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Films & hype: how much is enough?

Thugs of Hindostan is yet another example of an over-hyped film falling from grace, which makes you wonder, do excessive film promotions do more harm than good?

Films & hype: how much is enough?

Production houses have become their own worst enemies. The pre-hype of a movie, which begins weeks, months and in some cases, even a year before it is scheduled to release, raises expectations to such heights that those expectations can only plummet and crash when they aren’t met. The higher the hype, the harder the fall.

Hype. We use this word so carelessly. A film gets lost in pre-hype. The earth and moon is promised during promotions – also incredible over hype. What we forget is the real meaning of the word. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, ‘hype’ is “a situation in which something is advertised and discussed in newspapers, on television, etc. a lot in order to attract everyone’s interest.” This is what we’re all too familiar with. If we go back into Greek literature, then the word ‘hype’ is a derivative of the word ‘hyperbole’, which means “excess” or “exaggeration.” In that respect, most hype is an exaggeration; not many movies are as good as they are promised to be. However, the verb ‘hype’, in the sense of aggressively marketing a product, like a film, appears to derive from a U.S. slang term of unknown origin meaning “to short-change, to cheat; to deceive, to con, esp. by false publicity.”

Yes, that sounds more like it. We all too often feel cheated when a film doesn’t match its hype.

That says a lot for pre-hype and why, when a film like Thugs of Hindostan releases, it sinks. It wasn’t the worst film one has ever seen, seriously, but for the level of pre-hype that one witnessed, it was a disaster. This was supposed to be the Amitabh Bachchan-Aamir Khan blockbuster; that’s like putting two kings with the Midas touch in one frame; they were expected to turn this film into box office gold. A budget of around 300 crore INR was spent on Thugs of Hindostan, making it the most expensive Yash Raj venture to date, and while it made a record collection of 50 crores on opening day (probably thanks to pre-bookings, a result of the pre-hype), it crashed over the weekend. “The film has made Rs 127 crore in net box office collections across the country so far (Wednesday) and should close the week at Rs 134 crore,” livemint.com reported. The Thugs may have recovered the cost of making the film in digital and satellite deals, but in no way is the film going down as a hit.

Back to the film, it is absurd. But it’s not like the absurd hasn’t been seen and even enjoyed before. Case in point would be an Aamir Khan film like PK, which brought an alien to earth for moral awakening. But PK’s content and execution was so strong that one didn’t mind, in fact one loved, the anomaly. Aamir Khan in Thugs of Hindostan is a caricature of his own over-confidence. Amitabh Bachchan is underutilized. Katrina Kaif and Fatima Sana Sheikh are underwhelming and the plot itself is riddled with more holes than a beggar’s pajamas. But again, one has seen worse, time and time again. It’s just that bad films come and go and usually don’t blow their own trumpet, people are generally more forgiving when they see humility.

I, for one, am skeptical of self-proclaimed ‘masterpieces,’ the most recent example being the upcoming period drama Aangan, which has been the most talked about thing to hit TV since Humsafar. I truly want to experience and enjoy everything that is being promised under the Aangan umbrella and I hope it delivers on its tall claims but will it? Ahad Raza Mir and Momina Mustehsan’s ‘Koko Korina’ on Coke Studio is another example of an over-hyped situation falling flat on its face; the song wasn’t half bad and it wouldn’t have been so offensive had people not been expecting so much. That, again, is a result of the kind of hype being generated.

At times public expectations aren’t within the production house’s control. Another highly anticipated and over-discussed project is Bilal Lashari’s Maula Jatt, bringing Fawad Khan and Mahira Khan to the big screen together for the first time, and releasing next year. But while the filmmakers and actors have themselves made no claims of excellence – that goes to their credit – it is expected to be grand. That’s just what happens when big names are on board for a film; the only thing producers can do is keep details under wraps, which is exactly what they are doing in this case.

Back to the subject of film promotions, we need to calm down a little. When I say ‘we’, I of course mean production houses. Sometimes a little humility and modesty can go a long way. A simple and less bragged about film like Badhaai Ho will get rave reviews and make money because it actually is good. Good content will speak for itself; sometimes it’s important to just allow it to.

Aamna Haider Isani

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