Malayalam cinema: Marketing teams go for innovative ideas, rope in influencers to promote films

Trending reels, mega events and contests are just part of the effort to catch eyeballs to promote movies in Malayalam

January 27, 2024 01:49 pm | Updated 06:26 pm IST

Shane Nigam in a promotional video for Little Hearts

Shane Nigam in a promotional video for Little Hearts | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Shane Nigam wonders if he could have Rashmika Mandanna as his co-star. While film directors Aby Treesa Paul and Anto Jose Periera, and producer Sandra Thomas hem and haw, Anagha LK walks in and, without batting an eyelid, Shane says he feels she would be the best. The same goes for another role in which he feels he would look right with a smattering of grey. The minute Baburaj walks in with a funny line, Shane agrees that only he would do for the character. And to cap it all, the dancer steps in with a shake and a twist… This is not a scene from the movie Little Hearts but a promotional reel for the film releasing today (January 26).  

A few months ago, it was the makers of Falimy who came out with a reel that caught eyeballs and pulled youngsters into theatres for the Basil Joseph-starrer directed by debutant Nithish Sahadev.

Movie promotions have reached new heights with many producers going all out with innovative methods to market the movie.

Children wearing masks resembling Mohanlal’s character in Malaikottai Vaaliban

Children wearing masks resembling Mohanlal’s character in Malaikottai Vaaliban | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A comic book featuring Mohanlal as the lead character of Lijo Jose Pelliserry’s Malaikottai Vaaliban went viral. The books come with a mask of the Vaaliban. T-shirts and ‘strong man’ challenges were included in the promotions for the movie that reached cinemas on January 25.

The announcement of the title of a film has been turned into a big event with ‘first look poster’, trailers teasers, character sketches and promos released by super stars making it to the news. Then there are audio releases of the music, videos of the songs in the film, reactions of the audience after the premiere… It is a different ball game altogether from the days of mega cut outs and posters that announced the release of new films.

Synergy at play

Five years ago, when Sangeetha Janachandran started her agency, Stories Social Marketing and communication, she had to persuade directors and producers to credit her as such and not as public relations officer (PRO). “That is not the case now with production houses working with us to come up with interesting ideas to promote the film. There has been a 360 degree change,” she says.

Unmasking The Star from Mollywood to Kollywood, a promotional video for Shane’s Tamil debut, Madraskaaran, has got 1,77,337 views since it was released on January 19. It has Shane reeling off dialogues from Tamil blockbusters.

Sangeetha says it was an entertaining way to introduce him to a new audience. Depending on the content of the film and the budget, she reaches out to influencers to create eye-catching content that grab attention. She checks their demographics, follower base and the regions they are active in before collaborating with them. Sangeetha believes influencers know the local pulse better than anyone else.

Tovino Thomas in a still from the promotional video of Ajayante Randam Moshanam

Tovino Thomas in a still from the promotional video of Ajayante Randam Moshanam | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“With many big-budget films being released in multiple Indian languages on the same day, marketing the movie has become a necessity. For instance, Tovino Thomas’ Ajayante Randaam Moshanam (ARM), being released in five languages, required us to reach out to influencers in all five languages to create content to promote the movie,” says Vaisakh C Vadakaveedu who handles public relations and marketing with his partner Jinu Anilkumar.

Trending reels

They were the ones behind the catchy promotions of 2018, Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey, Ozler, Falimy, Neymar, and so on. Nithish says Falimy’s  good opening was thanks to the five reels that were used for the promotions.

Falimy centres on a family and a journey. The makers were apprehensive that the usual content might give it the feel of a family drama. So Vaisakh worked with influencers to come up with subjects and scripts. “We gave them inputs but they shot the reels. We also conducted a contest inviting people to share their experience of traveling with the family,” he adds.

Basil Joseph and Darshana Rajendran in a promotional reel conceptualised by Basil to promote Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey

Basil Joseph and Darshana Rajendran in a promotional reel conceptualised by Basil to promote Jaya Jaya Jaya Jaya Hey | Photo Credit: SPECIAL AARANGEMENT

Some actors are game to participate in the fun promos. In fact, it was Basil who came up with the viral dance video with Darshana Rajendran to promote Jaya…Hey. He had also conceptualised and shot a captivating song featuring animals and children for the promotion of his film Palthu Janwar (2022).

Remember Anjali Menon’s Wonder Women that premiered on SonyLiv? “Positive pregnancy test results were shared by the cast such as Parvathy Thiruvothu, Nithya Menen, Sayonara and the others on their social media handles. It created such a buzz and went beyond the digital media audience,” she points out.

Flashback in tinsel town
“We were assigned to take photographs on the sets and these would be provided to print magazines and dailies. Then there were single-page materials, called notice in the trade, with the names of the stars, directors, singers etc, and printed booklets with the lyrics of the songs that were for sale. All that has vanished,” says still photographer R Gopalakrishnan. While the notices were scattered from vehicles fitted with a loudspeaker to announce the release of a movie, in rural areas posters were carried on bullock carts, and drums were played to create excitement for the movie. 
Still from Padmarajan’s Aparan in which Jayaram made his debut as an actor.  (from left) Padmarajan, Madhu and Jayaram 

Still from Padmarajan’s Aparan in which Jayaram made his debut as an actor.  (from left) Padmarajan, Madhu and Jayaram  | Photo Credit: R GOPALAKRISHNAN

Cut to the eighties. Still photographer Gopalakrishnan who began working in 1979 recalls a time when still photographs and posters were the only material used to promote movies. In fact, the author-photographer wonders why, at present, even still photographs of the action on the sets are not given for publicity prior to the release.

Still from Priyadarsan’s Kadathanadan Ambadi (1990) featuring Mohanlal and Prem Nazir

Still from Priyadarsan’s Kadathanadan Ambadi (1990) featuring Mohanlal and Prem Nazir | Photo Credit: R GOPALAKRISHNAN

True to the trend now, when it came to his son, actor-director Vishnu Raghav’s film Vaashi, the still photographs of the film were not widely circulated until the movie reached theatres.

Vishnu explains that in the past, only the snaps were available as publicity material. At present, almost all the stars are active on social media, there is no mysterious aura about them. Their lives are out there on various platforms. “To create a bit of excitement and curiosity about the characters in Vaashi, we did not share photographs of Keerthy (Suresh) and Tovino as lawyers till the movie was ready to release,” says Vishnu.

Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh in Vaashi, directed by Vishnu G Raghav

Tovino Thomas and Keerthy Suresh in Vaashi, directed by Vishnu G Raghav | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 To make the film a talking point, the makers organised a discussion on the film at Government Law college, Ernakulam, as the leads played by Tovino and Keerthy were lawyers.

In the case of Jude Anthany Joseph’s 2018: Everyone Is A Hero, the marketing team released carefully selected footage of the flood in 2018 to help viewers connect with the film. “It was tricky. We did not want them to think that it was a documentary!” recalls Vaisakh.

For the upcoming ARM and Manjummel Boys, the marketing blitz has just started. The teaser was launched by Hrithik Roshan while Rakshit Shetty released it in Kannada. Then a glittering function was held at Lulu, Kochi to launch the 3-D teaser of ARM.

“Each film requires customised marketing to reach target audiences. And producers have realised the importance of marketing their films to reach target audiences. Once viewers are convinced that it is a visual and audio experience, they will frequent cinemas. Otherwise, they might enjoy it on OTT. So, many a time, we work closely with the production and creative teams,” says Sangeetha.

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