10 January 2007

The allure of Hindi cinema

To whom is the Hindi/Bollywood film ‘Dhoom:2’ targeted?

I asked this question around Mumbai, indiscriminately, sometimes stopping people in their rush-hour sojourn or upsetting them in their daily stupor. I got the general response “everyone.” Certainly, in my circle of friends, almost everyone had seen it and, going by the film’s Box Office success, I believed it. Yet, when I spoke to a few friends in media and marketing, they informed me that ‘Dhoom:2’ is targeted at the youth. Specifically speaking, they said, it’s targeted at the male urban youth (and aspirant) in the 15-24 years age group.

I guess that explained the big-budget sponsorship ‘Dhoom:2’ received from brands like Coke, Pepe Jeans and Suzuki motorcycles. Besides the usual in-film placements for the brands, there were TV commercials, print and outdoor advertising, posters, ringtones and promos on Coke bottles. Not to mention the film’s two leading stars, Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai, were brand ambassadors for Coke and must have contributed substantially to brand recall.

Pepe, a much smaller brand compared to Coke, did something innovative. It launched ‘D:2 Collection’ – a line of jeanswear especially for the film – which was supported by an elaborate media campaign and appropriately merchandised in retail stores that stocked the D:2 Collection (although I still haven’t noticed it much). All this, besides signing up as the sole merchandising brand partner for all fashion apparels and accessories for ‘Dhoom:2’.

Suzuki motorcycles, on the other hand, showcased three of its super-bikes (a 1000 cc and two 600 cc models) and its advanced technology. Going by the male urban youth target segment, I would have expected a computer game as well, but this was noticeably missing.

But, what about the female audience, or the non-urban audience, or those who aren’t any longer in their youth, who watched ‘Dhoom:2’ by the millions in packed cinema halls and multiplexes? How does anyone explain that? If the film has as much appeal to other audience segments as it does for the male urban youth, then perhaps my friends in media and marketing are wrong. Maybe ‘Dhoom:2’ has a more universal appeal than any old brand tailored for a niche market. Maybe the emotions a film like ‘Dhoom:2’ exudes are not the sole preserve of male urban youths, but many others.

In a recent article, ‘Gadhavi on why Dhoom 2 is a cult film’, in the entertainment section of www.oneindia.in, one of India’s leading portals, Sanjay Gadhavi, director of ‘Dhoom:2’, makes several interesting comments on his film and its audience. Here are some excerpts from that article:

“As far as Dhoom 2 goes, it’s too early to say if it’s a cult film, but it is a very clever sequel. Dhoom 2 is a universal hit; its appeal is not restricted just to the young males.

Dhoom 2 has become a family-going experience. For Dhoom, my producer Aditya Chopra had told me that the target audience was the age group 16 to 25; but for Dhoom 2 it was everybody because everyone had gone to see Dhoom.

If I were to analyse what the 16 to 25 group want, I would put my finger on speed, an adrenaline rush, cool behaviour and the idea of living on the edge. In clothes, it’s short skirts, bikinis. In accessories, it’s accessories, tattoos and all that stuff. But the two Dhooms appealed to all age groups because they are typical Hindi film packaged in a distinct new way. If you notice, both in Dhoom and Dhoom 2, there are no peripheral characters and all the major characters are in their 20s. My films don’t have a mother, father or sister ... and the audience is not disappointed because I have prepared the viewer for what he should not be looking for in the film.

So, while I did incorporate characters who were young and ideas which were new, I was confident that their appeal would cross all age barriers.”

Maybe, simply, the allure of a Hindi/Bollywood film like ‘Dhoom:2’ is such that, no matter how you classify it, it will always find its audience. And, in India, there’s no dearth of it. Perhaps, that’s the allure of Hindi cinema.

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