Mollywood is increasingly using innovative ways to promote films

Even before films hit screens, savvy directors in Mollywood are ensuring that trailers and promos of their films go viral. In fact, the buzz happens even before the first shot is canned.

Director Amal Neerad has just begun work on his new film Bachelor Party but he's already managed to create a hype, thanks to an intriguing poster-calendar that features the ensemble cast of the film in costume, which was distributed to the media.

“It's a successful marketing technique that I've been using right from my first film Big B, for which I brought out a poster featuring lead actors Mammootty, Nafisa Ali, and Manoj K. Jayan, among others, again all in costume. Not only does it create a buzz about the film, it also helps me as a director to firmly set the look of the film in my mind,” says Amal.

Director Arun Kumar Aravind, meanwhile, chose the vox populi themselves to promote his soon-to-be-released movie, Ee Adutha Kaalathu... He released a catchy teaser that had bytes from celebrities such as director Lal Jose, politicians Ramesh Chennithala and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, TV anchor Ranjini Haridas, mediaperson Nikesh Kumar, and a host of ordinary city folk talking about what happened ee adutha kaalathu (Malayalam for, in the recent past). For the promotion of Arun's mentor, director Priyadarshan's latest movie, Arabiyum Ottakavum P. Madhavan Nairum: In Oru Marubhumi Katha in the city, a camel was brought in all the way from Alappuzha to Putharikandam Maidan!

Newbie director Srinath Rajendran, whose movie Second Show starring Mammooty's look-alike son, Dulqar Salman, is due to be released soon, has chosen to flood cyberspace with slickly made promos of the movie, even designing an “internet special” concept trailer that features a Chakyarkoothu-style narration, all of which have got netizens on overdrive.

Good response

“The response from viewers has been amazing,” says Srinath, adding: “It was an inspired decision on our part to launch the audio of Second Show with an impromptu performance at the Gold Souk in Kochi featuring songs by rock band Avial, who've composed music for the film, in itself a coup. It ensured that we went viral almost immediately.”

Most directors say that amping up the promos has almost become a norm.

“Life is so fast paced nowadays that it moves at the rate people flip through channels. So it's important that you find interesting ways to hold their attention and get them talking about your film. That's where novel marketing strategies come into play. You've got to intrigue people enough to get them to step into the theatre,” says Arun Kumar, who is all set to debut the theatrical trailer of Ee Adutha..., which he himself edited, next week. “It's not your typical trailer where you have clippings of a few signature dialogues from the film mixed with song sequences and credits. I've tried to make it something different – a Hollywood style, fast-cut montage with punchlines and title cards amped with the film's theme music,” he adds.

Although it's quite difficult to pin down exactly when trailers – and thereby innovative promos – started their run in Mollywood, Priyadarshan's Kalapaani (1996) is more or less acknowledged as the first of the “modern” attempts. The real credit for kicking off modern trailers, though, goes to Lal Jose who came out with one for Chandranudikkunna Dikkil (1999) and later for Randam Bhavam (2001). “Actually, for Chandranudikkunna Dikkil, I only wanted to popularise the song Chandranudikkunna Dikkil... from the film, and show that it was different from the eponymous evergreen number by [K.J.] Yesudas. Randam Bhavam is the first modern film to have used fast cuts in it's trailer,” recalls Lal Jose, whose new movie Spanish Masala reaches theatres today. The veteran director, who has always been more tech-savvy than most of his compatriots, has been blogging about his films. He has also got into the spirit of things with a funky website for the film ( complete with an online contest that urges netizens to post comments on its Facebook page and win free tickets .

Target audience

That these new age promos are targeting the youth, primarily the urban, more net-savvy youth, is a given. “Well, they do say that cinema is forever 17 years old...,” quips Lal Jose, as Amal says: “You tend to be the most excited and the most impressionable when you are young and carefree. So naturally these youngsters are your biggest draws. In fact, I prefer such viewers. I thrive on their boos and claps!” Amal adds that in the run-up to Bachelor Party's release sometime in May, he'll be coming out with periodical teasers and titbits “just to keep a finger on the pulse.”

There is also an economic thrust to these aggressive marketing techniques. The grapevine has it that the more the buzz generated, the more easier it is to find distributors, and up the moolah for satellite rights and international DVD rights. The reel play continues…

Reel hype

Filmmakers have started using gala music launches, glitzy posters, interactive websites, Facebook pages, Tweets, Youtube channels, contests that get one access to the film's stars, free tickets or merchandise, and so on, to build up hype and reach out to young audiences. Most of them also tie up with media partners and ‘internet partners' to promote their films and get posters professionally designed.