look and their appeal among the youth. "With this, you’re actually engaging your end-consumer in helping you to decide what they are going going to eventually pay for," says Ekta, adding that it enables you to "make a more informed judgment, so the call is not based entirely on gut."
Although Ekta is happy with the results, she isn’t really planning to make it a regular affair: "There’s no rule of thumb. For some films, casting is a no-brainer. Films that are designed for a specific kind of audience or in situations where one is not entirely sure whether A works better or B, research comes handy."