August 17, 2005


Triumph of ambush marketing

"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."
-- Abraham Lincoln

Well, you can fool all the people for some time if you have right advertising budget, insanely aggressive marketing strategy and an iota of understanding of mob psyche. That small duration is good enough to make truckload of money! Aamir Khan's earlier movie Lagaan was supposedly part of B-school curriculum for leadership. His latest venture Mangal Pandey - The Rising should also be included for Marketing 101.

This week, I suppose, 75% of the shows in movie halls across all major cities screened Mangal Pandey. Yeah, Aamir is returning to screen after 4 years and there was lot of euphoria about it, and all that is fine. But the sheer megalomania associated with this movie was, IMHO, unworthy. In the recent past, the other event which hogged such media space was launch of Harry Potter book. My gut feel is, there will be more after-shocks of this marketing tremor with news items like how the movie stormed into chart-buster list of Timbktu.

I, per se, don't have any problem with such larger-than-life images of actors and movies. The Johar-Chopra clan do it regularly with Shah Rukh's mediocre movies. But, atleast, they are promising entertainment (yeah, all the emotional crap on relationship is entertainment), not art, like Devdas and, definitely not a crash course on freedom struggle of India.

The movie doesn't turn out to be disaster like Asoka, but surely, utterly unsubstantiated assertive statements like "Aazadi ka jo sapna Mangal Pandey ne dekha tha, woh 15 August 1947 ko such hua" are not something expected from a Aamir Khan's movie, arguably one of the most sensible contemporary actors who gets himself involved in every tiny aspect of the movie. Such movies do more harm to the society in general than Asoka, which are clearly differentiated as failures by an average Joe.

Till the movie was released, we Indians were taught in our ever changing history text-books, that India got its independence due to Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagat Singh. Their contribution to freedom struggle is not a topic of debate. Now, the coming generations will add Mangal Pandey to this list. We will continue to identify our freedom with only a few "celebrities" and be happy with ourselves carrying a impression, false one if I may add, that we know what it took for the air of freedom we breathe!

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