Can the buzz bail out My Name is Khan?

By Sumantha Rathore , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Media | February 12, 2010
Following the conflict between Shahrukh Khan and Shiv Sena, the film is estimated to lose around 25 per cent of its revenue in Mumbai alone

A few days ago, Shah Rukh Khan voiced his opinion on the decision taken by the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises to not include Pakistani cricketers in the upcoming IPL 3. His words are now not only haunting the producer and distributors of the Shah Rukh starrer, My Name is Khan (MNIK), but have also scared the multiplex and single-screen owners across Maharashtra. As per the decision taken on February 11, film theatres, including multiplexes and single screens, fearing a backlash from Shiv Sena, have decided not to screen MNIK.

afaqs! caught up with a few experts to find out their views on the controversy, and whether 'Any publicity is good publicity' would hold true in MNIK's case as well.

& #BANNER1 & #According to those watching the development closely, if the movie is not released in Mumbai this weekend, the losses will be around Rs 10 crore, and about 25 per cent of the total revenue of the film will be eroded.

Vajir Singh, editor, Box-Office India magazine

It will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan. Due to this controversy -- which I strongly believe was not planned -- there's more curiosity from the audience to go and check out the film. It has definitely kept the film in the news.

As of now, it looks like MNIK is releasing across India (including Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra), so I don't see any reason to panic. But if at all, things go wrong and MNIK is not released in Mumbai, business will get affected for sure. Maharashtra contributes almost 25 per cent of the entire box office collections; and Mumbai alone collects 10-15 per cent of the entire business across the country.

Years ago, Aamir Khan's Fanaa was banned in Gujarat. Still, the film went on to become a huge hit that year. Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra are bigger than Gujarat, when we talk about the movie business; it will dampen the business prospects of MNIK, but to a small extent.

If the film is not released, the loss will be around Rs 10 crore in the first weekend. Shah Rukh Khan is popular across the world and the film trade is very sure that the film will manage to recover the losses from the rest of the country. The film carries an excellent report and the advance booking (outside Maharashtra) is almost historic.

There's fear for sure, but SRK fans will surely go and watch the film. After the Mumbai shootout (26/11), it was Shah Rukh Khan who made people come to the theatres once again with Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Though the audience was scared to go to cinema halls, they did it for their matinee idol, SRK.

Accordingly, the entire force of 45,000 film union workers will stand by SRK and go to see MNIK over the weekend. Everyone is there to support King Khan.

Taran Adarsh, film trade analyst

Shah Rukh always indulges in very 'hatke' marketing activities for his films, be it Om Shanti Om or My Name is Khan. Whatever buzz there is around the film will work to the benefit of the film in the end. By now, everyone who is a Bollywood fan is curious about the film and wants to see what the movie is all about.

When you see the movie, you will realise that it is a very mature film. And that's the route Shah Rukh is taking in real life as well -- a mature decision.

But, the whole controversy surrounding MNIK will affect the box office collections of the film. And if the movie is not screened in the theatres across Mumbai, it will be bad for the industry. Even if it is not screened for the first few days, it will be bad for the box office collections of the movie, because Mumbai contributes around 30 per cent of the box office collection of the entire country. And if you remove that percentage, any film will be adversely affected.

There are other markets like Delhi and other northern markets, but nothing can compensate for the Mumbai losses. The whole Shiv Sena ruckus is going to make a hole in Shah Rukh Khan's pocket.

Vishal Anand, vice-president - sales, Fun Cinemas

The film is not getting released as of now in Maharashtra. Mumbai territory, which includes Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat, contributes around 40 per cent of the total box office collections. And for a film like My Name is Khan, the collections were expected to be way higher.

The revenue expectations from the Mumbai territory were in the range of 45-50 per cent, but now that the theatre owners have decided not to screen the movie, around 25 per cent of the total revenue of the film will be eroded.

There are other big markets for Hindi films; and a lot of hype surrounds the film, be it Shah Rukh-Kajol's pairing or the disruption created by Shiv Sena. But despite the positive and negative buzz, there is a limitation of capacity that every theatre has. They will put the maximum number of shows of MNIK; but still, there is no way that the gap created by the Mumbai debacle could be covered up by other parts of the country.

One market which won't be affected because of all the chaos is the international collections of the film. The international market is Shah Rukh's strong point and there won't be any disturbance there due to all the problems back home. The film should rake in more than 50 per cent of the revenue from the international markets.

Jagdeep Kapoor, CEO, Samsika Marketing Consultants

Any negative association with a brand can never work in its favour. Negative publicity is not good news for any brand, be it an entertainment or other brand. In marketing, you can have activity and productivity; and if the activity is negative, then it is not productivity.

Good products lead to good brands; and good brands don't need such publicity stunts, if that is the case in MNIK's case. Also, being an entertainment brand, they should stay away from controversies, as entertainment should take place inside the theatre, not outside.

If any brand creates a negative brand communication, it makes the consumers confused. If the consumer is confused, the brand is ultimately refused. In marketing communication, you should know when to open the mouth and when to keep it shut.

The buzz surrounding MNIK, rather than attracting the audiences will distract them from the movie. It is very important to understand that when you are a strong brand, you do strong communication, rather than indulging in controversies.

The producers need to understand that if they really want to build a brand, they should build in a positive manner. In this case, the performance of actors, director's capabilities and a good script is what can lead them to good performance at the box office, and not the negative buzz surrounding the film.