The lifecycle of a Telugu Film


Tollywood is pushing the envelope in marketing a film ahead of its release. What are the quintessential aspects of a film before the buzz about the film can explode into hysteria about the film. We take examples from “Brahmotsavam” to “Bahubali”.

Gone are the days when an audio launch alone raised hopes of a grand launch and attracted distributors for bidding for a film in Tollywood. In the last few years, the aspects of film marketing are undergoing huge transformation and becoming more scientific in a manner that makes it possible to assess the impact of advertising and marketing on the success or failure of a film. Even though the failure rate of a film hasn’t improved from the range of 85 to 90 per cent, there are lessons for aspiring and ambitious film-makers as to what makes Tollywood films tick.

What is interesting to note is that Tollywood has learnt these aspects of marketing purely from absorbing the best practices used by Hollywood and Bollywood and improvised them to suit local demands. Use of social media has also reached a critical level of usage with several of Tollywood celebrities slowly taking to Twitter and Facebook to build their local connect with the fans. These make it quite interesting to study for students of best practices in Tollywood because they appear to be in sync with what experts in Entertainment Economics have been recommending for years. Once you decide on a film, treat every aspect of making that film a public event. This is a far cry from the earlier decades when Tollywood was happy to be self-absorbed in its own orbit with few entertainment weeklies and few writers talking about a film’s work-in-progress. With more websites and the explosion of social media and the relevance it has earned for itself as critics and Twitterati from Bollywood and Kollywood etc talk about it, Tollywood has now realised the immense potential of the power of making every aspect of a film since launch as an event to market more of itself and raise the “market cap” of the film that influences the final takings at the box-office. Fs

In the past, we had films like “Indra” and “Annamayya” where an audio launch ensured a massive hysteria for the film that anchored the fan’s attention until the movie released in theatres. Today, the makers of a film – small, budget or blockbuster follow the following phases for marketing. In the past, some of Tollywood’s greatest hits saw adoption of some of these in partial fulfilment or thereof and we will look at each of these aspects. Sequentially, there are eight phases preceding a release of a film that makes it worthwhile to seize momentum for publicity of a film.

First Look of the Poster: Earlier, this used to be at the mercy of film journalists and a few billboards to publicise a film which commenced shooting or gives an inkling of what the film is all about. Nagarjuna’s film “Shiva” used this effectively in the late eighties to create a buzz about a film with a first look teaser of a “cycle chain”. Today, first look of the poster is a must to announce the grand launch of a film to the world.

Promo Song: Not a compulsory link but used in some cases where a popular music composer like Thaman and DSP release a song that may not be part of the footage of the film. Although Allu Arjun has used this in some of his franchise films like “Aarya”, the promo song is more popular in Bollywood and Kollywood where the likes of Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush and Shruti Hassan have used promo song to up their likeability in the forthcoming release.

Teaser: Usually under thirty seconds, this has become the most potent tool in the marketing of a film ahead of the releaser while keeping the crew’s focus on the film’s shooting. Movies like “Bahubali”, “Srimanthudu”, “Pelli Choopulu”, and the latest “Brahmotsavam” have used this with stellar responses.

Audio Launch: When the film “Indra” was released, an estimated five lakh cassettes (not CDs) got released. We will probably never see that kind of figures in modern times when piracy and downloads are more rampant in the digital age but audio launch is still the most vital aspect of a film’s marketing where people associated with the film want to bring forth “stars” who can take it to the next level. While the audio launch itself is a subject of huge analysis in the manner it has transformed itself beyond traditional patterns, it is still the linchpin of marketing for Tollywood in the way a film is marketed.

Audio Success Meet: Not all films follow but the few that do are building redundancy in the marketing responsibility of an audio launch. It is rare to find a triple platinum (2.25 lakh CDs)or a hexa-platinum disc (4.50 lakh CDs) but whether the numbers acknowledge it or not, an audio success meet builds that extra layer of “success” to an audio that is super-good.

Theatrical Trailer: Usually released at the audio launch event itself, this has become the textbook method of ascertaining how far the publicity outreach has succeeded basis the number of hits on Youtube. The response to theatrical trailer can sometimes be counter-productive if the actual content of a film lacks substance. Look at the response of trailers to films like “Puli” and “I” and the films failed at the BO because the hype about content proved disastrous for the film. A few other films like “Bruce Lee” and “Sardar Gabbar Singh” made fans feel the content is nothing new: a self-fulfilling prophecy that came realised at the box office.

In-film Trailer: Releasing the theatrical trailer before the film’s release by tagging on the craze for another film which may or may not be suited to the film is another tool that makers are using. Some heroes like Ravi Teja, NTR Jr., and Nani use this to release their film’s trailers with other rival heroes’ films.

Premiere: This used to be an old Bollywood tactic but Tollywood has not gone fully into it because of the smallness of the market size. “Parugu” was one of the last films which had an ambitious premierre at Prasads. But after that, not many heroes continued the trend. Now premierres are limited to the screenings at single-screen as a “Paid Premierre”.

These are the phases of a film’s marketing that define the modern Tollywood as makers from blockbusters to niche films are trying to capture those elusive eye-balls and make a meaningful impact before the film’s fate is decided on the Friday. We hope to cover more aspects of pre-release in future to make it relevant to study what makes a film successful or not. Depending on the length of the shooting and the impact one wants to create, Tollywood has shown creativity and spine to market a film using some or all of these phases. For example, the teaser videos of “Bahubali” started with the first-look of each of the characters almost two years before the film’s release. By using almost all the eight phases as identified above, it has been able to create the maximum national and international impact. Hope more makers use these effectively and expand the size and success of Tollywood.

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