What is the secret behind mainstream cinema’s superstardom? Be it Bollywood, Hollywood or the most recent reigning industry South Indian Cinema, how do they manage to generate a fanatical frenzy?
It would be naive to say that the reason is content alone. Surely, having substance is the foundation but there is a reason behind these cinemas’ ability to capture audiences’ wildest imaginations. The reason: they build and harness the power of brands. They focus not only on the quality of their product (eg. a film) but on creating the right strategy to position and package before audiences receive it.
Entrepreneur-Producer Akshay Bardapurkar, who is credited with changing the face of Marathi Entertainment, is a firm believer in the power of building brands. Before Bardapurkar, the stakeholders were content with good stories and talent. But with Akshay Bardapurkar on the scene, things have taken a huge turn.
Explaining the reason he gives importance to branding, he explains, “Look at Bollywood, it has always thrived on brand value. There are numerous examples, including the most respected Yash Chopra Ji made his films stand apart back in the day. He packaged, promoted and positioned each of his works with great love and created his own brand of entertainment. There are ‘superstar’ brands breaking box office records on the first day.”
Bardapurkar believes there are some important lessons the Marathi industry needs to take from mainstream cinema. He says “Films come and go. The common audience appreciates good work and moves on. The need of the day is to stop them from moving on, take notice and gravitate towards us.” He further elaborated on how he is working towards making that possible. “We have worked hard on differentiating each venture, drawing up fitting strategies for unique packaging and promotional efforts. I want us to seep into mainstream consciousness.”
Bardapurkar has emerged as an ace strategist with his gamechaging tactics. Prior to his work, the Marathi regional industry saw sporadic investment in creating a film or celebrity or venture as a brand. He has introduced a new language of packaging, brand-building and impactful promotional plans to Marathi entertainment. Having studied brand and image management, Akshay Bardapurkar has a strong background and skills to understand the pulse of the audience and give Marathi cinema exceptional brands one after the other.
Bardapurkar capitalised on the fame and pull of Bollywood stars to build a strong crossover and help audiences connect with the industry. He founded the world’s only exclusively Marathi OTT, Planet Marathi OTT which was a huge feat in itself. The OTT was launched and introduced by mega-star and proud Maharashtrian herself Madhuri Dixit Nene. She became the face of a regional platform, which added to the credibility and translated into curiosity among non Marathi-speaking audiences as well. Bardapurkar backed the Marathi film debut of the legendary superstar Amitabh Bachchan ‘AB Aani CD’ pairing him with another acting legend Vikram Gokhale. This pairing of stars catapulted Marathi cinema into a new league using the magical ‘star’ pull. Recently, two films from the Planet Marathi stable, the soon to be released ‘Goshta Eka Paithanichi’ (Best Marathi Film) and ‘June’ (Special Mention) were recognised and applauded at the 68th National Film Awards.
He is keen to build star brands out of industry actors. He created an enigma around Amruta Khanvillkar, the main lead of Chandramukhi. A 33ft poster of the heroine was unveiled with great pomp as a move to reveal the face of Chandramukhi. Social media and the press were impressed by a rare initiative, which was unexpected in Marathi Cinema.
As a part of his brand strategies, he has always had a multi-platform approach both online and offline. Supporting robust digital initiatives, there have been pioneering offline events including a flashmob on the Mumbai airport’s runway, airplane fuselage branding and orchestrating the first-ever performance by original Tamasha artists at the iconic landmark of Opera House.
Recently, for his upcoming movie Tamasha Live, lead actress Sonalee Kulkarni, who plays a journalist in the film, turned real-life news reporter on television for a day!
Bardapurkar is one of those rare personalities who, not being a known face in mainstream cinema, has pulled mainstream attention on a huge scale. “The goal is to build recognition first, then a positive recall value and finally a lasting bond among audiences. I want audiences to have expectations from us and I want to follow through with each expectation.”
He has given industry insiders and audiences great expectations by showcasing bravado through his well-planned, aesthetic brand-building efforts. “We want to be able to compete in mainstream cinema. This will happen only if the Marathi Industry gives Indian Cinema superstar brands, which I am confident we are poised to deliver!” he says as he signs off.