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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Film Promos: questions

Forget the movie. How was the promo? What new gimmicks did a promo introduce? And, is the promo a hit?

Yes, people these days actually talk about a movie promotion being a hit or a flop. Take Rang De Basanti, for example. Rahman’s music, esp the title track, is already a hit. Aamir sports a brat-pack college look. And the film’s promotions are all over the place, so much so, it is impossible to move around in a city like Bangalore without being reminded of the film sooner or later…the film, even before theatrical release, has enveloped the city like a skin (that will be shed in time for the next big film promo). [Note: Aamir’s contract for Rang De Basanti stipulates his participation in every promotion. He was part of the show at Mumbai’s Crossroads Mall where he walked the ramp in Provogue designed clothes, the film’s fashion tie-up, and obliged screaming fans with a little dance.Pics here].

Film publicity these days is no longer limited to print ads and theatrical trailers. While print and hoardings remain key advertising channels, most films these days have multiple “media partners” – comics, radio, TV, Internet, Cell phone networks, fashion labels. Most films, it would be fair to say, have a transmedia life much before they hit screens across the country and abroad. It is almost as if the promotion blitz generates a narrative that, in pre-convergence era, would only emerge after the theatrical release.

While much of it can be dismissed as hype, I wonder if this is a feature of post-celluloid cinema that is here to stay. At one level, the entire promotion package is nothing more than an attempt to get audiences to the theaters for at least one weekend (following which it is pretty much word-of-mouth advertising). Hype helps to an extent, yes. But is this only a new marketing mechanism that is struggling with an old problem – box-office returns – or is there more?

There is a certain mix of elements: a montage of song clips, scenes that intrigue, and dialogues that are striking (comedic, melodramatic, horrific, etc.). This is the basic package. Then there is the microsite, which gives you a little more: behind the scenes stills, detailed information about cast and crew, production notes, wallpapers for your computer, an A/V gallery of trailers and song-clips, and a link to a discussion forum. Further, a tie-up with a channel like MTV or [V] leads to popular shows on these channels re-worked with the film’s content. Like MTV’s “Naughty Hour” for the film Neal n Nikki. These shows generally include interviews with the main characters in the film, the director, producer, script and dialogue writers, and sometimes, the music director(s).

So in many ways, the film itself is only one component of a cinematic experience that is dispersed across many spaces. Different elements of films are re-packaged as brands or commodities that circulate across multiple media and thereby, enter different circuits of consumption as well. The question that all this raises is: if the film today is much more than the 2-3 hours that one sits through in the cinema hall, what kind of a narrative are we experiencing? What does such a dispersed narrative do to notions of the “film text”? What kinds of demands does this make of us, and how does the industry respond to the ways in which we now use new media technologies (cell phones, iPODs, etc.) at our disposal? Through such usage, what kinds of social networks are being created? What implications do interactions in filmic-social networks have for our understanding of relationships between cinema and public culture?

[image from bollywood501.com]

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