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In the weeks before the release of Dhoom 3, actor Aamir Khan got a message from his dentist, who was concerned that his patient’s new film wasn’t being promoted enough. With box office collections and his reputation at stake, in the wake of mammoth performances by Chennai Express and Krrish 3, that indeed was exactly what Khan, who plans the marketing of his films as meticulously as he prepares for roles, wanted to hear.
“When people are concerned enough about your film that they ask you why they aren’t promoting it more, you know you’ve achieved what you wanted,” the 48-year-old Bollywood star told Reuters. As each big-ticket film tries to outdo previous box office collections records, shouting about the latest premiere has become routine.
Before Chennai Express opened in cinemas last year, actor Shah Rukh Khan appeared on popular reality TV shows, toured several cities and ensured newspaper coverage for the film. Chennai Express became the highest-grossing Bollywood movie, raking in Rs 227 crore in domestic ticket sales.
Six months later, Dhoom 3 has surpassed that record, netting at least Rs 270 crore by employing the opposite strategy. In the run-up to the film’s release, the lead stars didn’t do any road shows, and hardly any appearances on TV shows.
Instead, Aamir Khan was spotted in public wearing a fedora — which his character sports in Dhoom 3 — for nearly a year before the film’s release. Production house Yash Raj Films didn’t release the official soundtrack, distributing 30-second video snippets instead. “What was innovative was that they held back on the music. Most movies rely on music videos for free play on radio and music channels, which ensures traction, but they took that risk,” said Shailesh Kapoor of Ormax Media, a media research firm.
“We want you to enjoy this film in the theatre. If I have seen the song on TV 20 times and on YouTube 20 times, when it comes in the film, I have lost interest in those five minutes. But when you are seeing it for the first time, your curiosity is piqued,” Khan said. The other reason to skimp on music previews, Khan said, was to draw repeat audiences to cinemas with the spectacle of elaborate song sequences.
“These are the two things you do — you release the songs, you get them popular and you get a big first day. You go on big-ticket shows, you create awareness of a film, and you get a big opening. We got a big opening without that — that means our tests were correct. And Rs 36 crore is a huge opening. You cannot go higher than that,” he said.
Figures released by YRF this week show that Dhoom 3 grossed more than Rs 500 crore worldwide, a first for an Indian film. “The marketing team at YRF was terrified. They were convinced we were doing something disastrous. They wanted to go all out, and I am not blaming them,” said Khan.