A business strategy in the name of God

On the other hand, one wonders if Indra Kumar was banking on a reaction like this. Look at Padmaavat, for instance -- from a rough ride to runaway success.

Published: 30th October 2022 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th October 2022 08:25 PM   |  A+A-

In the just-released Hindi film Thank God (directed by Indra Kumar, starring Ajay Devgn and Siddharth Malhotra), a man has a car accident and finds himself in a showy amphitheatre, facing a suited-booted character, who introduces himself as Chitragupta. While women in slinky skirts sway on either side, Chitragupta tells the new arrival that they're going to play a game. 

With nobody realising that the game has already begun: in real life. Members of the Kayasth Samaj and Sri Chitragupta Committee were up in arms against the trailer, protesting that their deity, the Lord of Karma, god of records and accounts, had been the object of ridicule in the film.  

Indra Kumar & Co had to do some fire-fighting to get out of the situation (Chitragupta and his head honcho Yamadoot are now respectively CG and YD, plus there's some more blurring to tone down the 'offensiveness' of the film), but this makes one think: is Indra so clueless? Didn't he realise what a hot potato this could be? Everybody knows that taking offence is the national pastime, and given that cinema is such an obsession, it's hardly surprising that people take up arms so quickly if cinema seems to step out of line. 

Surely Indra knows all about the films that have drawn the fire of easily offended religious groups? PK, Kaali, Brahmastra, Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (which even ended up with an atrociously convoluted name in its efforts to dodge the anger), all of these are proof that if you meddle with the deities, their devotees won’t take it lying down. The same goes for historical figures revered by the aam janta. 

On the other hand, one wonders if Indra was banking on a reaction like this. Look at Padmaavat, for instance -- from a rough ride to runaway success. The adage about all publicity being good publicity worked there, and how. 

Perhaps there's a business idea here. Besides all those careful studies of demographics and audience profiles, filmmakers (not to mention writers, artists, and other creative people) might benefit from figuring out whom a work could offend. An app might be useful here: something that lists all the popular religious and historical figures, the ones with the greatest (and most easily offended) fan followings. Quick links to historical data -- how many creative works so-and-so organisation has managed to disrupt, the sales figures post service recovery, and so on -- would help decide on the modus operandi. A strategy which allows for minimal rework, easily and cheaply done, and you might just be laughing all the way to the bank. 

Indra, interestingly, is slotted as one of the most cunning and wily of the deities in the Hindu pantheon. One wonders if Indra Kumar is being true to his name.

Madhulika Liddle is a novelist and short story writer. She can be reached on twitter @authormadhulika


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