[dropcap]B[/dropcap]e it a big budget movie or a small indie film, solid promotion and marketing strategies are crucial to create enough hype and get those numbers in box office. Pandolin gets directors and trade specialists to shed some light on how they look at marketing. Is it a necessary evil in today’s world?

“Filmmaking has become easy as there are independent financiers ready to fund it. However, the success depends on how one sells it. How does one get people to watch it in the theatres?” questions young filmmaker Mrighdeep Singh Lamba, who is known for his films Fukrey and Teen Thay Bhai.

Two low-budget movies- Filmistaan, and Queen released almost a year after they were shot. Mayank Shekhar, film critic and author, who believes marketing a film is tougher than shooting it, says, “There are 300-400 movies that are ready and lying in the cans. After watching it, producers feel it’s not worth spending so much money on marketing it.”

In the last few years, according to market reports, a film’s Marketing and Promotions (M&P) costs have shot up from 7 to 30 per cent of the project’s total budget. Even the platforms where movies have to be marketed have augmented. Other than the traditional advertising formats like trailers, posters and hoardings, now marketing folks have to take into account TV appearances, multi-city tours, radio spots and the internet. A movie’s release fate is determined by whether it’s worth the marketing budget or not. Lamba believes that although there’s more acceptance in terms of the kinds of movies, things are far from being rosy. “I am disappointed with how marketing has taken over content. Big films with big stars have the money for that kind of promotions. Selling a film today is like selling toothpaste or soap. The more you promote it, the more people remember it when they go to a movie hall. Promotions and marketing have become so central that without them films are lost,” he observes.

His last film, Fukrey, hit the cinema halls in the same month (June 2013) as Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 and Raanjhanaa (both movies’ marketing budgets were higher than the funds spent on making the movies). “We spent a lot of money on promotions for Fukrey, but we couldn’t compete with the major films that were coming out that month resulting in both Fukrey and Queen not getting the desired opening. It gained momentum by word of mouth and ran in the theatres for a longer period of time to make profits. People are ready to watch new stories and new films, but one has to hard sell these films for people to come and watch it in the theatres.”

In an interview, Filmistaan director Nitin Kakkar reveals the reason his film took more than a year to release. “Film festivals and commercial releases function differently. A film’s release requires a solid marketing budget, sometimes more than the cost of production. (in case of smaller, independent films), which we did not have. So the need to have a studio to back us was strong.”

Actor/filmmaker/playwright Rajat Kapoor, spent an equal amount on shooting and marketing Ankhon Dekhi, yet it didn’t achieve the desired results at the box-office. “I don’t know if marketing a movie is harder than filming it, but it has become very huge now. We spent Rs 4 crores each on making and marketing AD,” he explains. He is disappointed with the fact that a film poster with Sanjay Mishra and Seema Pahwa weren’t inviting enough for the audience to come to the theatres. While he cites a faulty distribution system for Ankhon Dekhi’s low BO collections, he feels marketing is not a guaranteed tool for footfall in the auditoriums.

Like Ankhon Dekhi, Mayank Shekhar feels that a lot of good stories don’t grab enough attention and get caught up in the marketing madness. “A lot of good quality low-budget films haven’t been watched because the makers didn’t have the budget to market it. Nowadays, there are so many mediums for promotions. Everyone may not have that kind of money. Marketing budgets are equivalent to productions costs, and in case of low-budget films with no big names, it’s even higher.”

Interestingly, the marketing and promotion budgets are not only bothering small filmmakers, but even the big production houses. The actors in these movies, may smile and shimmy during the hectic promotions, but it’s a ritual most of them abhor.

“I am not against bigger films – they are competing against other bigger films, for instance an Akshay Kumar film is competing with an Aamir Khan and a Salman Khan film. They have all invested a lot of money and have to earn it back. However, smaller films with new actors and new directors deserve some money and awareness. I’m not sure what needs to happen but I know it will happen” ends Lamba.

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– By Rachana Parekh