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Hype Can Kill

As the Kambakkht Ishq hype oozes out of everywhere, it looks like, the way things are these days, filmmakers decide on how to promote their films before they shoot a frame of it. Maybe even before a line of the script is written. Sign a Hollywood star, get a pop icon to shoot an item number, add some expensive stunts, plant stories about how the star nearly died while doing them… and so on, blaring on till people are suitably eager to see the film.

There is now a clause put into the contracts of stars, that they will be available to promote their films – which includes print and TV interviews; when there is a promotional tie-up with a website, then net interviews and live chats, appearances at press meets –arranged so that the largest number of media folk get a bash at the stars and crew of the film.

But there is such a thing as overkill, and unless the product matches the publicity, all that effort is pointless.  Now there is so much of promotion, that by the time the film is released,  it already seems stale.  People have seen stills, songs, promos, read interviews (all ‘exclusives’, all  the same) and already made up their minds whether or not the film is worth it,  weeks before it is released.  Rather than build up curiosity about a film, this multi-media, multi-pronged oversell often destroys any interest the public might have in a film.  Seen the promos, seen the film is what most people feel.

The films that crash the hardest are invariably the ones that get built up the most.  Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja is always cited as a classic example of ‘hype kills’ – and this was in the pre-cable and net era.  What was billed as the most expensive film ever made, remains one of the biggest flops in Hindi cinema.  Later, another “most expensive” film Jeans also bombed at the box-office in its Hindi avatar.

This year, Chandni Chowk to China flopped despite all the hype, Tashan did too, with its line-up of ‘hot bods’– which just goes to show that the amount of publicity a film can get is not in direct proportion to its success at the box-office. There is no greater marketing tool than an excellent film and word of mouth publicity.

Strangely, people choose to emphasise the wrong things.  The most expensive film, or the one with the biggest stars, or casting coup or some such ineffectual line; every time someone claims his film is different (“hatke” is the word used) moviebiz insiders double up laughing.  Hardly anyone dares claim that they have made a good film and sincerely tried to tell a great story to please the audience.

It’s always, “best”,  “biggest”, “magnum opus”, “blockbuster”, “extravaganza”.  No wonder ninety percent of them end up with egg on their faces.  Then starts another round of damage control hype to prove that the film was not really such a big flop, that it did make money in B centers or broke records overseas.   Showbiz goes on.

But wait, there is a post-script to this:  within a few hours of Kambakkht Ishq being shown at a private screening for ‘friends’, there were smses and tweets slaughtering the film. The critics did it a couple of days later.  Which goes to show, that in these days of instant communication, you better deliver what you promise with all that hype… and yes, choose your friends with care.

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