"Right now it's crazy. Promotions have become like a film of their own. There is so much work involved."
Apoorva Mehta, CEO, Dharma Films
It's probably no coincidence that the makers of Bollywood film "Ittefaq" (Coincidence) are taking the path less trodden for the movie's promotions.
At a time when the Indian movie industry is struggling to make money, the producers of “Ittefaq” say they hope a minimalistic approach focusing more on digital platforms would provide a template for future projects and significantly reduce publicity budgets.
In the weeks leading up to its Nov. 3 release, the film’s cast has barely given media interviews, not starred in road shows or appeared in reality TV shows - staples of the Bollywood film promotion calendar.
Instead, "Ittefaq" producers Karan Johar (Dharma Films) and Shah Rukh Khan (Red Chillies Entertainment) have focused on social media and digital promotions to build a buzz about the film, a remake of a 1969 Bollywood thriller of the same name.
"Will this work for every film? Not necessarily. But we are hoping to use some of this stuff in the marketing of other films," Dharma Films CEO Apoorva Mehta told Reuters over the phone.
“We cannot eliminate all aspects of promotions, because some films do require it, but we can definitely look at doing some things on a lesser scale.”
Mehta said their focus was on digital promotions and outdoor signage, and that eschewing city tours and press events had brought down the film’s publicity budget by up to 30 percent.
"Ittefaq" stars Sidharth Malhotra and Sonakshi Sinha in the lead, playing two people who accuse each other of murder. The film is 100 minutes long, shorter than most Bollywood movies, and has no songs.
“The audience is fragmented across so many platforms that you have no choice but to cater to all of them. That becomes extremely exhausting for the actors,” Mehta said.
Most actors spend the weeks leading up to the release of their film appearing on television shows, touring at least five cities apart from print, TV, and radio interviews, all of which comes at a cost for the producer.
"If this works, it would be a huge game-changer for Bollywood. Going on [reality TV host] Kapil Sharma's show does nothing for your film. What does work is content and what your film is about," said Akshaye Rathi, a film distributor and theatre owner.
Shailesh Kapoor runs Ormax, an agency that tracks Bollywood releases before and after release. He says there is no evidence to prove that publicity tours and reality TV show appearances boost audience interest.
"If a star has visited, say, Ahmedabad on a day, and there has been press coverage the next day, our research shows that it makes no difference to the way an audience feels about the film," said Kapoor.
Kapoor says the real change will come when a film with a big-ticket star and budget takes the risk of going low-key with promotions.
"If they can resist the temptation to go all out to promote their film, maybe everyone else will catch on and take things down a notch," he said.
(Editing by Tony Tharakan; The views expressed in this article are not those of Reuters News. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)