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Indian Cinema and Marketing

20 May

The Indian film industry has travelled a burgeoning journey from its first feature film in 1913 to huge budget films like ‘3 Idiots’ and ‘My Name is Khan’ today. As the nation developed, so did the Indian Cinema. In a nutshell, Indian cinema is an approximately 59 billion business revolving around 800 films a year with three times as much the cost of marketing these cinematic products. With the passing times, the commercialization of this art gained importance and promotion of film became as significant as the story of the film. Today, factors such as promotions, building awareness are vital for a film’s success unlike the past where a good distribution system ensured box office hit. Adoption of newer innovative techniques, mediums help films not only mint money but also generate employment for people required for these professionally driven activities.

According to Oxford dictionary, marketing is the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research or advertising. Marketing a film is one of the vital functions of its organizational functional cycle besides production and finance. More importantly, Marketing of a movie is all about creating instant brand identity. As films have limited distribution window and therefore a limited shelf life, the marketing has to happen at absolutely the right time to get audiences into the cinemas. Marketing mix if film making revolves largely around tangible promotions and the main film product relies heavily on such activities. The success mantra depends on how film is packaged. Noam Chomsky’s observation though under a different context can be quoted here: ‘Bottom-line is important.’ Marketing builds brand identity which sets profits coming. 4Ps concept applied on the movie industry can be applied as a whole ie: Product, price, place, promotion.

For a movie to selected by the audience on the basis of the content, it needs to be clearly identifiable in its marketing — genre, stars, story, special effects, style all need to be presented suitably as a product. The movie business is one of the most complexes in the communications industry because of its creativity, diversity and its continual explosions of technological delivery options. In Bollywood, a movie is identified primarily at face value such as an SRK or a Bhansali film. The concept of idolization of personality is derived from this and is effectively utilized for all its branding. Tie ups with fashion houses for costumes, sports gear etc keeping in line with the theme of the film are publicized as much as the movie.

For instance the movie Dabangg, was identified as a Salman Khan film, and also cashed in on the sensation created by the Munni Badnaam song. The film ‘Tess Maar Khaan’ used bombarding advertising as a method. Almost every channel at all points of time showcased the film promos. The role of the song ‘Sheila ki Jawani’  was instrumental in getting the film attention and is also novel in the aspect that it came to symbolize the film even before its release. The 2010 film ‘Shahrukh bola khoobsurat hai Tu’ used Shahrukh Khan’s name heavily even as he only essayed a cameo role in the film. Small budget films like Iqbal, Dev. D carry themselves on the force of their product content i.e. the film.

Pricing of the movie ticket though seems standardized in the Indian context at first glance, is dependent on market segments, release schedules, territories and promotional budgets. The marketing decisions regarding these are taken by market evaluation. In the words of the marketing geniuses Al Ries and Jack Trout (Marketing Warfare), ‘Winners tell jokes, the loser holds press conferences’ as happened in the case of Shahrukh Khan’s ‘Rab ne bana di jodi’ clash with Aamir Khan’s Ghajini in December 2008 where despite an early release the marketing tactics of Aamir Khan (Ghajini style haircuts were sported by theatre employees across cinemas) wiped out the former completely. Claims of ‘better people, better product’ is an inglorious fallacy in Indian cinema.

Pricing has become a global issue. The release of a DVD has always been timed to protect producer’s interests. But with piracy at record levels globally, a variety of pricing — and timing — strategies are being tested, like pricing the DVDs very cheaply.

