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Will a selective promotional drive for Ittefaq set a trend for other films in Bollywood?

Films such as Raees and Mubarakan made money, but the trade experts were not wrong in their conclusion that these films’ high promotional budget narrowed their profit margins.

bollywood Updated: Nov 02, 2017 18:33 IST
Rohit Vats
Rohit Vats
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ittefaq,Sidharth Malhotra,Sonakshi Sinha
Ittefaq is directed by debutant Abhay Chopra.

This year has seen some upheaval in the Hindi film industry. While hugely marketed films like Tubelight, Jab Harry Met Sejal and Rangoon failed to set the box office on fire, relatively small films like Bareilly Ki Barfi, Newton and Hindi Medium received footfalls beyond expectations.

Films such as Raees and Mubarakan made money, but the trade experts were not wrong in their conclusion that these films’ high promotional budget narrowed their profit margins.

Raees, which released alongside Kaabil during the Republic Day weekend in January, earned more than Rs 137 crore in the domestic market. Its production cost was slightly above Rs 70 crore, but it ended up becoming a Rs 120 crore film, thanks to its long promotional drive.

If you take into account the film’s total collection including from the overseas market and then deduct the entertainment tax from the film’s business tally, the profit on such a significant investment seems limited.

Recently, while announcing his next production venture Ittefaq, Karan Johar, one of Bollywood’s deep-pocketed producers, said that he was going low-key on the pre-release campaign. He said that he is doing so because he doesn’t want to let any spoiler reach the audience before the film’s release. This is what he said, “We want to protect the intrigue, mystery and thrilling point of the film. When actors go out for film promotions that time in a media interview, they reveal facts and details of the plot. So, B.R. Films, Shah Rukh Khan and myself, we all have mutually decided to protect the content of the film.”

He also said, “With this film, we are not going to do any promotions, we will not go to any reality TV show to promote the film and we will not have media interviews and media presence either. We respect media but it’s our new strategy that we want to protect content of the film because with this film, I feel less is more.”

Such a tactic makes sense because the same strategy can’t be followed through the year as most of the longer weekends have been blocked by more than one big budget film. Or, can this be the result of a situation when heavily promoted films tanked at the box office? It has been the case even with star vehicles this year.

Rajesh Thadani, film trade expert, says, “They (Ittefaq makers) are going low-key. It could be a strategy or maybe they don’t want to spend much on publicity and advertising. They are also not going for a very wide release and they don’t want expectations to be sky high, because most of the other films are doing promotion and advertising. Even if it’s experimental it will still save the P&A budget.”

When asked about the reason behind the new campaign strategy for Ittefaq, marketing head of Red Chillies - co-producer of the film, Binda Dey, says, “When we are talking about no promotions, we are only talking about PR interviews, city tours etc. We are still doing radio, TV and print plans in the usual way. Interestingly, when we are not doing the actors’ interviews, our dependency on the media increases even more. So, it’s actually not about cutting the budget and making the movie profitable. In fact, it’s on the higher side.”

She adds, “We wanted to build intrigue around our film. It is 100-minutes of tight content. We wanted to keep the campaign period short like 30 days. It’s a whodunit after a long time and we built a campaign around it. Probably I won’t follow the same template for another movie. This is a particular strategy.”

So, while Ittefaq reined in its campaign as part of a strategy, should the filmmakers think about controlling the ever-rising publicity cost? Thadani says, “Yes, they should because most of the time it’s the P and A budget that makes or breaks a film. Sometimes even a good film is labelled a flop because it doesn’t cover the marketing cost.”

However, at this point of time, it seems unlikely Bollywood would scale down the promotional budgets of films. If a film isn’t promoted, it may even lose its brand value among the audience as very few films catch-up at the ticket window due to a positive word of mouth.

As Thadani sums it up, “You need some kind of unity among producers to break away from a trend like this and that might be a problem.”

Interact with Rohit Vats at Twitter/@nawabjha

First Published: Nov 02, 2017 17:11 IST