By Rhea Sabherwal
Any film industry heavily depends on all the various mediums of mass communication to promote their movies. The media and the film industry co-exist in a symbiotic relationship. Coming to the Indian film industry specifically, they sometimes spend more money marketing the movie than they do in making it (or so it feels like, sometimes). The 30-45 day promotion schedules almost all movies have nowadays seems crazy and most of the times, unecessary. A lot of the times even the actors feel so. I believe the trailer and a bit of promotions to “get the word out there” should be enough, because after that the film should run on the basis of whether it’s a good movie or not. But sadly the industry is stuck in a cycle of overpromoting a movie to a point where it’s hard to miss it even if you want to. Now that that this cycle has been formed, a movie buff like me possibly can’t do anything but live with it because I don’t think the overzealous marketing teams are going to quieten down anytime soon. The main problem, though, arises after that which is that the content being produced in the name of movie promotions is, and pardon my french here, absolute shit. All I’m asking is – How is Deepika and Ranbir playing dumbcharades for the twentieth time during promotions going to help me understand what went behind acting in the beautifully written scenes of a movie like Tamasha. If it’s not helping the cast or the audiences, then who exactly is this content being made for?
There are very VERY few channels left that give me content I want to watch. These rare channels will actually ask the cast and crew about the movie, their experience, the technicalities etc. I understand that lead actors and actresses playing irrelevant games does get traction, but we already have talk and game shows for that (yes – Koffee with Karan, I’m looking at you).and sadly, if it’s not games then the cast is being made to talk about their personal life, their dietary habits or their workout regimes – which must make for extremely intriguing content for many I suppose but does not happen to be related to the movie in any farfetched way. And if this wasn’t enough to watch once, we must go through it every single time a movie releases because the promotional strategy for each and every movie is the same (Note how I used the word same and not similar). I must admit I have found myself a victim of watching many such interviews where the cast is only being made to do and say stuff that is completely inconsequential because I’m foolish enough to believe that amongst all that I might actually find something worthwhile but unfortunately, more often than not, I don’t. Hence my argument remains the same – if I’m watching a promotional video (of any kind) for a movie, please let it tell me about the movie.
The “spectrum” of titles in Bollywood
A spectrum is a band of colours, as seen in a rainbow, produced by separation of the components of light by their different degrees of refraction according to wavelength. Compare it to the industry with the white light being the actors in the industry – all the same. Then comes in their wavelength and the degree of refraction it leads to i.e. the amount of screen time they get and the titles they’re bestowed with due to that. I know I stretched that metaphor way too far but what I mean to say is that if we were to oversimplify almost every thing for a minute, we see how each actor is just that – an actor. But bring into play power positions in the industry, market value and screen time – each actor gets categorised in a some or the other overarching title. And there’s an entire spectrum of these titles – “the hero”, “the lead”, “side actors”, “the villains” etc. What happens once an actor gets compartmentalised into one or a couple of these titles is that he/she rarely every gets to break out of it. When was the last time you saw Shah Rukh Khan as “the antogonist/villain” or Aparshakti Khurana in a “lead role?” Exactly.It just doesn’t happen. It took someone like Akshay Kumar more than a decade to break the stereotype of him being “the action star”before he actually started getting offers of movies that didn’t always require him to roll up his sleeves every three minutes.Pankaj Tripathi, who I think to be one of the finest actors we have today, said he has no problem getting cast in roles with not much screen time. He said in an interview – “Match main mazza tabhi aata hai jab ek ball pe chhe run banane ho. Possibility bohot Kam hai par main ismain Bhi Kuch karlunga”. While I applaud his ideals I think everyone realises or must realise that just like him there’s so many great actors caught in this cycle of having to do roles defined by the titles they seem to have been given. These titles can only be broken if the audiences and the filmmakers come together and give them a chance to do so.
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