Padmavat Row: Lessons for Corporates

One of the most controversial Indian epic period drama film, Padmaavat, finally, after many hurdles, released on Jan 25, 2018. The 30 million dollar budget movie already got released in US and UK on Dec 1, 2017.

Based on the epic poem Padmavat (1540) by Malik Muhammad Jayasi, the film narrates the story of Padmavati, a Kshatriya queen who committed Jauhar (self-immolation) to protect herself from Alauddin Khilhi, the then ruler of Delhi Sultanate.

Karni Sena, the major protesting outfit against the release of the movie, along with other Rajput's outfits alleged the movie to have scenes that tarnish the ancient pride of Rajputs, the warrior community, character assassination of brave queen Padmavati, distortion with history. The director of the movie, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, was assaulted last year. The protest against the movie so intense that one of the BJP office-bearer from Haryana said he would double the bounty on the heads of actor Deepika Padukone and filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

However, the row has some valuable lessons for corporate. Here are the details:

Right Time for Product Launch

The movie was earlier scheduled to release on Dec 1, 2017. However, due to the continued row, the producer deferred the release date voluntarily for an indefinite time. The protesters appealed against the release of the movies in the Supreme Court. Protesters approached the Supreme Court appealing ban where their appeal was rejected. Meanwhile, Meanwhile, the Chief Ministers of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh said they would not allow the movie to release even if it is cleared by the censor board. The producers challenged the ban in these states. The top court on Jan 18, 2018, said it is the responsibility of the states to ensure peace. However, it was clear from the rival attitude of the governments that the movie may not be released in these states. Moreover, it was going to clash with Padman, an Akshay Kumar movie which could have significantly hit the box office collection of Padmaavat. The delay in releasing the movie could have multiplied the financial repercussions. The republic day week was a perfect time for releasing the movie even after it clashed with the Padman because there was enough publicity for the movie and the week has a three-day long weekend.

Right Time for Competition

Another movie, Padman, was also scheduled to release in the same week with Padmaavat. When the announcement of the release of Padmaavat was made, the director of Padman, R Balki, said, "Our film was supposed to release on Republic Day from the outset. It's a free country and if people insist on a particular day, nobodycan stop them. However, it is silly to clash in a small industry; there are enough dates for everyone. It's not the wisest thing for films to clash,". As Peter Kropotkin observes, "Competition is the law of jungle, but the cooperation is the law of civilization".

It was wise on the part of R Balki to cooperate instead of competing with the competitor in a difficult time.

Perceptions are Difficult to Change

The movies based on historical events and characters are merely the expression of art. These movies should not be perceived as a historical document. The CBFC suggested five modifications and asked makers to change the disclaimer “clearly to one that does not claim historical accuracy”. The name was also changed from Padmavati to Padmaavat. However, the protesters perceived the movie as a historical document.

Secondly, there was a rumor that the movie was a romantic drama between Alauddin Khilji and Padmavati which was far from reality. This perception could not be changed irrespective of the attempts made by the film producer.

The producer specially screened the movie for respected news editors in November to change the wrong perception formed against the movie. Almost everyone said that ‘Not a single dialogue, not a single scene, not a single sequence can be said to go against the proud history of the Rajputs of Rajasthan.'If people create a wrong perception of the product, it becomes hard to change it.

Unity in Industry

Movie producers and directors express their creativity and art by films. At times fictitious and at times realistic. There have been many occasion when the film stars and other Bollywood stars were assaulted. In all the occasions the industry remained united. The industry showed solidarity with Padmavati and Bhansali, this time also. However, in one interview of Amitabh Bachchan, it appeared as if this unity was also protective of the industry's wrong actions.

Increased and Split Demand Means More Business

The violent protests against the movie were severely criticized by everyone including the Rajputs. This became one of the hot topics of discussion in social media creating new demand. People those who are not movie-goers otherwise also committed to watching the movie. This increases the demand for the movie. Online polls showed that 60% - 73% people would go to watch the movie in the weekend. This implies that others would go to watch the movie other days or next week when the uproar is over. This split in demand made it sure that the screens are not houseful and the box office collection will keep on coming for more days. Rajputs who watched the movie they withdrew the protest and said the movie, in fact, glorified the Rajput bravery. This message will soon spread through social media. And a part of the protesters would also watch it. Some of them may market the movie strongly. A foe turned into a friend is more trustworthy than the friend ever.

Beware of Rumormongers

The producers of the movie must have left no stone unturned to digitally market the movie using all platforms including social media. However, the rumormongers in social media spread the wrong message about the movie without being aware of what they were doing. Karni Sena, deliberately, shrewdly or foolishly, was able to spread the rumor that the movie distorts the history and it was against the pride of Rajputs.

Digital Marketing should make strategies to combat rumors. Rumors spread faster than message. Spreading rumors takes no efforts while conveying message does. Rumors are interesting; message is boring. Digital marketing may think of creatively including some attributes barring the lie in the message.

The box office collection of the movie was not very encouraging for the producers in the first two days. However, it is expected that the movie will do well. Let’s keep fingers crossed to see if the movie breaks even.

#Padmaavat #Learning #KarniSena #Deepika Padukon #Learning