A lot of filmmakers internationally are using Market Research, Focus Group Discussions and Test Screenings as a tool to gauge initial feedback about their films. However, many of the Indian filmmakers still show reluctance towards Market Research/ Target Group Testing/ Title Testing etc. prior to movie production/ release and rely on their gut feel and experience. Hence it was rather apt to have a panel discussion on ‘Market Research for Indian Cinema’ on Day 2 of FICCI- Frames 2011 currently being held in Mumbai.
The interesting session was moderated by Mr.Vivek Krishnani- Head- Distribution, Marketing and Syndication at Fox Star Studios and saw some eminent personalities such as Siddharth Roy Kapur (CEO- UTV Motion Pictures), Sidhartha M Jain (CEO, iRock), Jaideep Sahni (writer of films such as Chak De India & Khosla Ka Ghosla), filmmaker Sudhir Mishra, Mr. Ram Mirchandani (Chief Creative Officer- Eros International) and Mr. Farshad Family (MD of Nielsen Media, India).
When asked on what they thought about Market Research for Indian cinema, Siddharth Roy Kapur said, “The trend of research is not new. In fact many years ago Mr.Raj Kapoor used to show his films to his close family and friends pre-release and ask for their feedback. Aamir Khan still does that with his films. It’s just that we don’t use the term Research for that. The objective of conducting Focus Group Discussions, Test Screenings etc. is to get a varied point of view. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For e.g. the story of Devdas had already been made in 3 different versions before our film Dev D. If we had shown our film Dev D to people and asked for their views, they would have shunned the idea but we didn’t do any research and went ahead with our conviction and the results are there for all to see.”
Jaideep Sahni too feels that Market Research is not the only yardstick to achieve a fool-proof product. He said, “There is a vast difference between consumers of an FMCG product and consumers of a film. I don’t think consumers can decide how a film is just by watching the rough cut. I don’t think they have the competence to suggest corrective action. In a story of a film there are many layers and complexities. At the end of the day, Research is just a tool and will be as good or bad as the person who designs it.”
Sidhartha M Jain of iRock too had an interesting point of view on this topic. The young and dynamic entrepreneur, who has some interesting films such as Ragini MMS and Shaadi Of The Dead said, “We as a company are pretty focused that we are creating content for the youth. Be it for Ragini MMS which is India’s first found footage reality horror film or for Shaadi Of The Dead– India’s first zombie comedy, we did not do any research, we just went by our gut feel. People may or may not like it.”
Farshad Family of Nielsen Media, India, who was representing the Market Research fraternity, said, “There are two types of research- research related to creative work and research related to marketing. Fine tuning a trailer/ promo/ first look poster of a film is research related to marketing and can really help. Research doesn’t necessarily give you definitive answers but it does provide you with guidance.”
Ram Mirchandani of Eros International, a studio which has some biggies lined up for release this year, gave an interesting real life example which happened to him, “Last year around April- May we had begun work on a film called Chalo Dilli starring Lara Dutta and Vinay Pathak. All of a sudden, we thought let’s add an item song to the narrative of the film. The director Shashant Shah was quite upset as he felt that there was no need for such a song as the script itself was compelling enough. However we conducted Focus Group discussions across various demographics and to our surprise found out that 90% of people wanted an item song to be included in the film. This was even before ‘Munni‘ or ‘Sheila‘ released and was indeed an eye-opener for us and like you may have guessed the film does have an item song now. So in short you need not always listen to the findings of the market research but it can be insightful at times. It is important for a studio like ours which works on 10-20 films a year to get inputs from Market Research.”
While the topic did have its share of believers and non-believers, Jaideep Sahni summed it all up quite beautifully when he said, “At the marketing stage, research can be very effective and productive for us. In terms of judging a semi-made film’s rough cut, it may or may not be useful as the process to incorporate the suggestions arrived at by the research can be quite complicated. You stand the risk of doing neuro-surgery with a pair of boxing gloves. However, to use research as a tool at the green-lighting stage of a project, is absolutely ridiculous.”