May 13, 2010

Publicity rules

What do Badmaash Company, Housefull before that and Kites, the next biggie on the anvil, have in common? Besides being big-ticket releases, the movies have made news for myriad reasons that have little to do with filmmaking and more with film publicity. The larger gamut of publicity fell into three broad categories: a) rumoured romance between the lead pair b) alleged differences between team members (producer, director, actresses etc) and c) opening collections for the first two films.

Of course, with Kites, the buzz has predominantly been about the smoking hot chemistry between Hrithik Roshan and his co-star Barbara Mori. Mori, during her visit and stay to promote the film, was nonchalant about the rumours, dismissing it as the standard practice followed by the filmi media the world over.

Hrithik too seems unruffled when questions about their link-up are raked. Was the story a figment of the media’s imagination? Or a time-tested promotional gimmick created by the publicity machinery? Well, nobody will quite know. Truth be told, link-up stories between co-stars are old hat and a pretty convenient way to keep the auds guessing. The production house bosses, publicists and producers are all part of this trickery. Another convenient gimmick trotted out concerns spats between co-actors. This works particularly well when two or three actresses form part of the team.

A young actor who was linked with his co-star before the release of his movie fessed up that the production house had circulated the stories even though he had made his discomfort about it known. For yet another film, the link-up tactics were abandoned in favour of news about a senior actor on the team and the youngster in question sharing cold vibes!

Frankly, these rumours hardly ever bother hard-nosed producers willing to try just about any trick in the book to make movies work.

One such producer scoffed when I pointed out that such rumours could damage personal relationships and reputations. “Everyone in the industry knows these are publicity stunts. It doesn’t affect anyone,” he reiterated.

However, he took umbrage to the fact that the media was recklessly quoting astronomical star prices resulting in stars making unreasonable demands!

“These claims of multi-crore deals are rubbish and planted by the stars themselves. The media should verify these claims,” he retorted.

Yet another oft-used gimmick is that of declaring a movie as ‘super-hit’ with box-office figures that just don’t add up. One would have imagined that the introduction of corporate practices would result in greater transparency. But no such luck. Collection figures for most movies remain (to use a favourite cliché) shrouded in mystery. Fantastic weekend collections announced by production houses are often dismissed by trade analysts and industry insiders as bogus. Some feel that such premature declaration of a hit is a preemptive measure to safeguard business against scathing reviews or poor word-of-mouse (posts on the Internet). Now, this is the part that could affect the aam aadmi, particularly those who have invested in the media and entertainment companies. Reading between the lines for the stakeholders would certainly be a good idea.