pic for representation purposes

Placement of an Indian film is largely on grounds of exaggerated reality, where it is sufficiently conveyed to movie goers through promotional activities. Also the fact that entertainment in India is largely based on the escapist mode where the viewer is looking for pure entertainment and marketing activities such as innovative shows, appearances, one-liners on the line of least expectation instantly wins over audiences. Post production promotions are also a new factor in India with the movie 3 Idiots being promoted well after a year of its release every time it is telecasted on television. Options for placing the film product are increasing as technology has increased a films defense to competition. Forcefully or in-your-face marketing divisions of films are pulling out all stops to ensure awareness as in the case of the movie Tees Mar Khan which developed its game version along with the production of the film and was released before the actual release of the film. Marketing is a combination of surprise and superior skill as demonstrated classically by Aamir Khan while promoting 3 Idiots exceeded the business capacity of an average film in India’s interiors by appearing in disguise in small cities and offering prizes to those who discovered his attire, online campaign such as, facebook profile of Aamir ‘the pucca idiot’ and alternate reality gaming, painted toilet seats and autorickshaws (capacity: 3 idiots), the fourth idiot t shirt campaign, butt seats in theatres across the country and also involved bytes with local regional media. Aamir sent little perks such as hand written tease cards to goad the local media editors of the city he went to in disguise who went ballistic to cover the film, thereby buying into the publicity share of 3 idiots. The mainstream media were only provided with footage shot from these activities with all major interviews were given to regional media thereby connecting to the man from Ujjain and the man from Ranchi, it struck a chord. Emotional connect was used in an extremely new way by Aamir. In Indian cinema producers seldom ever directly sell the film to audience but to distributors, investors, sub distributors, exhibitors and internet strategists. In-audience marketing happens through word of mouth. Napoleon Bonaparte once said that God is on the side of big battalion. Led by a 25 member team the brief was clear to the T- to get the common man watch. This was proved wrong by 3 Idiots. In fact, 3 idiots emulated the advice stated in the book ‘Marketing Warfare’- attack on as narrow a front as possible which 3 idiots did in a matter of 2 months in public eye unlike other films which seek attention throughout the making process. It’s simple as the law of physics, the larger front you hit, and the heavier is the impact. Quantity matters as much as quality. On release, ‘truth will out’.

Sevanti Ninan in her book ‘Headlines from heartland says, ‘Mediums such as television and films of national scale came rapidly and have saturated at a fast rate, for Bollywood interior regions are still a virgin territory.’ While people admired Bollywood for all its grandeur, regional cinema remains an undisputed choice in Indian hinterland with the rare exceptions like 3 Idiots.

Innovations in movie marketing can be seen almost with every big banner release. But yet, not all big studio’s/ production houses are using the science of media planning to reach out to many people at a little cost. In cinema business, it is the age of going that extra mile. It’s difficult to stand up to expectations and over hyping can kill the product (read Drona, Krazzy 4 etc.) and it has to happen at exactly the apt moment. Once again, quoting Napoleon Bonaparte, ‘I may lose a battle, but I shall not lose a minute’ which is right considering 30 per cent of the budget is marketing campaigns.


Over the past few years the financing of Indian cinema has undergone a sea change. Banks (UTI, Exim, IDBI), multinational companies, corporate houses (UTV, Reliance Big pictures, Adlabs) fund approximately 15 percent of the films. These establishments have turned Indian cinema into an organized industry and has also generated newer sources of income such as satellite rights, DTH, radio etc. Corporatization does not generate good quality films and have over commercialized the art of film making.

Film reviews

Indian Press scenario is such that critiquing a film post release is subject to editorial interference and manipulation. Most news channels and newspapers have in staff as critiques who are not independent invariably becoming a tool for film makers who enjoy tie ups/ collaborations with media houses and maneuver rave reviews and success stories.

Big sweep Owners

Big Sweep owners like the Bennett and Coleman Limited have enormous marketing prowess with major businesses in the field of radio, television and print and 70% of the bus shelter hoardings in Mumbai. Hence establishing a connect through these mediums at one go makes the job of the film makers quite easy as these big sweep owners provide the ultimate marketing solutions on one platter. The big sweep owners can ingrain the potential movie goers mind and generate a must watch feeling by tapping every available resource at hand.  These activities would generally ensure that the people, masses and classes alike would become aware of the ‘launch’ in the market. The situation is quite different in the South where a complete movie is made and then is sold to media tycoons owning one of the TV channels in the state who promote the movie incessantly. Recent example of the movie ‘Endhiran’ was bought by Sun Pictures owned by Kalanathi Maran that ultimately netted 400 crore in revenue. Kalanithi Maran left no stone unturned in making and marketing Endhiran. Using all his channels effectively methods like playing endhiran trailer every 5-10 minutes on Sun TV, Suriyan FM, owned by Sun network  and special features on various aspects of Endhiran worked in its favour. The hype was built around Rajnikant’s name, in the hype the story purpose of the movie was lost. However, the true value of the movie lies in the marketing sensibilities of Sun Network which milked the movie product for all its worth through marketing.

