Promoting a film through a self-help group? Dhanapal Padmanabhan, producer-director of “Krishnaveni Panjaalai,” explains his novel publicity strategy

For the first time in the country, a Tamil film producer has made a novel move that could not only revolutionise the manner in which small Tamil films are marketed henceforth in the State, but also provide a means of income to several poor women here.

Dhanapal Padmanabhan, producer-director of “Krishnaveni Panjaalai,” has chosen to do what no other director or producer has so far attempted — take his film to the masses through women self-help groups.

The producer says, “We plan to use the services of a women self-help group called Mahasemam that has a strong presence in the southern belt of the State. Mahasemam has more than one lakh members and we intend to take our film to the people there through its strong network.”

Points out Dhanapal, “Good films made on small budgets such as mine lack the publicity big producers are capable of drumming up for their films. I believe that even a small film with good content will sell if word spreads about its content. In fact, the best publicity for such films is through word of mouth. My job is to create an initial awareness about the film. Once word spreads about its content, public support for the film will grow and it will succeed. To do this, I need already established networks. I realised that corporate chains as well as women self-help groups have strong networks.”

Simple process

The process is simple. Dhanapal's team is to send flyers and pamphlets describing the highlights of the film to the members of Mahasemam so that they understand what it is all about. Once that is done, the producer intends to send ticket coupons for the first three days to the members of the SHG which will market them.

“The tickets will be for theatres screening the film in their respective areas. The women will get to make a profit of 10 per cent on every ticket they sell. We hope to sell at least 50,000 tickets through these women in the southern districts alone,” discloses Dhanapal.

But won't this move affect his profits? Says Dhanapal, “Yes, my profits will be a little low. But I can make good the loss through the volume of tickets sold and I expect a considerable increase because of the involvement of the SHG. More importantly, it will be word-of-mouth publicity for my film.”

Confirming the move, Pannirselvam of Mahasemam, who holds a doctorate in microfinance, says, “Mahasemam is a self-help group operating in Madurai and Tirunelveli that specialises not just in microfinance but also in spreading health and legal awareness among women. We have 1.10 lakh members and around 4,000 leaders. These leaders will disseminate information about the film to their members and help them sell the tickets.”

He adds, “To us, it is a new effort. It is a means of earning additional income. We have poor women who perform one or several of 362 activities such as rearing animals to earn money. This proposal was interesting because, on the one hand, it would result in a good film getting publicity and, at the same time, it would help poor women make money. If 50,000 tickets are sold, we will get Rs. 3 lakh. As this is a novel initiative, we want the members to enjoy the profit this time. The next time we do something like this, we intend to use the profits for the common good such as setting up an RO water treatment plant that can provide safe drinking water to about 500 families everyday.”

Chain reaction

Apart from utilising the services of women SHGs, Dhanapal has also roped in MBA students from various colleges in the State and big retail chains to promote his movie. themselves in his movie's promotional activities.

For instance, Ramraj Cotton, the textile chain, and Sree Krishna Sweets purchased the audio cds of the film and distributed them free along with their products to customers.

Says Nagaraj of Ramraj Cotton, “Dhanapal is a good friend and I wanted to help him. After the audio of the film was released, several people who listened to the songs found them pleasant. Also, the movie is about a love story set in Coimbatore with the textile industry as a backdrop. I have 6,000 dealers and 25 showrooms on my own and I thought I would help create awareness about a good film as well as help a good friend. So I decided to buy audio cds of his film and distribute them for free along with my products to customers, several of whom have got back to me saying the songs are pleasant.”

Spinning a love story

“Krishnaveni Panchalai” is a love story set against the backdrop of the textile industry that saw its best times during the Eighties.

“At that point, the industry was like the IT industry today. Those employed in the textile industry were considered to have secure jobs. That's the scenario in which the love story unfolds,” says Dhanapal.