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Watching the way the new mini-sensation at the Kollywood box office Mounaguru is being promoted is a refreshing experience. We are getting to see short and crisp, 15-20 second bites which show just one dialogue! There are 5 or 6 such short trailers being circulated on TV. Why does one call it a refreshing experience? Well, for one, these trailers are not a loud and racy collage of different shots from the movie with an emphasis on the songs or the hero. There are a couple of trailers of Mounaguru which do not even show Arulnidhi’s face.

For nearly three years now, promoting a film has meant bombardment of TV channels with slickly cut trailers that concentrated mostly on the hero, action scenes and songs (an item song especially, if it was present). And, if there were ‘punch lines’ present in the movie, they would be the central attraction of all the trailers. This revolution was brought about by Sun Pictures with their powerful network. It was definitely impressive in the beginning; to see films being so extensively promoted through TV at such regular intervals. But, soon the novelty wore off! It gave way to homogeneity which then became redundancy. What rankled most was that every film, irrespective of which genre it belonged to, what it wanted to convey and what it contained, was being promoted in the same loud and, sometimes obnoxious, manner. There were very few exceptions to this, like Azhagarsaamiyin Kudhirai. But, the recent trailers of Vettai show that the tried and tested formulae are still alive.

You were being told week after week that some film or the other was strutting victoriously at an esteemed theatre near you (‘ungal abimana thirayarangugalil vettrinadai podugirathu’ – in Tamil), irrespective of how it was doing at the box office. Till then, we were only concerned with clichés in films, but that was a time when we also started getting concerned with clichés in marketing strategies. It was the same ‘bombardment with flashy images and pompous claims’ strategy being used film after film; rarely did anyone stand out. Promotional campaigns were not being tailored for individual film requirements; it was a ‘one size fits all’ attitude. We just hope that the success of Mounaguru’s unique tailor-made promotional styles prompts others to think of the best ways to promote their films rather than go with template trailers.

But, it is not just Mounaguru that is the marketing lesson of the season. Ra One was the ultimate benchmark in Indian cinema when it came to ‘bombardment publicity’. It surely cannot get more intense than this. Two months after it made its way to theatres, another film that did not have even 25% of the publicity of Ra One walked in and made 100 crores in 14 days at the box office –Don 2. It is a perfect case for comparison. Both Ra One and Don 2 had the same star (SRK) and were separated by only 60 days (so there is no inflation adjustment).  Ra One was given unbelievable promotional hype while Don 2 was underplayed much to everyone’s surprise. Yet, their box office figures are comparable; the quality of the films is not taken into consideration here. Lesson: bombardment publicity is passé. You need to think in terms of your film.

Besides that, the publicity lesson of the year perhaps comes from none other than Mr. Dhanush and Sony Music for making ‘Kolaveri’ an international phenomenon. What publicity did they use? None of the conventional kind! They might actually become pioneers in the way social media is used to publicise material. It is the easiest, cheapest and simplest way to get attention; the best part is, it does all the work for you. Even STR’ love anthem has harnessed the power of social media. With concepts like ‘You Tube Box Office’ starting to find takers, we might be looking at a huge change in the way films are marketed and released.

Of course, that’s looking too far ahead. For now, let’s hope that custom made trailers, like the one Mounaguru is employing, starts off a new trend. And, we also hope that some films don’t make the mistake of giving too little publicity, almost leaving the entire job to the ‘word of mouth’. Films like Aaranya Kandam are certainly among those that did not get the publicity it deserved in the past year. And, curiously, even a big ticket film like Nanban seems to be having pretty low key promotions just days before its release. Let’s hope all that changes.

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