One day, in October 2011, Prasanth Narayanan, the managing director of AOPL Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., which was producing the film, ‘Second Show’, was watching the shoot in Kozhikode. In a particular scene, the hero, Dulquar Salman, and a friend had been caught by the police for drunken driving and were being beaten. An elderly passer-by asked Prasanth, “What is happening here?” Prasanth said that it was a film shoot. The man pointed at Dulquar and said, “Who is that boy? I have not seen him.”
At his office in Kochi, Prasanth says, “That was the level of comfort and anonymity the crew was enjoying. It was a young team, and we wanted them to work in peace. If anybody had come to know it was [superstar] Mammooty’s son, Dulquar, there would have been a huge crowd present.”
Both Prasanth and Vivek Ramadevan, the CEO - Content & Marketing, purposely adopted the marketing strategy of not hyping Dulquar at all. “We felt that toning down the expectations would be the right way,” says Vivek. Rajesh Pillai, the director of ‘Traffic’, says: “The hype of a star son was missing, which turned out to be the right decision.” There was a fear that if Dulquar was projected too much, people would come to the hall expecting to see another Mammooty. And that would have doomed the film.
In fact, Dulquar and the crew were carefully kept under wraps. It was only on November 10, at a colourful function at the Ramada Resort, the crew was introduced, one by one, led by fashion models dressed in yellow and red mini skirts and black and silver stiletto heels. And the climax was the appearance of Dulquar in an open black coat and blue jeans.
Thereafter, Dulquar began appearing in the media in dribs and drabs. There was an occasional radio, magazine and newspaper interview. Says Dulquar: ‘This was my first film and I wanted a low-key introduction.”
However, AOPL used the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and trailers on You Tube to publicise the film. But all along, the marketing was focused on the team of actors rather than Dulquar alone. “To this day, Dulquar has not appeared on TV,” says Prasanth. “We did not want the audience to lose the novelty of seeing him in a film. We wanted them to come to the hall. It was a risky strategy, but it worked for us.”
On December 25, the music launch took place at a function held at the Gold Souk. The rock band ‘Avial’ gave a live performance, while there was a flash mob dance, apart from live coverage on Kiran TV.
The accent of the marketing was clearly on the young. “Our target audience was the 18-35 year age group,” says Vivek. “The content would appeal more to the young. But in most Malayalam films the marketing strategy is to try to get all the people and you end up nowhere.”
Clearly, Mollywood’s weakness is poor marketing. “Marketing starts post-release,” says Vivek. “On the other hand, in Bollywood, the publicity campaign concludes on the day the film is released. In the contract with the actors in Bollywood, there is a clause which states that the actor has to actively get involved in the publicity.”
Milan Jaleel, the president of the Kerala Film Producers’ Association, says that in Mollywood, as soon as a film is complete, the actor moves off to another set and does not spare any time for the film’s publicity. “Whereas in Bollywood, even a superstar like Shah Rukh Khan works so hard to market a film,” he says. “It is time Mollywood actors did the same thing.”
Meanwhile, AOPL is getting ready to celebrate the 51st day of ‘Second Show’ which falls on March 24. The movie, released in 65 theatres, is the first sleeper hit of 2012.