Darna Mana Hai bucks convention, sells concept not stars

By , agencyfaqs! | In | May 05, 2003
The Leo Entertainment-created promos for psycho flick Darna Mana Hai try and sell the movie's unique concept and its genre, rather than its star cast

What do you do to promote a movie that has 14 middling-to-well-known actors and actresses in it? Take mug shots of the 14 stars and splash them across media, and hope to high heaven that curiosity will draw the audiences.

Considering the Indian film industry has traditionally banked on film stars to sell movies to the trade as well as movie-going audiences, filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma too could have succumbed to the temptation of sticking to convention and doing the 'multi-starrer' thing for his forthcoming psycho flick, Darna Mana Hai. After all, won't a poster or a hoarding with the likes of Nana Patekar, Vivek Oberoi, Saif Ali Khan, Aftab Shivdasani, Sohail Khan, Sanjay Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty, Antara Mali, Isha Koppikar and Sameera Reddy on it grab eyeballs?

The first phase of promos for the movie, however, does quite the opposite. Not one shot of any of the actors, not even a mention of the star cast. Instead, the promos try and sell the movie's concept through powerful black-and-white visual mnemonics. So one ad has the shot of a left hand - with a thumb and five fingers. Another shows a snuffed-out candle - with six smoking wicks. A third has a shot of an old clock with six hands, while an old iron lock with six keyholes makes the fourth ad. 'Six stories. One ending,' reads the slug.

To help understand the thought behind the promo, a bit on Darna Mana Hai is in order. Director Prawal Raman's maiden venture is about a bunch of youngsters who get stranded in the woods one chilly night. In an effort to kill time, the kids start recounting tales that have elements of the supernatural and the unexplained. While the six tales are being told, what the kids fail to see is that they themselves are part of an unfolding terror story. That's where the six-stories-one-ending thought comes from.

"The convention would have been using the huge star cast to sell the movie to audiences," agrees Sanjay Bhutiani, general manager, Leo Entertainment, which is involved in promoting the film. "However, there was a fear that this thing could boomerang because when you promise a huge cast, the audiences expects something quite different, while what Darna Mana Hai offers is very different." Bhutiani adds that the brief from Varma Corporation (Ram Gopal Varma's production company) was to tell audiences not to expect a conventional movie format. "The challenge was to get people interested and intrigued through a combination of concepts and teasers that broke the norms of film advertising."

The idea was also to cut through the clutter of bubble-gum romance, picture-postcard locales and choreographed violence. However, unearthing a concept for promoting Darna Mana Hai was critical in this context. "There were a couple of ideas that we dwelt upon," says Agnello Dias, executive creative director, Leo Burnett India. "But we soon realized that the construct of this product (Darna Mana Hai) was unique to the category (movies). The uniqueness of the movie's script overruled other options. There have been psycho thrillers before this one, there have been multi-starrers too, but none with six stories having one ending. So we decided to stick with this idea. Then onwards, it was all about figuring out how dramatically we could sell this."

Using visuals that were symbolic of the six-stories-one-ending thought came from a shot in the movie - the shot of a human hand surfacing from water. "That gave us the idea of a hand with a thumb and five fingers," says Dias. "From there, the rest of the ideas just happened. It was important that the visuals suggest something spooky and things not very pleasant, which is why we took things like candles and old clocks. The weirdness of the concept as well as the film's genre had to get across clearly." While the print ads have been shot by Shekhar Phalke, the corresponding shots for the television promos have been shot by Vishal Sinha, the director of photography for both Darna Mana Hai and Bhoot.

Interestingly, the ads (in the form of foldouts) for the film were run in trade magazines such as Super Cinema in April, and according to Bhutiani, the response has been positive. "Ramu (Ram Gopal Varma) tells us that the trade has taken it very well, which shows that it has worked," he says. "It now remains to be seen if it works as well with audiences. One thing is sure - it's a promo that one cannot ignore." He adds that while mass media is being used extensively, promos will also be taken to the Net. "We are also in talks with C&S channels for contests and promos. Also, in two or three locations in Mumbai, we shall be putting up hoardings lit by lanterns, as the lantern is an integral part of the movie." © 2003 agencyfaqs!

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