Week after week, different forms of media report about mighty strides that a recent film release has taken at the box office. One such claim caught my eye very recently when it was claimed that a film about an ‘icchadhaari nagin’ had actually taken the box office by storm.
‘Hello? Really?’ – I said to myself.
Despite minimal footfalls on the opening weekend (and just being comparatively better than the other new releases), absolutely negative reviews, pathetic word of mouth, zero appreciation and ‘let-me-wash-my-hands-off-this-film’ stance taken by the director, the film is still a hit? A massive one at that? And do we really expect a reader to believe such claims?
Is the audience foolish to believe such claims when the makers claim their films to be the biggest ever success on this side of the planet when reality is something totally different? Let’s explore in this week’s ‘Reflections’.
Bring in the audience
All is fair till that stage of the filmmaking process when audience has to be brought into the theatres. Right from the launch of the film to its actual making to the pre-release promotion – it is the job of a maker to sell his film. And sell it hard. Why not? It is a product after all and every maker would want it to reach out to the largest consumer base possible.
So, let there be no complains when new releases like Action Replayy and Golmaal 3 up the ante and make them appear as the biggest blockbusters that mankind had ever seen. Let’s not cringe when stars are staring at you from all quarters, whether your television sets, hoarding on the streets, newspapers, broadband, portals – just about everywhere.
Yes, we know that every film is ‘different’, ‘unique’, ‘special’, ‘never seen before’, ‘an image changing effort’, ‘the best working experience’, ‘family like affair’ etc. etc. etc. Whether it is yesterday, today or tomorrow, every film’s promotion would have these bare minimum ingredients thrown in its entire PR, marketing and promotional machinery.
It is the job of the audience to distinguish between what’s right and what’s fake. It is him who can choose to lap it up (Dabangg, Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai, Raajneeti, Housefull) or ignore it all (Aakrosh, Crook, Jhootha Hi Sahi, Knock Out). Fair enough. No one is accusing the other.
Kick start of word of mouth
It is the opening show that turns out to be the deciding factor. No wonder, lesser and lesser filmmakers are now opting for much infamous ‘paid previews’. The debate will always stay on but the fact remains that the SMSes, Tweets and Facebook updates that start making the rounds after the first show of a film has commenced make a much wider impact than the full page ads that are put out after the first weekend is through. A paid preview could go good; it could also go horribly wrong. With anyways a select set of people watching the film, the sample size is way too small but still, if malicious, the word of mouth could be totally damaging.
The effect only becomes far more lethal when a film sees a full fledged release on a Friday. With various outlet devices in hand, audience as well as critics spread an instant word of mouth that decides the fare of the film there and then. This means that a film could open very well but the dents could be seen by the time opening Friday comes to a close. The point here is that those who have watched the film have arrived at a decision and it is their spreading of word that chalks out the fate of a film, more than the entire exercise which is undertaken by the makers post the release of the film.
This means that an advertisement claiming a film to be a HIT (if in actuality it isn’t) within 24 hours of its release is as important as reading yesterday’s newspaper. Frankly, with each and every film stating so in bold print over the weekend, the seriousness of the messaging goes all wrong as well. It is a much known fact that the makers have their publicity material (poster, TV slots etc.) pretty much laid out well before Friday itself that claims their film to be a hit.
Of course there is nothing wrong with that if all of this is a part of the publicity machinery and the makers know that they can’t live without it. However, the point here is, why spend when the man walking past the poster on the road just doesn’t care? Tell him that an X film is a superhit and he would only smile and ignore it. After all, the friend who saw it yesterday must have already told him that there isn’t anything worthwhile to check out. And even if that hasn’t happened, he can well be expected to call up the guy and ask him if the film is indeed worth a trip.
The message doesn’t seem to have reached out to most makers though who instantly get the figures in place and plaster them all over the town claiming a 50 crore, 100 crore, 150 crore earner. No one gets to knows what these figures are, whether they are nett, gross, just India collections or include overseas numbers too. Yes, people read about it, talk
about it as well (hence solving one purpose of the makers i.e. continued visibility of the product) but do they actually get further enticed to watch it as well? Not really. Especially so if a film is bad.
Where does it work
All of this does make sense when a film has been loved.
When a 3 Idiots claims to leap frog by crores with every passing week, it is understandable and audience believes them as well. After all the hysteria has been seen inside the theatre and if the printed text in the outside world states so too, there is a sense of reaffirmation that comes in.
When a Raajneeti lists down as many as 20 good reviews that came its way with star rating and quotes in a full page advertisement, it does make sense since you read the reflection of your own thoughts.
When a Dabangg claims ‘Box Office ko dho daala’ or stuff alike, audience does nod in agreement because the crowds waiting outside a theatre to get hold of a ticket is a testimony to the claims.
However, it all seems all so futile when week after week; practically every film tries to manipulate audience perception by claiming it to be a huge success, whether commercially or critically.
The question though is, ‘has one ever seen a bad movie succeed at the box office, especially so when the opening has been disastrous enough and audience feedback outright negative?’ No wonder, all money that is spent thereafter just goes down the drain. Perhaps the makers understand this as well but are just forced to merely go along with the flow.
Does that fool the audience ever?