I already put up the winning real life stories of 2017, now lets move on to where film and real life overlap, the promotions that try to drive people into the movies. What films were over-promoted, leading to disappointment. And what were under-promoted, leading to delightful surprises? And what were just plain wrong promoted, leading to both?
Jab Harry Met Sejal-3
Seven disappointments! This doesn’t mean seven bad movies, not necessarily. It means 7 movies that were not promoted correctly, that invited disappointment. That promised more than they could deliver.
Let’s look at them one by one. Judwaa promised a happy silly comedy, and delivered something a little too broad, a little too tired, a little too unoriginal to be enjoyable. Raees, it promised an epic crime gangster story, and somehow delivered something that felt confused, torn between a romance and a character study, between the cop and criminal. Rangoon promised a beautiful thrilling complex period piece, and delivered a confused love triangle. Badrinath promised something fun and unusual, and delivered something forgettable. Jab Harry Met Sejal promised a light romance and delivered a two part character study. Tubelight promised a sincere drama about humanism and peace, and delivered a cheap shoddy confused mess. And Jagga Jasoos promised something fun and childish, and delivered something long and a little boring.
I think what we can see is that marketers have gotten very good at predicting what the audience will want. But they are more focused on that then on what the film they are selling actually is. They convince people to buy the ticket and get in the door, and don’t really care that people are disappointed afterwards.
Oh, and as you can see, the winner by a hair is Jab Harry Met Sejal. The spread is very wide, reflecting the different tastes people have. Everyone was promised a different film than the one they got in all these cases. Some people were more disappointed in one than the other, either because they were more excited about what was originally promised, or more unhappy in what they actually got. But in the case of Jab Harry Met Sejal, the likelihood of the first option is greatly heightened. The promotion was so big, and it promised the kind of big happy romance that has a long history of popularity, and so many many people were very excited. And almost all of them were disappointed in the totally different film that they actually got.
A Death in the Gunj-1
One less delightful surprise than disappointment. But two films that tied with 3 votes. That’s interesting. And again, this doesn’t mean 6 brilliant movies, just 6 movies that were different in a pleasing way from what their promotion campaigns sold. Or that had no promotion at all.
The first two, they are the ones with no promotion. Film festival hits that appeared on streaming services and in tiny art theaters, waiting for people to discover them. These are the kind of surprises that are part of being a film fan, a wonderful part of it. Little films that you stumble on and love. But which are small little gems, ones that would be drowned in a massive promotional campaign, lost in huge movie theaters, that fit better in this smaller way.
(Interestingly, both A Death in the Gunj and Raabta feature Jim Sarbh)
But the others, these are ones that shouldn’t have been surprises. Raabta should have been recognized as a light happy love story with a silly plot, not some overwrought remake of a southern film with sturm and drang, as it was sold. Mubarakan should have been promoted more, should have had faith in the audience to appreciate its light comic touch. And should have sold the older cast (the real strength of it) a little more, Ratna Pathak and others. A Gentleman should have been sold as a different black comedy type movie, not as the star film with Jacqueline and Sidharth making appearances around India. And Bareilly Ki Barfi should have been widely promoted, this was the Jab Harry Met Sejal people wanted, instead of sneaking out to theaters and spreading based on word of mouth.
The problem is, these movies are hard to sell. They don’t have the huge star names or the simple hooks. You have to actually work at it to understand what might be appealing about them. And no one bothered to try to understand, they just slapped some kind of one-size-fits-all promotion plan on top of them.