Small budget films

Recently small budget films like Udaan, Peepli Live have made mark at the ticket collections courtesy more due to their content than marketing. It is a running debate where marketing plans made by professionals were falling flat which brought back old scenes of the movie industry where content mattered more than buzz.  It reiterated the old belief that cosmetic and hyped marketing plans cannot default the need for real content and therefore cannot proxy for the same.

Role of Controversies and New Media

In an era where nothing is left untouched by internet, for publicity the web is an indispensable tool. Internet marketing of a film ranges from designing all posters, photography, merchandising, blogs, websites, social networking, interaction with public and even transmission of a film is done via internet to avoid piracy. The website of a film must embody and express the purpose, convey brand identity of film. Using twitter, facebook and other internet media are new found avenues of generating awareness about a movie. Actor Siddharth promoted the movie Striker through Twitter and it was released via internet on YouTube to combat piracy. This in addition to increasing the viewership of the websites also increases the interest in the movie among the audience. Bollywood has tried and tested buzz and viral marketing, and is investing heavily into mobile advertising; the approach of new media is largely in your face.

Audience Transformation and In-film advertising

Indeed, quality will become the key factor. The success of “Tere bin Laden” is the latest proof indicating that audiences are undergoing a transformation. Marketing of a film lasts for an entire lifecycle, in film promotions of varied products and services contribute to the highlights of the film.

Imran Khan at an event


The Brett Lee concert Stampede

18 May

If acting on impulse is a good thing, then it better be at a concert where all the madness is.It was my first experience of a concert. On 15th May of this month Indian music band M majors performed with Brett Lee at Inorbit mall (Malad) in Mumbai. Female fans couldn’t stop swooning over him as he took to the stage. M majors had to bear the brunt of Lee’s popularity when the audience screamed and clicked tongues impatiently chanting Lee’s name. The band sang beautiful numbers nevertheless and the audience enjoyed it. M Major’s handled the impatient crowd sportingly. Perhaps they had already braced themselves to face a full blast of Lee’s popularity.

The crowd even took to arguments with press photographers jostling for space in the small space near the parking lot of the mall where the show was being held. I did note that girls who were loud enough at concerts usually take the limited hugs and kisses. Funnily enough, one girl who got to the stage, got her hug (I don’t know about the peck/kiss i could not beat to watch it so i closed my eyes) but refused to leave the stage and remained there while the last long was being sung.

Brett enthralled the audience with his guitar playing and chorus singing. The crowd grooved to his tunes as he sand Summer of 69,brown eyed girl, proud mary and Sweet home Alabama. Lee endeared the crowd with his hindi speaking too.

Now Brett has been doing small shows like this all over India along with philanthropic appearances. Some of these gigs are sponsored by NGO’s. Reports in world media have often suggested his closeness to India was the prime reason for his estrangement and divorce with ex-wife Elizabeth Kemp. Despite that Lee has kept a close association with Indian endorsements, music and film industry, his fans are only loving it.

Lee performed three songs and then came the part the crowd most dreaded and i did not foresee. Autograph seekers rushed to grab that golden chance, but the guards did not allow anyone to get near Lee. I joined the rush to get an autograph but midway through the struggle i fell down and couldn’t figure out what happened next as the crowd passed me or rather trampling over my foot. I managed to pull myself free and thankfully didn’t get injured. Lee escaped unscathed.

NOTE: This is not a brett lee praise article. It was the first time i attended a concert and the above article expresses what i observed there. PHOTO SERIES:

Education in India- by choice or by chance ?

12 Apr

It has been a week. Feels like a million years already. While grind through the grind of college education, one is not particularly inclined to think about the after effects. There was no time. It was always projects, travel, chatting and talking for long hours on the phone, having fun. No, not always. If it was so routinely, i would not be feeling so nostalgic.

I had to pinch myself to realize that graduation was over, well at least grad exams were over. But the feeling anticipated was not in place. Why ? It finally dawned on me when my friend DG screamed at the top of her voice over the phone- YIPEEEEEEE ! As they say, those who hear hard, need a boom to awaken.

