A Minute With: Aamir Khan on movie marketing
âDhoom 3â, the third instalment in Indiaâs only action movie franchise, has become Bollywoodâs highest-grossing film, raking in more than 5 billion rupees ($80 million) in global ticket sales.
Lead actor Aamir Khan spoke to India Insight about the filmâs marketing strategy, why reality TV shows may not be ideal for publicity and what he would change about his 2005 film “Mangal Pandey – The Rising.” Edited excerpts.
How was the marketing strategy for âDhoom 3â conceived?
When we sat down for the first time, Victor (director Vijay Krishna Acharya) and the whole team were trying to figure out what we wanted to convey for this film. And like any other film, and this is something that both Adi (producer Aditya Chopra) and I feel very strongly, what actually wants to make you see the film is the trailer. We wanted to let the creative of the film speak for itself. Over the years, certain conventions have been formed and we looked at each convention for its own merit. Do we want to continue what is happening, is it of any use to the film, or not?
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Which conventions did you look at?
One of the conventions is that, typically, it is believed that going on big-ticket reality TV shows gets you a big opening.
Werenât you one of the first to do that during âGhajiniâ?
Yes, I was and I am not denying that. But circumstances alter — I cannot do the same thing I did five years ago. That doesnât mean it is relevant today. We looked at each convention in isolation. Will âDhoom 3â benefit by going on a reality TV show — our answer was no. Because in our opinion, what a reality show essentially does is it amplifies the awareness of your film, but it doesnât increase the desire to consume. I may be aware of your film and be very clear that I donât want to see it. âDhoom 3â didnât need awareness, people have been asking us for the last three years about it. I am not saying there is no value to going on a reality TV show. If it was a film like âPeepli Liveâ, which is a small film — we donât have the budgets and cannot buy ad time. Our hands are tied and I donât have stars. So I go to a large show and raise awareness to a huge audience that isnât even aware of the film. The other big thing was not releasing our full songs — that was a big decision we took. The thought being that we want you to enjoy the full songs in the theatre. If Iâve seen the song on TV 20 times and on YouTube 20 times, when it comes in the film, I have already seen it, I have lost interest in those five minutes. Weâve made a large-scale experience, so we want you to enjoy it like that. The other advantage was the old advantage that Hindi films had. I love “Salaam-e-Ishq” from âMuqaddar ka Sikandarâ, but if I didnât have YouTube then, or didnât see it on TV, I would go to the theatre to watch it. People used to do that, and that is why songs had repeat value. âDhoom 3â had “Malang”, which was a huge spectacle, and that creates a desire in you to watch it for a second time. It could, at least.
So would you attribute the movieâs big opening to content being held back?
That could be the case. When you hold back, people want to know more about it. But itâs a psychological thing, which you cannot measure. It has to be something you either believe in or not.
How much of âDhoom 3â and its success would you attribute to marketing?
Itâs everything. It is the marketing, the stars, the franchise. And after the third day, it is the content that speaks. The first three days is a combination of these three things — who is your star cast, what is the interest people have towards this film, and how you market the film. These three components will get you the first three days, no matter what the film is.
Do you think this strategy would work for your other films?
For me, there is no such thing. Every film is different. Like âPeekayâ has such a strong visual component, even if there is no promo, and just a photograph, it might be enough.
When do you start thinking of this?
Closer to the film, as it grows organically. Because you need to know how the film is turning out, how it is shaping up.
You said in an earlier interview that what matters is how well youâve managed to communicate your film to the audience. Any instances when you havenât done that?
If I had to release âMangal Pandeyâ again, I would change the name. The story is of an Indian sepoy and his British officer — it is about two friends who find themselves on opposite sides during a time of crisis. It is not the story of two men, not just Mangal Pandey. With his title, you are not prepared for the role of the other man. Also, the title gives you a feeling that he is going to vanquish the British, but that is not what happens. The title is a big deal — it resonates with your film.
The biggest learning I had was during â3 Idiotsâ. The title didnât track well at all, because people didnât know what it was called. I was told that my film wouldnât get an opening because no one knew it was coming. Itâs an English title, and people cannot identify with it. If you ask them, will you watch the Aamir Khan and Kareena Kapoor film, theyâll say yes. You and me will look at a Tamil film and say oh, I want to watch a Rajnikanth film, because we canât read or pronounce the title. A lot of distributors will still tell you that English titles wonât work. We live in a bubble, and we donât think it is such a big deal. But it is very, very important.
(Editing by Tony Tharakan and Robert MacMillan;Â Follow Shilpa on TwitterÂ @shilpajay, Tony @tonytharakan and Robert @bobbymacReportsÂ Â | Disclaimer: This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced in any form without permission)