The 4th idiot

Am talking about all you guys, who identified with the iconic movie, 3 idiots loosely based on Chetan Bhagat’s debut novel “5 point someone”  though I failed to see any resemblance between the movie and book plots beyond the loose resemblance of setting and a few anecdotes which are urban fiction.

My point is more about all of you and me, who have watched the movie. The book, unfortunately, didn’t do anything to me either in terms of reviving lost memories, or left me energized with Chetan’s skill with words. His literary style probably doesn’t resonate with me, and am sorry I didnt manage to stay awake to finish any of his later works of fiction. 

The movie, on the other hand, has a universal appeal, that bridges a lot of gaps. For instance, I can identify with the characters in the time frame of my college years of the late 80’s and I keep bumping into youngsters who are still in college who identify with every word and phrase.

Does that make us the 4th idiot in the plot? Specially in a land where we look for Bollywood escapism as a release from the reality that we live. How did the film makers con us into liking a plot and in the times of nano-second multiplex shelf lives get us to see a movie 5 weeks at a stretch and gross over INR 3500 Mn.

4 learnings from the smartest marketers of our land- the Bollywood movie makers.

Viralise the product: till date, Bollywood has run shy of IPR protection, and the propensity to clone each other’s plots landed us in a situation where 5 movies with similar plots hit the screen, with movie star fans refusing to watch the others. If a Mithun movie and a Salman movie had the same plot, Mithun fans would watch the Mithun movie and ignore the other. By viralising, i.e. telling the world via TV, print, and online media about the plot, the propensity to copy vanishes. A public secret is no longer one. Stealth mode doesn’t work anymore!

Make the promise believable: within the limits allowed within Bollywood, of course!! The dream merchants are finding that audiences are relating better to plots which remind them of something they have seen before and then stretching the limits. Cartoonists do this with famous people’s faces all the time. Caricatures work! They help simplify the storytelling by drawing out the characters better.

Play to include: In a world where marketers look at micro-targetting for niche draws, this movie played to include. Check out the smart lines for ‘millimeter’ and the move to making the ensemble play than just the protagonists. This might be an Aamir Khan contribution than any one else’s. But do have a look at the last five movies that he plays and wonder where he picks the names of his characters from. In the process, the movie and its characters move out of the typical boundaries of Bollywood- North West India’s Hindi Punjabi Gujarati audiences and finds new ones, this time probably in Ladakh. When was the last time, we saw a lead character going by the name Phunsukh Wangdoo, even for the last 5 minutes of the film?

Promote like hell!: The promotion of the movie is worth another movie. Bollywood marketers have figured out the play they get between the theatre release and the DVD and have figured out how to add in the special features for the limited edition Gold DVD version. Hence, Aamir’s extended tour of India in disguise, covered by national news TV, or the multiple interviews about the movie which played out in National press, followed by the ‘alleged’ war of words between the author and the film maker on who should get the credit. All of which did well for attracting traction for both the book, which went flying off the shelves again, and folks who went to watch the movie again so that they could tweet, or FB update, their wise takes on who followed who’s plot?

So who’s the idiot? I just wrote 700 words about a movie which I’ll forget on Monday morning. But then, I might take a deep breath and say “AAL IZ WELL” loudly while navigating through Delhi’s crazy traffic.

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