Sunday, June 19, 2011

Aamir Khan- The shrewd marketer

If there is someone who understands the PR machinery better or how to leverage the thirst and reach of the Indian media, Aamir Khan is his name. He is an actor par excellence, sensitive director, and a visionary producer. No one understands the pulse of Indian audiences better than Aamir. But that discussion is not for now. Today is all about how Aamir promotes his films. Content matters but equally important is the word-of-mouth publicity and endless discussions among the film-goers.

In the initial days, Aamir was a recluse, an enigma, away from the prying eyes of the media. He was visible only when his movie was released. He didn’t make it to the cover of filmy magazines. He made people crave for seeing him. His opinion though has changed over the past 5 years or so. He has understood the potential the media has to promote his films and the incessant discussions that go on in movie studios. No topic is frivolous for these news channels.

He used the media wonderfully well to promote Ghajini when it was pitted against Shah Rukh Khan’s Rab ne bana di jodi at the height of their so-called war. The idea to have Ghajini look-alikes in theatres that played Rab ne bana di jodi was a master stroke. Result- free publicity. Then there were the creative difference with director Amol Gupte for Taare Zameen pe, which made Aamir don the mantle of director for the first time. Although a low budget film, result- free publicity. Of course the content made it last longer but the awareness was almost free. Then the fracas over story of 3 Idiots with author Chetan Bhagat asking for his place under the sun. A press conference with himself, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director Raju Hirani made it seem as if it was an event of national consequence. The media going to town talking about it non-stop. Result- free publicity. As the famous saying goes “There is no such thing as bad publicity.

We ought to commend Aamir though on staying true to his word about boycotting awards, not only the usual filmfare, zee, star et al but now the national awards too. It remains to be seen only if he boycotts Oscars. Not that it would make news anywhere except India because frankly, the Americans are least bothered. Commercialization of everything has made even them prefer the economic side of creativity than art itself.

The latest case in point is the PIL to be filed by Imran Khan, nephew of Aamir and the lead actor in his latest to-be-released Delhi Belly (incidentally, Aamir is also the producer of the movie). PIL against a law in Maharashtra to ban liquor drinking below 25 years of age. Is it a mere coincidence that the PIL news came out just a week before the film was released? Moreover it make sense since the movie is targeted towards these youngsters. Even if its Imran’s decision, it has all the indications of Aamirs brain. No one is going to believe it more than a publicity stunt. Proves that Aamir is indeed a marketing strategist which corporate India would learn a lot from.