Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Delhi 6, Billu, Dev D - a study in Strategy

Let me draw your attention to a very prudent Marketing principle:
Delhi 6 is releasing this Friday. The net is agog with good news out of New York about the movie. Good to hear. UTV, again, as usual has done a tremendous job of getting the film to its required junta. The songs and the music are doing wonderfully well and are able to lend to the movie’s marketing a whole lot.
In fact, this brings me to the above principle. Delhi 6 was announced to the world some two years ago and R O Mehra took some time to get together his principal cast. But, he had done his script and had taken pains to give A R Rahman a complete narration of the screenplay. Rahman , on his part, started with his homework and it then took a painstaking process of much over a year before he got all the tunes in place. Tunes that were from all over the place, various types of music, even a devotional number that he had safeguarded for about nine years!
ARR knew Rakeysh’s story. He also could get the spirit of creativity. He nurtured it. So, look at the product we have at hand. ARR strove to provide us through Delhi 6 music the strongest relationship – love and honesty. These were tunes that were not hatched up in a Rum and guitar session. These were not ditties that were composed at 6 am in the morning because Shreya Ghoshal was not going to be available for another 3 months as she was going away on a Live tour! This was not poetry that was hatched up with stock words such as “Soniye”, “Munda”, “Mar Jaawan”! This is lyrics, as we know it from the “Aaa chalke tujhe main leke chaloon” days. Prasoon Joshi may not write another single line at all but shall be remembered for “Arziyan” forever. This is what I mean when I say “Strongest Relationship”.
When this kind of a relationship is created at the outset, the rest of the movie is created with the same fervour and devotion. I can very well imagine the cast, high value ensemble that it already is, would feel when confronted with such writing and such music. Top your best, shall have been the cry in unison. I can definitely say with complete confidence, even without getting a minute peek into the film, that Vijay Raaz, Dipak Dobriyal, Divya Dutta, Rishi Kapoor, Supriya Pathak, Waheedaji, Om Puri, Pavan Malhotra, Sheeba and the others would have just been driven by some unseen power to deliver acting standards that they themselves had not touched before. Such is the power of sturdy, hard, painstaking, honest work and craft!
The Marketing principle also stated “Profitable customers”. Fortunately, Indian cinema, the unique Entertainment juggernaut does have the entire country’s population as its “profitable customer”. Movies made with utmost honesty with true regard to story, plotting, music, language, idiom and communication shall always be able to reach out all the customers.
Billu – a moderate movie with a simple cast except Shahrukh Khan has not seen hysteria at the Box Office. Why? For me and many other people, it is that entry of Shahrukh and his dalliances with three heroines, promoted as they were. So, what happened?
a) It became a mass movie that converted into a multiplex movie
b) It was a multiplex movie all along but had tried to break into other markets too
I really have no problems with either marketing premise, but was the story or marketing true to its form. No!
Ideally, the movie was to have 3 – 4 nice songs from the heartland, like the location of the movie, based on new sounds, but heartland, with good and clear lyrics, not the Urdu symbolisms that fail to enthuse the normal paying people and that good cast to do some even more pithy lines of dark humour right through the movie.
But what we got is a Shahukh Khan starrer where he has pontificated about the goodness of our film industry. C’mon, people can see through all of this! So, Monday onwards the movie is taking a huge dip. At best, it will scrape through somehow and a thundering performance by Irrfan shall be consigned to the back pages of tabloids.
On the other hand, Dev D, a movie, that had an entirely different form, style, content and visual appeal has managed to stick through the last ten days quite merrily. The reason is very apparent. Kashyap and UTV focused on getting their customer right with the right story, the right pitch, the right music, hummable lyrics, easy to understand dialogues, everyday pronunciations and generally kept the vim and vigour flowing. Kashyap has gone on record saying that he bounced it off his mother too.
This is the hallmark of a good Producer, manufacturer or service provider. They keep it simple to make it easy for the customer to see some value in it. Thereby, a Brand is created and generates mindspace and heartspace.
Delhi 6 is on its way to become a huge trendsetting blockbuster.
Dev D has shown what a good small film can do.
Billu is where it is!!
The Best Startegy is still the best product, a great movie shall still result from a well told story and its accompaniments, other gimmicks can be kept back in the garage!