Mausam… There was a barrage of Anti- Mausam comments on my Facebook timeline. I thought, well- most of these guys flow with the tide- so it’s not wise to trust them. The reviews were average to bad to pathetic, but still I decided to go ahead and watch the modern day epic love story (as proclaimed by the publicity team).
I was not really expecting much, just a decent engaging film- even if a bit slow, and a ‘feel good’ feeling when the show ended. But on the contrary, when the show ended, what I got was a mild headache and a multitude of questions pounding my grey cells (which had turned greyer after witnessing the aged romance that lasted 20 reels).
This was what they spent 60 Crores on?
This was what they spent 2.5 years of their lives with single minded devotion?
This was the vision that a senior and much acclaimed actor had while making a dream project for his earnest son?
And most importantly,was this the epic modern day love story they were talking about for the past 2-3 months?
I won’t go into the details of the many flaws it had. Watch it to believe the ludicrous gaps in logic, and the shameless holes in the narrative (and not to mention the amazing coincidences that the film tried to make us believe in). Frankly, a little bit of dumbness can be tolerated in movies that don’t take them seriously- and even the public understands that. But in a film of this nature, that is being promoted as intelligent cinema, or the cinema for the classes. Pardon me- its bullcrap. They didn’t even shoot the much touted Air Force scenes well- the use of VFX was quite amateurish- and this lack of authenticity somewhat diluted the care taken in mounting the other scenes so beautifully.
It starts of well enough- in fact it can be said that the first 30-40 minutes (the Punjab setting) are delightful, but unfortunately not very relevant to the actual plot- for the story starts only when these delightful minutes end. After that it’s a test of patience, and an exercise in futility- for with every passing minute, the audience gets more and more restless. It is the first time I witnessed sarcastic claps in the cinema hall. Those long drawn moments of silence, and patience, were not actually that silent- for there were much snorts, laughs, and impatient fidgeting that disturbed the heavy duty stuff that was going on the screen. And this brings me to the point of this write-up (No this one is not a review- there are many people who have already done the ‘Punchnaama’ for this movie) – The question is how easy is it for the PR teams these days to fool the audience? Or is really easy, or is it just a mirage?
Movie marketing is taking its baby steps in Bollywood. The last 3-4 years have seen a rise in acceptance of the concept. Hot shots from the industry have acknowledged its importance and are allocating huge budgets for undertaking this pre-release exercise. In fact the upcoming Diwali extravaganza by one of the biggest stars in the country is championing new innovations (not only in its content evidently) but also in terms of its promotions and packaging. The results are bearing fruits (according to the press), for the movie is getting tremendous hype. But is it really? Probably yes, for its promos are on TV channels since six months, and frequent the extremely popular cricket matches that the whole country watches-
This brings me to what I have to say- the common man more often than not decides to watch a film or not to watch it- from its promos and from its songs. Yes, the big stars always get more people interested. And yes, the visibility is important- for with so many films releasing- a movie has to stand out and promise to deliver something worth the ever burgeoning ticket rates. In that sense the traditional trailers between TV shows, and the outdoor publicity is good enough. Interviews from stars on radio, TV shows, and in print only add to the effectiveness of the traditional campaigns. One phenomenon that is fast picking up is that of PR articles and ‘news’ clippings that frequent the tabloids and the magazines of even the most popular newspapers in the country. This raises the question of integrity and ethics. The general public, most of the times, is unaware whether the article they are reading is a piece of news or a concocted piece of shit. Though with time, the discerning eyes do get more than a fair idea. But still the fact remains that public space is being sold- and sold so cheap- for the purpose of buying the public’s support- which more often than not backfires.
The consolidated hype for a movie does result in initial footfalls (or the first day numbers)- but with the advent of newer and newer ways of building up this hype- these initial bliss is getting compressed to a shorter timeframe. A year or two back it was the weekend that determined the success of the publicity campaign- and then the word of mouth started taking effect. Now it is the opening day that is influenced by the hyping up of the film- and a time will come when only the morning shows will get impacted by the promotions- The blackberries, the smart phones, the Facebook, the Twitter will see to that. Yes Internet is a powerful tool for promoting- but it is this tool that is proving to be the Achilles heel for many big budget movies- Word of mouth is not word of mouth anymore- it spreads like a virus and more often than not goes viral more than the publicity campaigns floated by the makers and PR agents of the film. The bigger the hype, the bigger the public backlash.
So while the publicity campaigns of the movies are getting expansive and more ambitious, their actual stay in the cinemas is getting shorter- so much so that the movies rejected by the public don’t run for more than one week- big budget or not. What ultimately counts is the public acceptance, which is not very difficult to gauge. Just watch a movie with the public and observe their reactions- which I did for Mausam- which evidently the very talented and earnest Shahid Kapoor would have done on the first day- and he would have got all the answers. Maybe the industry will get this point sooner than later, and the phenomenon of movie marketing that is fast assuming gigantic proportions, would slowly normalize and settle towards its old fashioned avatar. In the long run, that is what will keep the industry profitable and sustainable.