Brands over Cinema in UTV’s Hattrick

MUMBAI: I saw Hattrick and came away very disappointed. Not so much by the director or the writer of the movie, who irrespective of the fate of the movie, will clearly be laughing all their way to the bank. It’s the producer of the movie who I have a grouse against. I mean I hear all this deal about the ‘Multiplex’ culture giving a lease of life to hitherto undiscovered young ‘not run-of-the-mill’ talent in the newspapers. In college, I hear guest lecturers talking about the whole phase of corporate houses getting into the business and making things in Bollywood more professional and upscale. All of it seems to raise my expectation from Indian Cinema on the whole. It gives hopes for experimentations and more gripping entertainment. I expect entertainment to go up one notch. People want to be wooed and entertained.

 


A movie like Hattrick seemed to offer just that fun proposition. Here was a movie that was made to coincide with World Cup on purpose. It combined the big passions of India – Cricket and Bollywood, it had a good star cast, hummable songs and a big producer. The pre buzz was positive and it had everything going for it.


Everything, except quality content


 


The movie starts by dampening your expectations from it. 10 minutes into the movie, you realise that the cricket angle is very superficial. Of the three stories, the doctor-patient (Patekar-Denzongpa) story was the only one to be ‘affected’ by cricket. The Kapoor-Sen story had the maximum exposure in the promotions and minimum screen-time in the movie (one doesn’t know whether to be thankful for that or not) and had almost nothing do to with cricket.


 


So we had Nana Patekar do a Nana Patekar (play a khadoos guy with a soft centre). We had Rimi Sen do a seductive number in her negligee, like she does in all her movies. Kunal’s good looks and dimples got ample coverage too. In a scene, he even plays a male stripper!  Paresh Rawal played this Gujju Patel guy in the UK. Rawal’s track seemed like it was solely made for the NRIs. And not unintentionally so, those  tracks ensure brisk business overseas. Talk about leveraging your core competencies! 


 


The undoing of the movie however would be the bland and blatantly placed advertisements that run in ‘between’ the movie. Like the advertisements that pop in after every over in a cricket match, there are ads for The Times of India, Reebok and Fed-Ex that pop in between the movie, break the narrative and contribute nothing to the overall creative effect of the film. (If it were even a few seconds longer, it would have most likely gone down the Yaadein-PassPass path)


 


The film could have very well been made without the cricketing angle. Only the Paresh Rawal track seemed solid, the other two tracks seemed like they were half baked and had been conceived as an after-thought. It appears like the brands got together and decided to make a movie on cricket. It’s like UTV is going the “Behti ganga mein haath dhona” path…or should I say “Dhoni”!


Get the drift!?


 


Product Placement seems to be the pet new “P” to the 4 Ps of marketing in Media. Nothing wrong with product placements, they get you the revenue, but least that could be done is to bring finesse to the process. It makes one question if this whole corporatisation phase is such a good thing for an industry that existed fine without it. One wonders why Milan Luthria sat back and the let the producers have their way in the movie. Because the brands and producers wont be as affected as the director himself. No matter whose wrongdoing it is, it is the name of the director that rolls in the credits, he is the one who is creatively in control of the entire product. The corporatisation phase was not heralded in with the effect of stifling the creative expression of a writer or a director. At the end of it all, cinema is art and that how it should be treated.


 


What beats my logic, is why the corporates employ this intensive push method in India. Take a brand that somehow has even a vague connect to the movie, make your stars talk about it – in the movie/in a press conference, rub the product in the face of the viewer until those are the only things about a movie that they remember. Isn’t there a better way to get the job done?


 


Bollywood has always been “inspired” by Hollywood and here is where they can pick up a few lessons and learn a thing or two from pull mechanics employed by Hollywood. Take for example the newest Hollywoood movie to hit Indian screens, “300”. 300 benefited from a lot of pre-release publicity they did during a comic convention. The stills of their movie on Myspace also became very popular. All this a couple of months before the film was released. Actually talking of the marketing tie-ups, what is effective to note is the way a common product, Fed-Ex, has been used in a movie like Hattrick and the way it is used in Tom Hanks’ Castaway.


 


A recent press release from UTV on the Fed-Ex tie-up reads like this “Hattrick is a simple story about individuals committed to achieving their goals and their ultimate victory over adversities. We are very happy to associate with FedEx, who also believe in going that extra mile to make a difference in the lives of its customers,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, senior vice president, Marketing and Communications, UTV. “With cricket’s huge popularity in India and the Cricket World Cup being played here in the spring, we are confident that the movie will receive a tremendous response.”




 


To me, the statements imply that the movie as a product itself is a placement in the cricket season. Not only does the statement convey arrogance in the attempt of a hurriedly made movie to cash in on the cricket season…it somehow aims to formularise a success recipe at the Box-Office – Brand Tie-ups, a popular star to get the crowds in, a serious actor to do the real acting and a promotional video before release.


 


What is sad is things like this work. The producers get some assured returns, everyone makes money and everyone is happy.


 


Even Al Gore’s ‘early presidential campaign disguised in a Global warming’ documentary —  “An Inconvinient Truth” is better drafted than Hattrick. It did the PR for Gore, wrapped it in a saving-the-world-concern flavour and even got two Oscars for that. Now that’s piece of sly strategic marketing.


 


Until our corporate houses come-up with a marketing approach that is slick, piquant, stimulating as well as satisfying in expectation to both the brands and the audiences; this product placement trend is going to peak and then spiral downwards when the viewers start objecting to the unwelcome interference in their entertainment.     

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