Controversies! Aah… Haven’t we all been tempted to know the latest controversial gossip at some point? The juicy news makes up for a great topic to discuss over lunch with co-workers and then gets carried forward to the dinner table at home. It’s hard to resist and impossible to ignore and it spreads faster than the speed of light. Word of mouth, Press, newspapers, TV debates, WhatsApp messages, articles. The controversy slowly becomes the only thing being talked about in the nation.
With Hindi films releasing at an average of 3 films every week, filmmakers have to constantly try to get an edge over their competitors. They have to spend loads of money to publicize the film to ensure that people go to watch it. Have you stopped to think what might be an extremely intelligent way to do that, which could also save them on some cash? Okay, no points for guessing (since it was clearly evident what I was hinting at!) What if the filmmakers used controversies to promote their film? Like the popular phrase by P.T Barnum goes, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” You just need to be intelligent and find a way to turn around the bad publicity in your favour! And Indian filmmakers have done just that!
In the recent past, there have been more than a few instances where films were the subject of controversies. It first started with Udta Punjab which was banned from releasing by the CBFC in June of 2016. After much delay and lots of discussions and debates, when it finally released a month later, it was an instant success. This led to many asking the question that whether the controversy actually helped the film get its success. People were also intrigued because the film opened to a massive first-day collection and the collections only decreased from that point onwards thus suggesting that many people only went to see what the hype was all about.
A similar kind of incident happened the following year with the film ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha.’ This film too was delayed for release by the CBFC stating that the film was too ‘Woman Oriented.’ The makers acknowledged the controversy and used the real newspaper articles and comments that criticised the film and added them in the second trailer of the film. The controversy with the CBFC generated enough hype from the media, It was a sensitive matter and so even the public came in support of the film. That along with a strong positive word of mouth from various critics attracted the audience. The film was a massive success on its release.
However, if there is one film that rules them all in terms of using controversy in their favour is the film ‘Padmaavat’. It had been the centre of controversies right from the time of its production. Few communities took offence to the subject of the film stating that it hurt their sentiments. They protested against the film to the point that these protests became violent. Sets of the films were destroyed, riots were conducted and this entire issue became the hot discussion throughout the nation. But isn’t it debatable that the major outrage that the film faced only made the people more curious as to what the film had to offer? Padmaavat was one of the highest grossing films in India and so it seems like the controversy did more good than harm. Even if the audience went just out of curiosity, they still helped the film to become the most successful film that year!
So will more and more filmmakers adopt this strategy of marketing? Well that is for time to tell but the makers definitely will have to use this very carefully because it is just as easy for the strategy to backfire and the film to become a terrible failure at the box office!