Connect to share and comment

Bollywood has a new king

What makes the blockbuster Bollywood film "3 Idiots" and others so smart? Smart marketing, yaar.

Marketing for Bollywood films is getting extreme. Last year, for instance, hundreds of people had their heads shaved based on the look of the protagonist in the film "Ghajini." Here, a worker sits on a publicity cut-out for a Bollywood movie in Mumbai, Dec. 16, 2009. (Arko Datta/Reuters)

BANGALORE, India — Amir Khan traverses India incognito, leaving fans gasping after the most unusual of encounters. The Bollywood star is creating a titanic buzz around his latest film, "3 Idiots," which has just become Bollywood’s highest grossing movie ever.

Meanwhile, two young actors — Shahid Kapur and Genelia D’Souza — spend all night in a parked car, sipping masala chai from a pavement tea shop to promote the forthcoming "Chance Pe Dance." Even megastar Amitabh Bachchan goes missing for weeks before reappearing as an unrecognizable 13-year-old to promote the recent, modestly-budgeted film "Paa."

Welcome to Bollywood's latest strategy: dreaming up the wackiest, most gimmicky stunts to promote movies.

The marketing sometimes borders on the extreme. Last year, hundreds of people had their heads shaved off based on the look of the protagonist (Khan, again) in the film "Ghajini." To promote her forthcoming film "Raat Gayi, Baat Gayi" (marketed as the story of a one-night stand and its consequences), actor Neha Dhupia recently showered condoms and morning-after pills on college kids at a campus event.

Hollywood moviemakers, whose promotion budgets have on occasion appeared to rival the entire production budget, are of course highly skilled in hyper-marketing their offerings. Now Bollywood is arriving at the same party, having recognized that promotions can be as important as the movie-making process itself. Entire casts, directors, producers and crew are becoming part of lavish, over-the-top movie promotions.

Filmmakers need to promote their movies in as excessive a manner as possible as there are a multitude of entertainment options today, Amitabh Bachchan told GlobalPost via email. “We need to market our films in a manner that provokes people to step out to the movie theater,” he says, adding, “there is a lot more money riding on the films these days."

It is perhaps a sign of changing times in India, where a proliferation of multiplexes, experimental themes, increasing number of releases, professional moviemaking and movie marketing are redefining the business of Bollywood.

And this is very serious business. Since 70 percent of the earnings typically come within the first week of the movie’s release, marketing virtually shapes the film’s destiny, says producer Riteish Sadhwani of Excel Productions.