Any movie that has a tagline “Sh!t Happens” is doing two things very knowingly: alienating a section of people, and getting another section of people curious. Possibly only a gamble Aamir Khan is willing to take: selling a movie about potty stuff and a stomach condition. There will be those who will consider him not quite off the rocker, and those who will grudgingly drag themselves into the cinemas next weekend to see what’s up. Or down.
Aamir’s movies would make for a brilliant marketing study in themselves. They use elements of the films very carefully, carving a niche audience even before the release – in this case, possibly queasy college kids – and are always unique. He never tends to repeat himself, and what is fabulous: he never openly sells himself. He sells his intellect, which people have seen and appreciated over the years; he sells his choices, which people have grown to trust; he sells tenets of the movie that may not be obviously saleable and he, ingeniously, makes them saleable.
He waited many years to release this film, even queuing it behind his production house’s other releases, so much so that people got tired waiting for it to release, rumours began spreading about tension brewing between the director and the producers. When he finally decided to release the film, which is a short English-language film (also being dubbed in local languages) without an interval and with no songs (besides background music), he worked in an alternative promotional strategy.
1. Imran Khan, now a household name, is selling sex in the movie. Crushing the ‘nice kid – now married and settled’ image, Imran gets down and dirty in the movie.
2. There are a good number of expletives used – particularly in the song which has been touted as a cult classic ‘Bhaagbhaagdkbose’. The ‘good kids’ of the film, claim to not know these words and their meanings. Aamir suggests an ‘A’ rating. The censor boards get into overdrive. See video of the song (my personal favourite): http://youtu.be/8OVGbdOG7dA
Also: Selling reverse psychology. Telling people not to watch something is like a sure fire way to get the people to come see what they are told not to watch. Snap.
3. The actors remain straight-faced and yet severely dry and mocking in their humour when being interviewed. (See @thevirdas’ tweets about conversations with a journalist)
4. The songs. THE SONGS. For a movie that has no songs, the songs are a raging hit. Shot recently, they are cleverly envisioned – each one a distinct and innovative study in youth culture, popular lingo, satire and clever misconceptions. Music and lyrics, bang on. Cult classics in the making.
5. Soft selling. What does the youth who will be coerced to watching this movie want? T-shirts. Funky, irreverent t-shirts, selling the Delhi Belly brand. Imran and the others are busy doing that.
6. Food: Delhi Belly refers to a stomach condition. You find the Delhi Belly trio, ironically being photographed at gourmet and fine dining places – presumably to now avoid getting a ‘delhi belly’?
7. Irreverence. Therein lies the foundation on which this film is built. Three kids go through sh*t. And hopefully come out of it alive. With the name, the songs, the attitude and the overall marketing, Delhi Belly is selling a good degree of irreverence.
8. Item Number: Aamir, is for once, selling himself. An item number done 70s disco style. #MAJORWin. See video: http://youtu.be/IGYA_P7ZHcw
9. I like a movie that sells it’s men rather than it’s women. A gratifying change. However ‘shitty’ it might be.
Now it’s just up to the target audience to lap it up.
Aamir has a way of making films and concepts iconic and into a brand. His auteur, unlike other directors, isn’t a kind of film, it’s merely good cinema – path-breaking, unique, and never cut from the common cloth. The success of his films has enough to do with his marketing brainwaves, experience and perfection at the editing table as it does with the film itself. SO much nicer than cheap marketing pot shots that many other films are reduced to.