I couldn’t believe my ears when Anubhav Sinha confirmed that the First Look of Ra.One was indeed being unveiled during the World Cup cricket. ‘Why so soon?’ was my first question but then Shah Rukh and he were mighty confident about the fact that this was the right time to kick-start the film’s campaign. I was glad that just like millions of other cine-goers who are waiting with bated breath to catch the film, I would be able to catch a glimpse of the film full nine months before it hits the screens.
But then there were apprehensions as well. What if the First Look doesn’t meet the expectations? What if it turns out to be a damp squib? What if there is some universal panning awaiting the film? What if at the end of it all, it turns out to be the biggest gamble ever played in the history of film promotion? That set the tone for this week’s ‘Reflections’.
Biggest gamble? Oh yeah, of course yes!
No one, that’s right, no one ever dares to release a film’s First Look even four/five months in advance, leave aside as long as nine months. In fact most of the makers don’t even allow their songs to be heard well in advance. Even the scratch versions of the songs (used during the
film’s shoot) are kept in safe custody with access to only the select few. With so much secrecy being maintained around the product in hand,
it is a sacrilege for many out there to even reveal the rush print of their film to the ones closest to them.
In such times when a product stays on to be close to the heart of practically all film makers, Shah Rukh Khan has indeed played the biggest
gamble ever by revealing the mood of Ra.One to the entire world. 30 seconds of a film are good enough to be perception drivers.
Frankly, they can make or break a movie. And when that happens as many as nine months in advance, risks only take an exponential shape.
What could have happened?
There is no rocket science actually behind what could have gone wrong here. It is obvious that for the 30 seconds promo, Shah Rukh and team
must have worked upon some of the highlight scenes from the film, picked the most cutting edge shots, assembled them to create a feverish
impact and presented it all in a manner that makes Ra.One stand out as the BIGGEST FILM ever made and then leave it to the audience to
form a judgement.
Now this could have gone either ways. Just because the makers think that they are doing something big, the audience can’t be expected to grab
it with as much enthusiasm. In fact there is a level of cynicism that sets in even for the most hardcore fan. For the detractors it is always
an easy fodder to munch on while those who had been waiting for months to catch what the film is all about, expectations would have taken a
different preposition altogether for now.
In such a scenario, to release a First Look comes with the responsibility of gargantuan proportions. If the audience here wouldn’t have been
excited by the 30 seconds shown to them, rest assured it would have been one mega task for the makers to get the damage control in place for
the next nine months. To simply put, 30 seconds of revelation could well have carried enough weight to crush over two years of work that has
gone into making Ra.One a reality.
What makes it happen?
As it happens with every product launch, there were three segments that shared their point of views. The most obvious ones were those who
were waiting to thrash anything and everything that comes out of Ra.One. This is that segment for which it doesn’t matter whether a
film is Avatar, 2012, Schindler’s List, Dabangg or Happy Husbands. For this segment, it is the pleasure that comes out of
criticising anything and everything that comes its way, regardless of what the product is and whether it has been experienced first hand or
The other segment is made of die hard fans for whom Shah Rukh is God and hence everything associated with him is heavenly. Again for this
segment, it is all about hero worship, talking ultra positive and most enthusiastically about what has been laid in front of them (again,
regardless of whether it has been experienced first hand or not) and ignore anything and everything that is mentioned on the contrary. For
them, it doesn’t matter whether Shah Rukh Khan is featuring in Ra.One, Billu or Yeh Lamhe Judaai Ke. It is all about each of
Shah Rukh’s films being the next big blockbuster.
And then there is the third segment which is neutral and is basically made of film enthusiasts more than anything else. For them, it is a
good film that matters and hence they form an opinion after checking out what the First Look has in store for them. Now this is the most
crucial segment because unlike the first segment which doesn’t really count or the second where disappointment sneaks as quickly as
enthusiasm, these are the folks that form a critical mass waiting to catch hold of a film.
It is this segment for which there are no favourites. Shah Rukh Khan’s Ra.One is as important to them as Jackky Bhagnani’s F.A.L.T.U while
they would be happy to spend their money on a well made Tanu Weds Manu without batting an eyelid even if they have to let go of Salman
It is this segment that Shah Rukh Khan and Anubhav Sinha had set their eyes on!
What really happened?
What really happened? Well, to put it simply, Shah Rukh Khan and Co. won the gamble here, and how! The promo has spread like wildfire and such widespread has been the reach of the film now that reactions are pouring from all quarters. As can be seen, reactions are terrific so far which means the dice has been rolled out well for the sci-fi superhero flick here.
Of course each of the three segments was in full force here as well. The first segment went ahead and sliced and diced every shot of Ra.One to bring on the comparisons with other Hollywood flicks. It was never about the effort that went into making Ra.One the biggest Indian film ever made; it was all about how those 30 seconds were a reflection of what the two hour plus film could actually look like. Negative energy was in full force here, which was – to put it plainly – pretty disappointing.
The second segment just went about attacking the blogs and the forums with comments around ‘Shah Rukh is the greatest of them all’. It wasn’t just about whether Ra.One would win or not; it was more about how Shah Rukh could well beat the likes of Aamir Khan (3 Idiots,
Ghajini) and Salman Khan (Dabangg). For them, the world started and began with hero worship.
And then there was the third segment which, after having watched the 30 seconds promo repeatedly, started sharing its view. Some did think that this was too short and too quick to actually warrant an opinion. For some, Ra.One seemed wannabe. For some, Ra.One could have been more than just Shah Rukh flying and blowing up cars. For some, Ra.One sounded like a good popcorn entertainer in the offing.
For some, Ra.One had in it to top the ‘must watch’ list of films this year. And then for some, Ra.One is what could well turn out to be the biggest blockbuster ever seen in the history of Indian cinema.
With far more positive voices being heard than the ones which are neutral, negative or outright cynical, the stage is set for Shah Rukh and Anubhav now. They took a huge risk of revealing Ra.One way in advance. It is all about building on the hype from this point on. If the momentum is lost even for a month during this duration, all the good work put at this hour fears getting diluted. The first round has been clearly won and records are definitely in sight. Now it is all about persisting with the best resources possible and continues to play the game hard and strong.
As the clichÃ© goes, the game has just begun!