Indore, Patna, Bijnor or Bhatinda may not sound exotic enough for shooting a Hindi film, but they sure are adding generously to the coffers of Bollywood producers. That explains why the film industry is opening its purse strings for exclusive promotional strategies for these tier-II and tier-III centres.
It is now mandatory for stars to visit at least 10-15 such cities while promoting a film as opposed to only Mumbai and Delhi in the past. “Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Surat, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Patna Kanpur, Lucknow, Jaipur and Indore are now generating significant revenues,” said Shilpa Handa of marketing and PR firm Spice, the company that managed publicity campaigns for blockbusters such as 3 Idiots and Delhi Belly.
And such film promotions are not limited to humongous billboards alone. From dishing out free haircuts to quirky messages painted behind auto rickshaws — the Bollywood marketing bandwagon is working overtime to come up with “cool” concepts to appeal to the masses.
“One can’t roll out a single national campaign. Every place has its own culture. So, we customise the communications to build the brand and interact with local people, “said Priti Shahani, chief marketing and strategy officer at Reliance Entertainment.
She credits the box office success of the Salman Khan starrer Bodyguard to a careful strategy of taking the movie beyond big cities. “We ran a contest where people who won could become Salman's bodyguard for a day. When Salman was in Kanpur, we decided to announce the winners. As a result, a lot of people got to interact with the super star,” she says.
“Personal connect helps the audiences to connect with the film better and we are already seeing the results in the figures from B-centres,” says Apoorva Mehta, CEO of Dharma Productions, which produced Agneepath. Lead actor Hrithik Roshan and Sanjay Dutt travelled to small towns and held several road shows in places like Indore, Ahmedabad and Surat. Agneepath has got 30-40 percent of its revenues from these centres.
A lot of thought is also being put into executing promotions in a manner that taps the popular culture and the local flavour of the city. For instance, the cast of Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar headed to Amritsar to meet and greet film buffs and fans in the city. This was followed up by a trip to the Golden Temple. TV channels filmed Nargis Fakhri, who plays the female lead in the movie, demurely walk into the temple premises.
Kamal Jain, Group CFO at Eros International, who has distributed movies like RA.One, DesiBoyz and Rockstar in the past few months, says when it comes to connecting to the audience, one really has to penetrate the B and C towns. “The key is to know how to attract attention. We have to connect to people, their likes and dislikes,” he adds.
For promoting The Dirty Picture, Vidya Balan flaunted saree and blouses created by local tailors of small towns along with the rest of the cast. Distributor Ramesh Sippy attributes this trend to a simple psychology: “It is about giving importance to audience in smaller towns. Naturally, if they are being considered, they in turn want to patronise the film. They get to see stars in front of their eyes — people they would otherwise not see in daily life,” said a Balaji official.
Most trade analysts and industry officials point out that growth in multiplexes and digitization of screens in these towns have made a huge difference. “Unlike the west, the theatrical business in India has not reached a saturation point. Movies are now being released in over 3,500 screens across the country. A year back, 1800 screens was considered a wide release,” said Kapil Agarwal, Managing Director, UFO Moviez, which digitise cinema screens across the country. The company has digitised over 1,000 screens in the last one year and converted over 500 screens into 3D.
As a result, the revenues from box office are also growing. For Instance, five movies in 2011 — Salman Khan’s Ready (Rs 121 crore), Bodyguard (Rs 141 crore), Singham (Rs 101 crore), Ra.One (Rs 115 crore), and Don 2 (Rs 106 crore) —crossed the Rs 100 crore mark. Over seven movies including Delhi Belly (Rs 55 crore), Zindagi Na Mile Doobara (Rs 90 crore), Rockstar (Rs 68 crore), The Dirty Picture (Rs 80 crore), and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (Rs 55 crore), crossed the Rs 50 crore mark. And smaller cities made a huge difference to these figures.
“Revenues are going up in smaller cities due to growth of infrastructure. If in a smaller town earlier, the revenue available was Rs 2 lakh, today it is Rs 10-14 lakh. Such a big jump in growth rates is not possible in bigger cities.” Says Aditya Choksi, distributor from Central India. In Indore, for example, there are eight multiplexes, in Nagpur, there are four and in Raipur five. PVR has screens in smaller cities such as Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Indore, Latur, Lucknow, Ludhiana and Vadodara. Cinemax India has set up multiplexes in Durgapur, Malegaon and Kanpur.
A larger proportion of marketing budgets is thus being spent on campaigns in smaller towns. Publicists say the potential of smaller towns as new revenue centres for Bollywood is yet to be realised fully as not every film producer is convinced. Publicists still find it hard to bring around clients, but it is a battle they believe could be won over time. “If we want to exponentially increase our business, that is the only way to go,” says an official from Spice.