Conning the media for publicity!

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 14, 2004 04:17 hrs

Strange are the ways of the filmi publicity machinery. The makers of the new Mallika Sherawat starrer Kis Kis Ki Kismat have gone to town claiming that the censor board has objected to a skirt-flying shot of Mallika Sherawat (a take-off on Marilyn Monroe’s legendary shot in The Seven Year Itch) when in fact the film hasn’t even gone to the censorboard.

The film is being promoted as a film starring ‘Garam Dharam’ and ‘Hot Mallika’ when in fact she’s paired opposite the newcomer Siddharth Makkar (poor chap) while the veteran actor plays her boyfriend’s father!

Just how much the sizzling-Jat promotional pitch projecting the ill-matched twosome will finally help the film is a moot point. It’s a proven fact that audiences don’t like to be conned into theatres.

Some years ago there was an announcement in an afternoon paper of Mumbai. “Manisha Koirala Killed”.

The news spread like wildfire….until it reached Manisha. “It took me a while to figure out why people were making so many anxious calls to my house. When I came to know the reason for the calls I was very upset. This is no way to get publicity for your film.”

The film in question Criminal never got going in spite of the sensational efforts to draw the audience in. I almost expected an encore when the Bhatts’ Murder was released. Luckily there was no announcement saying ‘Mallika Murdered’. She didn’t need props to sell a wet-dream to the audience. She was quite up to the task. Having milked the media to the optimum she quickly went off-press a day Murder was released and declared a hit.

“I’ll talk to you as a friend now,” she pouted. Friend?

What makes a film tick and tock at the boxoffice? Certainly not sensational publicity. If that made a difference then wouldn’t the recent Fida have rocked at the box office?

First, someone started a wild rumour that Salman Khan was the “real villain” in the plot. The producers didn’t contain the absurd rumour because it suited their purposes to have audiences expecting Salman in the cast. But then director Ken Ghosh saw red. He personally rang me up to set the record straight.

No Salman. Then someone else started another rumour. That Kareena Kapoor has a double role in Fida. Finally it all amounted to zero at the boxoffice.

What sort of publicity is good publicity for a film? When Manisha’s presence in Shashilal Nair’s Ek Chotisi Love Story hit the front page of all the newspapers, the film became the success that it didn’t deserve to. It was later suggested by a section of the cynical media that Manisha and Nair had orchestrated the whole ugly tamasha.

That of course was utter hogwash. You only had to see Manisha’s pained expression during the film’s release to know this woman felt compromised and humiliated. All through the unsavoury chapter Nair kept giving “inside” details on the goings-on and also details from Manisha’s personal life which had no bearing on the case in point, to important members of the press corps.

We happily wrote the ‘truth’ according to Nair, not caring how much it hurt the other party.

Sensationalism sells. And we are all privy to it at one time or another. But is it right for filmwallahs to subvert the truth about their products to an unrecognizable degree of distortion?

Coming to Manisha again…. Aruna Raje’s Tum needed some serious pumping up to get audiences interested. The film’s publicist sent out “hot” pictures to every corner of the media machinery. When Manisha couldn’t take it any longer she protested loudly.

“But I was only doing my job. Otherwise who’d be interested in a film featuring Manisha with Karan Nath?” reasoned the publicist.

Nowadays the hot-is-happening approach is very readily adopted by producers and publicists. One film’s maker is eager to tell you his film has a topless shot of his leading lady. Even Vinod Pande who made classy films like Ek Baar Phir and Yeh Nazdeekiyan has fallen prey to the temptation of hard (on) selling. His new film suggestively entitled Sins is supposed to have got stuck at the censors.

If that doesn’t whet audiences’ appetites, what will?

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