Rudrarup Datta, Vice President, Marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures talks to exchange4media about the project Manjunath. He mentions parameters like storytelling beyond regular approaches, marketability and commercial viability of projects as the parameters to choose a particular film project.
Why did Viacom 18 studio choose to produce ‘Manjunath’?
When we first saw the film in its raw form, it made us feel there was an instant deep connect with the concept of the film and the mission of Manjunath himself. The reason why it connects strongly is because Manjunath was one of us. He was like every average young man who strives for good education and good job to make a success out of him. He is opinionated about the country like most of us who want to do something for the country but mostly end up doing nothing. But here was a guy who went ahead and did something and sacrificed his life for it. It is a story which needs to be told. And if we can partner in the making of the film and help it reach to more number of people across the country and hopefully inspire some, we will be happy to do that. It is a non-profitable venture for us. If we do make money we would contribute it to Manjunath fund. The tagline of the film“Idiot tha sala” was our idea which sarcastically addresses the mindset of the hypocrite society towards such people.
What marketing initiatives have you taken to promote the film?
Our TG is young urban, corporate individuals. We do not want to treat it as a regular Bollywood Hindi film. The purpose of the film is beyond entertainment. It is a biopic and does not have a commercial element. The film focuses on Manjunath’ssacrifice and the stand he took for a far greater cause against fighting corruption prevalent in the society. There is digital, on ground activities, associations, in our marketing efforts. A lot of brands have come out to support the movie. Retail brands have come out to give us space in their retail outlets. There is entire alumni association of IIMs partnering and promoting the film. The IIM alumni who have joined us have the same mindset and intent towards the film. Parikrama, the band for the first time came out to make music for a Bollywood film. We have done a series of interactions and performances with the general public. We have a whistle blower campaign where Manjunath effectively is a guy who exposed corrupt practices in the system. All of us are aware of many malpractices happening around us, but we chose not to speak about it. The whistle blower campaign gives people a platform to speak about the same. There are smaller activities like giving Manjunath badges to people who watch the film, etc.
Are you doing something (in terms of marketing/execution) for the local audiences where the incident happened for a local appeal to the movie?
No. I think the issue of corruption is a national issue and need not be confined to a specific area. There will be a response which will be coming out from UP but we do not want to sensationalize the entire issue. The idea is to get more educated, urban individuals who can make a difference. These are the people which should ideally get inspired and make a difference they can. So we are not looking to create gimmicky stuff to create controversy. We did activities in UP. Jagran group has effectively come on board in the state and extensively supporting us in UP to take the message across and inspire the people there as the people there are more connected to the issue. IIM Lucknow has also helped us there. Audiences who will come and see the film will be more crusaders for the cause rather than just a normal audience. There will be an inherent interest in UP, but our intent is to take it to a larger audience.
What are the monetization plans you have executed?
The monetization is traditional formats like ticket earnings, theatrical release, satellite rights, etc. There is the music monetization as well. The unique part is that lot of corporate brands have come out in support of the movie and have promoted the film. All the brands have done it with a non-commercial motive. So there has been no calculation on the numbers of people reached or target achieved. Audience in India has evolved very rapidly in the last five years and there is a warm acceptance and appreciation towards unconventional and realistic content. This has also helped us.
Do you think acquisition of films is getting expensive in India?
The way the film industry is, it has always had multiple concepts and patterns to it. It is this co-existence which makes the film business so interesting. There are many producers who will always overvalue the project in the beginning and will sell the film to a corporate studio at inflated rates. But increasingly there are people who want to partner with the studio and make good films and then share the profits over it. There is a very positive set of producers who want to come on board with that mindset. It will take time for concept-driven profit monetization driven thought process but it is definitely here to stay and deliver.