The Macbride report (UNESCO) stated this in 1980- Education should not be left to chance. The Indian Government has not woken up yet. 31 years on Macbride, people like me feel privileged enough to become graduates. Further education is on the cards, but what about million other kids that i see on streets everyday, in tea shops, clothes stores. Why aren’t they studying, enriching their brains and reaping fruits of education ? The Indian union budget started levying 2 % education cess in the year 2004 when it was presented by noted economist Mr. P. Chidambaram. This was later increased to 3 %. All taxes in India are subject to an education cess, which is 3% of the total tax payable. The dropout rates at primary level alone are very high. More girls cease to attend school at primary level. Also prejudices on ed-ed schooling and girls being taught by males post puberty still exist. The right to education became a fundamental right in India only in 2002. For 55 years after independence, education existed in the form of a directive principle, a mere duty which was not as enforcible as a fundamental rights.

Lack of reinforcement measures and infrastructure result in neo literates, as they do not get further impetus for education. Neo literates have fragile levels of literacy. Majority of neo-literatesare economically poor and live in ruralareas or urban slums. A major bulk of the literate population are actually semi literates who could not continue education for various reasons beyond 5th-8th grade.

As of Census 2011, the overall literacy levels in India is 74.04 % (Males 82.14 %, Females 65.46 %). The definition of literacy by National Literacy Mission (program by Government of India) concerns- acquiring the skills of reading, writing and arithmetic and the ability to apply them to one’s day-to-day life. It negates the presence of awareness education, rational thinking. The prescribed aims are meant to be enforced at a basic level.

A vast expanse of land, India is a logistical challenge when it comes to formulating an overall plan for implementing education programs. The government ads that i see on Television are more agriculture based, promoting agricultural training and consumer awareness. How can government ads promise to have any effect when they themselves show women in a domestic way, domestic attire, wearing ghunghat over the head and bearing children ? What more, Indian parliament was a center of much drama last year when the Lok Sabha (Lower House) erupted with a strng demand for enumerating backward classes as part of census. It called for conducting a cast based census, something which the founding fathers of the constitution weeded out first when they were formulating it. Virtually every political party demanded it, from Akali Dal to Shiv Sena to AIADMK to DMK, not to mention backward outfits of UP-Bihar — RJD, SP and JD(U). The present Government seems to be intent on negating everything that the basic essence of Constitution stood for- anti corruption, equality and progress.

But all is not wrong. There are education programs like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, National Literacy Mission, Mid day meal scheme which are making great efforts to bring children to schools, tap growing drop out rates and offering benefits for higher education. Community and Non governmental efforts have made great progress in creating awareness at grass root level. the Indian Government ensures free and compulsory education for all children up to the age of 14. However many of the promises made by these programs have not achieved their promised levels.

What is needed in India is a comprehensive education policy that emphasizes on tertiary involvement in education. Also informal education, radio and Tv as a medium should take precedence over formal schooling methods. Infrastructure dedicated exclusively for the purpose of education should be made available all over India. many a times community halls in villages double up as schools and children are driven away from schools if thers is a function/activity in th community halls.

Speaking of holidays, it has become an excessively neurotic, gratifying medium. We have Diwali holidays, summer holidays, Navratra holidays, Eid Holidays, Christmas and easter vacations, bank and national holidays, accidential holidays (on days when there are floods or some random natural disasters), and a million other days. It is possible to exhaust one’s work capability but the excuses for declaring holidays are abundant,.

We are not setting a very great examples by having such low productivity hours. There are celebratory holidays for World cup matches too. India has a long way to go to progress in the field of education. We ned not just policies but the right attitude too. Education should not be left to chance.

As for me, the feeling sunk in 2 days after exams got over, the feeling of nostalgia and old memories still lingers in the air.

destitute children play on the road.


Yellow Elements

2 Apr


I love both these lighting images because they were so random and i l;ove them because of their background.

The life innit is just that you won't knoe when life is over.

Photoshop would have made them look ugly na?

Pristine white and magnified in macro.

Dahlias blush too!

Dash of Colors.

Quite a shady Dahlia this is !

Its bouncing to the right!

Junior College Photography – Photo Essay

23 Mar

Chapel, St. Xavier’s College


The classroom at the far right was 20 A, my Junior College class room.

My Chennai bait !

22 Mar

Random Photo Shoot @ Chennai

22 Mar

Photo shoot, Photoshop and Pagalpanti

22 Mar

It was a project for my photography professor. Brief- To make a film poster. A couple of mad girls on the roll, i did this photoshoot quite some time back and i had a blast doing it. It was my 1st photo shoot. And then i was really bad at photoshop.

