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“Marketing Is Vital But…”

With his upcoming film, OMG – Oh My God!, Paresh Rawal returns to production by partnering with Viacom18 Motion Pictures. Here’s the actor-producer in a no-holds-barred conversation with Sagorika Dasgupta

Maharathi was your first film as a producer. Why has it taken so long to produce another film?

I didn’t find a good script to work on, which is why I took so long to return to production. Luckily, my partner, Playtime Creations’ Hemal Thakkar, helped me make OMG!. I was thinking of getting back into production for a long time and I felt this was the right subject. As far as I know, filmmakers usually don’t opt for these subjects. So I thought that it would be appropriate to try something new.  I learnt a lot of things from my first stint at production with Maharathi – if you do the right kind of film, with the right casting and a good mindset, then half your battle is won. That positivity gets translated on screen.

Does co-production with a studio help the film?

Corporate studios have had a very positive influence on the industry. Films are completed on time. Ultimately, it’s profitable for a film. They have introduced discipline to the filmmaking process.

Now-a-days, off beat films are doing well at the box office…

(Cuts in) I am not aware of that and I don’t intend to rule the box office with this film. The subject of OMG! was very close to my heart and we have put in a lot of hard work. I hope this reflects at the box office.

What is the one big USP of this film?

The script is the real hero of the film, and the rest of us are merely pygmies to something as gigantically important as the story. I feel the sooner the Hindi film industry understands this, the better. The beauty of the script is that it will evoke the same reaction from an eight year old to an 80-year old.

Did you cast Akshay Kumar because of his star pull?

He has a mischievous persona yet he is very affable and endearing. More than that, there is something very pious about him. So I thought he was best suited to essay God’s role. Also, Akshay and I have the right chemistry.

Apart from Sonakshi Sinha’s number, the film doesn’t have any songs, nor does it have any strong female lead. Did you think it was not necessary for the film?

There are songs in the film but they are not your typical song-and-dance routines. How could we include them if the script didn’t demand them?  I don’t think the lack of a female lead will impact the film. It’s sad but barring a few films, heroine ka role bhi kya hota hai hamari filmon mein? My film is not Kahaani or The Dirty Picture or Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl or Band Baaja Baaraat, where there are characters etched for a female lead.

What about item numbers? Do they help in a film’s promotions?

You can do without them. I also strongly object to promotional videos of the kind we have these days. Suppose, I play a school teacher in a film and the promotional video shows me dancing like Michael Jackson, doesn’t that give the wrong impression? It works against the film. Promotional songs are stupidity. American films mein woh karte hai, as they don’t have songs in their films. Hamari picturon mein karte hain kyunki hamari filmon mein story nahi hoti. Instead, yeh sab paisa aap media promotion mein lagao na. So that at least kuch results toh ho.

Ideally, how much should a producer should spend on marketing?

Marketing is vital but kaise hona chahiye, it has become another burden. Itna soch agar story pe dete toh life would have become easier. The budget of the film should be controlled and that brings good results for a film.

At the music launch, you had said that you don’t believe in marketing a film too much as it could result in an overkill…

I firmly believe that marketing is important but going to malls and multiplexes and creating a furore before a film’s release doesn’t translate into ticket sales. Films that have travelled to smaller cities and towns and have created a buzz when the cast met their fans have mostly not done well in those centres. I think it’s a waste of time and money. I am not saying marketing is not important. But instead of going to malls, invest that money in more traditional media like print and TV. Use your energy to give interviews in newspapers and through the electronic media and place advertisements and trailers on channels.

This incessant need to promote films so aggressively has become a fashion. It is not a need but arises out of insecurity. Filmmakers are paranoid about failing at the box office if they feel they haven’t promoted their films well. Have you ever seen Rajinikanth promote his films like that? I am not saying that either Akshay or I am as big as Rajinikanth, but one should be wise about how one spends one’s marketing budget. I could be wrong but I am yet to see whether going to malls really brings in the money at the ticket window.

But considering yours is an offbeat film, shouldn’t the marketing be innovative?

My subject is very unusual and the story is innovative itself. So I don’t think a unique marketing startegy can increase the audience of a film. Despite the presence of Akshay Kumar and the kind of buzz the movie has generated on YouTube, the film will do well only by word-of-mouth publicity. If it’s a bad film, news spreads like wildfire and if it’s a good film, the buzz will spread like wildfire too. Besides, the print and electronic media’s reach is far more effective.

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