The screenplay's the thing
A good story brings the viewers in, say experts. A dud script won't hold the audience's attention. "There are so many forms of entertainment available today that it's a huge task to draw them out of the comfort of their homes to a theatre.
So our films have to not just be good, but interesting enough to sustain in the long run," says director Anurag Basu."Content is king, and it's equally important to market it well," he adds.
Filmmaker Indrajit Lankesh adds that the importance of a good script has been highlighted by films like Chak De, Johnny Gaddar, Bheja Fry and Cheeni Kum. "There wasn't any over-the-top marketing of these films, but people went to see them because they had strong storylines," he says. According to Anurag, "Even the best of marketing techniques will not bring in the audience beyond the first day if the script is weak."
Many filmmakers count on star value to do the trick, but it works only to an extent. According to Kannada filmmaker Rajendra Singh Babu, "The mere presence of a star cannot draw in a crowd beyond the opening day if the film itself is not well-made. SRK is a huge star, but even he couldn't save Dil Se and Swades from bombing at the box-office. Ditto for Rajikant, whose Baba couldn't survive beyond two weeks. No fan will watch a film just because his hero is in there - it's only when the character and the story gel that a film does well."
The right direction
How a story is handled makes all the difference, say trade-watchers. Which is why a handful of top-rung directors in Bollywood can command big bucks, pull in good actors and bring in the investors.
According to filmmaker Girish Kasaravalli, a good director is essential to take the film forward. "And this is for all kinds of cinema— be it meaningful cinema or popular cinema."
"A director should have a cinematic view of his project and all the factors will fall into place," says Kasaravalli. But he adds that sometimes even directors of the highest calibre can go wrong and not be able to bring out the soul of a film. And here we would like to cite the example of Saawariya and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag which have been panned by critics and audiences.
Sound of music
Bollywood has always been music-driven. A film without good music is considered a dead loss. Which is why top music directors like AR Rehman are viewed as must-haves for all films.
"In OSO, the music has a vital role to play, especially in the '70s segment," says music director Sandeep Chowta. In movies, music is considered a key ingredient in bringing the story together, he adds. "It can do wonders for your initials, like Dus Bahane, which was a hit even before the film Dus released. Songs can create that initial interest, but if it's a bad film, the song won't help it survive," he says, "Films don't run because of songs, but they can fuel interest in it." The music of Mast was a hit, but the film still flopped. And Saawariya's music seems to be a bigger hit than the film itself. "The entire film needs to work. No one will pay Rs 200 to hear a song at the theatre," he says.
Ads, commercials, merchandising —the public is inundated by hardsell everywhere. So does it work? "Bad marketing can bring a film down, but only good films last in the long run," says vice-president, marketing, of a top production house, Siddharth Roy Kapoor.
"If a product is already good, great marketing creates a good opening weekend, then word of mouth and critics' reviews build it up."
Mega marketing hype can mean a good three days at the BO, but there's a real danger of disappointment in the final product, he adds, "the fall from grace can be even steeper." Ultimately, he says, content is what counts. Good marketing can make a good product great and give a bad product a boost, but eventually, people will judge for themselves.
"Marketing gets people to part with their hard-earned money and leisure time. But it's difficult to allot it marks in the overall picture." However, there's no doubting its importance today.
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