Supermoon Photography at Midnight

20 Mar

Okay Here is the Supermoon in India. Can somebody please tell Star News not to go so blah about this phenomenon?

Bit off centre but its pristine white quality is pretty.

The camera shook when i took this shot. It looks like a meteor or probably a very ugly sperm.

Believe me it was just a pretty moon. About the size? Hmmm… 14% larger than usual. Like I care.

Liberate me (a very original mass comm. poem, sappy one at that)

8 Feb

I can hear the drums beating, those chants that defy gravity, and rise up, up in the air like smoke.
I cannot explain you the gravity,
believe me i am not doing this out of any kind of brevity.
It’s stupid and fake out there, i know.
Fortunately i have survived,
no matter how screwed up it gets.

The finality of closing it all, is beginning of an end to me.
The last morsels of food always taste the best.
But for a bone even a dog could fight.
For another morsel of that knowledge,
i could bet to win any fight.
It is my thirst i try to quench.
Thats why i always sit on the first bench.

But who am i doing it all for?
Me me and me alone.
And thats why it’s beautiful. To me.

( My version or poem you could say on being a mass communication student. Total emotional syapa ie; drama, i tell you)

Not a bed of roses

6 Feb

Nimble hands over the shutter

4 Feb

My photography experience is hardly much to be tagged as my kind of photography. My photography professor used to tell me, ‘We are too conditioned by our social selves, it dims our perspectives, it clouds the imagination.’ Initially, i did not agree. But today i have understood what he meant. Letting go of the perceptions we have developed as a result of our socialization process opens newer perspectives and windows of imagination. My city- Bombay (Pardon me, i cannot force myself to call it Mumbai just because a schizophrenic old fool running a pseudo-ancient extremist party tells me to call it Mumbai, i ‘shan’t’ call it Mumbai), well, i read somewhere in a travel book that it is not a beautiful city. I beg to differ on that. It pulls the strings of anyone’s heart just as photography pulled me from the boredom existence of a student life. Creating images is something that i have always loved. My first love with the camera began when my dad clicked photos of me during my childhood. I was quite a ever- ready subject, ready to offer a million poses inspired from movies of the day. I had been brought up with that kind of fashion sense too. If the latest movie heroine wore orange pants and black netted top i had to get it the next day! Similarly for films like Hum aapke hain kaun, Aflatoon, etc i copied Madhuri and Urmila on every costume of theirs, whereas the rest of the world was busy copying their dance moves. Many years down the line, it is me with my Sony DSC H50 clicking pictures of little members of my family. ( Now kindly don’t turn your nose up just because it’s a Sony it’s still my first camera hence i love it unconditionally). It is indeed a very fulfilling experience, kind of an honor to freeze the moments of their early life on to them, spreading smiles across their grown up faces. After taking up photography, i feel i have some legacy to pass on as otherwise i have nothing in heirloom or tradition to pass on, i am a terrible sindhi so culturally i have nothing to pass on (yikes). Tomorrow when the younger ones in my family get the photographs and feel good, i shall know that i have succeeded.

Colourful Rajasthan

27 Jan

Man was civilised later, he was a nomad first. A photographer must have an obsessive need to be on the move. There is always a great shot happening, but it is not waiting to happen. The photographer has to be present at the decisive moment and freeze time to get the wanted picture. It is the closest tryst of man with real magic-the ability to capture and store which would other wise be lost in the drains of time, forgotten and lost. It’s a noble exercise too apart from a gratifying one. Frankly speaking i don’t know a single technicality of this art of photography but i have come across a few terms such as the decisive moment. It is by far the only concept of photography i know and i have relentlessly tried to finetune my ability to press the shutter at the right time. I am no Henri Cartier Bresson, but i do believe in not letting a moment slip away. The decisive moment tests the sixth sense of the photographer. Cartier Bresson, a French photographer, is also known as the father of photojournalism. His idea of street photography has inspired me greatly, as also other photographers for generations. “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment” he said. According to me, a vision is the most important, to see through form the picture in the head and release the shutter at the right time. Following is my most recent attempt to perfect the decisive moment.

camel ride at Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India

The Decisive Moment

Hello world!

27 Jan

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