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Marketer No. 1

Making a film work at the box office is all about promoting your product. Meet the man who started it all

I was the first producer to market films in a big way at a time when this was not a popular option. This was way before five years ago, when producers realised the potential of marketing. I was aware of its potential because I had friends in the corporate world, and I have always viewed films as products. In fact, my film Hero No 1 was the first film to be marketed as a product. Biwi No 1 was marketed as a product. Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan was marketed as a product.

Today, filmmakers and actors today tour cities to market their films. I did this with Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai. I had taken my lead cast, Tusshar Kapoor and Kareena Kapoor, to small towns and cities. I wanted my audience to relate to the hero, who like them, was a small-town guy, very shy and with very little money. People would gather in large numbers to see Tusshar and Kareena and I would give away gifts and saris to them as the media was not as strong as it is today.

But marketing films is not like selling Colgate. Market toothpaste today and it will sell for the next 20 years. Films are like perishable products, which have to be marketed seasonally – according to their content. And because content varies with each film, film marketing has to be creative and unique every time. This is the only way to grab the eyeballs of your core audience. If you market your film in a certain way, it may go down well with the audience. And you have to keep the masses, classes and the middle-class in mind and market your film accordingly.

There are several filmmakers who think it is not necessary to market a film exhaustively. But I firmly believe that the more you market your film, the better it is! If you spend, say Rs 5 crore, you will reap Rs 10 crore. Marketing is not about investing money and making money. Today, it is all about branding. If you do not market your product, how will it establish itself in the market? 

When I began my career, I advertised my films extensively. Thankfully, Coolie No 1, my first film, was a hit and the ‘No 1’ tag stuck to me, and we went on to make several films with the ‘No 1’ title. During this phase, I also delivered flops and incurred losses but I took it in my stride.

Similarly, F.A.L.T.U. was very important to me. I wanted it to be successful at the box office because Jackky’s first film, Kal Kisne Dekha, had bombed. Since his first film was a flop, people wondered whether F.A.L.T.U. would actually get completed. If it did, the next question was: Who would buy it? And if someone did and it released, then who would watch it?

It was a huge challenge for me to lure the audience to the cinemas. It was a challenge to make them accept a one-flop-old hero. It was a challenge to make the film a brand. And it worked, it worked like magic. I planned the marketing strategy and my team stood by me. The music became a hit too. I must mention here, both Riteish Deshmukh and Arshad Warsi did the film as if it was their own.

Coming up with creative marketing strategies is not rocket science. I just watch my film and I instinctively know how to go about marketing it. I am also clued into what’s happening in the world and I use this to make my film known to people. I have had music releases in an aircraft. I promoted Shaadi No 1 by taking the press to Nasik by train. It was an 18-hour return journey, where everybody enjoyed interacting with the stars and had a good time visiting Shirdi. The entire train was booked for us.

Farah Khan did something similar to promote Tees Maar Khan. The media was taken to Khandala for this. But who came up with the idea of doing this first?

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