The Cheat Sheet to Selling a Superhit


The Cheat Sheet to Selling a Superhit

Illustration: Juergen Dsouza

January 25 is a big day for Bollywood. Two big releases by two mega stars and both so refreshingly different. Hrithik Roshan plays a blind man in Kaabil, a big change from his other movies where he has played either a physically or mentally disabled character. Raees on the other hand is different because well… Shah Rukh wears kajal.

Movies have never had it so tough. If they’re not biopics of cricketers and other sportsperson, people today are demanding things like plot and a storyline and what not. The next thing you know, they will be demanding a narrative!  But moviemakers have smartened up. In the absence of a plot or performances, they up their marketing game to a point where the viewer is so dazzled that he’s pulled into the theatre like a moth to a flame. Here’s a sure-shot formula that goes into selling of a superhit.

First comes the movie poster. Make a big deal about it. Last year, there was a poster with just pair of shoes on it, and if that created enough buzz, anything else should work. Next comes a moving poster, one that captures the essence of the movie – essentially two hot people in minimal clothing. But wait, the work is not done here. It’s now time to create some hype about the trailer launch. Ask the lead stars to talk about the upcoming film in coy, mysterious terms, send out teasers on social media, followed by cuts of the trailer, and then cuts of the cuts. That’s not all.

Songs are equally important. Songs are works of art and have their own journey of creation. Take a really popular old number, a chartbuster of its time. The kind that gets people grooving and is still talked about as a favourite. Now, maul it with some random beats, maybe some electronic or jazzy tunes, and reintroduce it with the film. To ensure Twitter is talking about it, ask a man wearing gold jewellery and a jacket aka any rapper to add their two cents to it. Remember, the song being irrelevant to the storyline is key. Do not suggest silly things like it should take the story forward. Next, use an upcoming festival to release the second song. Keep releasing songs until people have lost track of the fact that they ever wanted a plot.

If you can get the star to train with a foreigner, that’s perfect. It gets more eyeballs than boring desi trainers.

Once the movie promotion starts, it’s important for your stars to grace every possible TV show there is. For example, the actors should appear on a popular comedy show, where they are made to dance, made fun of, and harassed by random cross-dressed people, all in the name of entertainment. This is a huge accomplishment in itself, self-respect be damned. You then want them on talk shows where they trash their peers, down confessional coffee shots, and fake bond on the couch, all of it accompanied by shrill fake laughter. Again, remember, the show, its theme, and what they talk about on the show shouldn’t be relevant to the film.

As you get closer to the release date, send out snippets of information about how the actor got into the skin of the character by transforming his/her body. Show the stars working out and document their arduous journey to six-pack heaven. Make this more interesting by showing a beefy guy helping the star. If an actor has put on weight for the role, show him eating butter chicken and burping. If you can get the star to train with a foreigner, that’s perfect. It gets more eyeballs than boring desi trainers. You could be in a bit of a dilemma, if the stars have done is a few diddly squats, but look exactly the same in the movie. You could then talk about how heavy the outfits are but it’s not ideal. Maybe you can get the star to grow a beard. The male actor, that is. Or if all else fails… keep the look a secret. Ask the star to duck every time they spot a photographer for no good reason at all.

Now you are a week away from the release. Marketing and social media is everything. For this, you need a star with a decent number of followers. It’s important that he/she tweets about a social issue, something that is a hot-button topic. And if they have daughters or grandchildren writing an open letter is must. If your lead actors are superstars, stirring up a controversy should be a cakewalk. If the controversy leads to some protests and candle marches you have a winner. The viewer, that poor clueless moth, will come to the flame of your 70 mm screen and there inside the movie theatre, he will perish.

But as long as he dies holding the ticket stub in his cold lifeless hand, having done his bit for the ₹ 100-crore opening, his death will not have been in vain. Rest in peace.