Delhi Belly and the Aamir Khan Effect

After being there to witness Delhi Belly‘s London premiere at the opening night of the London Indian Film Festival, I found myself not only enthused about a very different and new kind of cinema but also very much in awe of the director of the film, Mr Abhinay Deo. I not only wanted to watch the movie again, but I also wanted to encourage others to watch it in the hope that they would get to the end feeling the very same excitement about the movie as I was experiencing. It is, of course, the chance of a somewhat shared experience which leads (in most cases) to a shared love for any art, for any film.

It would be wrong to admit that since the premiere, everyone I’ve happened to speak to who have watched the movie have felt about it the same way I did. It would also be unfair to say that the underlying theme and language of the film should not be deemed as offensive in today’s day and age. It is because of these very points that it would also not be right to assume that every Bollywood enthusiast would be quite as welcoming to this contemporary style of cinema as the makers of the movie would have hoped they would be. Nonetheless, despite over-thinking it all, there is just one question which has kept me thinking post release: Does Delhi Belly’s real success lie in the fact it had the force and marketing genius (in the words of Delhi Belly’s director, Abhinay Deo) of Aamir Khan behind it?

The baby-faced actor and producer has, in recent years, has put up some of the sturdiest, strongest and effective marketing campaigns for all of his films. Many will remember the actor making himself available, as part of his promotional activities for Ghajini (2008), to personally shave the heads of members of the public to the style that his character has in the film. Many may also recall the introduction of Alternative-Reality-Gaming which came to play when promoting 3 Idiots (2009). This was also the first time that an actor managed a Facebook page personally in order to interact with players of the game and coordinate the movements of the narrative in what was essentially a user-led phenomenon. So… keeping all of this in mind, would it be right to say that a huge chunk of Delhi Belly’s success should go to the expertise and innovative marketing strategies of Mr Aamir Khan?

Delhi Belly, is not a film I would class as one that strictly and completely adheres or conforms to the Bollywood genre. It doesn’t involve masala or the dancing around the trees that Bollywood films are widely known for and neither are there Karan Johar type tear-jerking scenes. The film is a comedy for what could be seen as all the wrong reasons and some of my contemporaries have found it deeply offensive. This very string of thoughts got me thinking. I re-read the review that I wrote (for all who missed it, do have a read: http://bit.ly/mnPtFA) and had a ponder over everything I liked about the film. I wondered whether I should be waking up and smelling the coffee… or worse still, whether I needed to surgically remove any rose-tinted glasses that might’ve found their way on my being. I’m glad to say I don’t need to do either but I do have a firm belief that the film’s success has a hell of a lot to do with Aamir Khan.

Delhi Belly, it initially seemed, was to be untouched by the man himself. Who was I kidding? Aamir Khan always plays a part in the promotions of all of his films and perhaps it is his Midas Touch that does wonders. Delhi Belly was, indeed, no different. The first and probably the most prominent Aamir-factor for this particular movie was the producer’s item song in which he appeared himself as the Disco Fighter. Who wouldn’t want to see the Khan himself performing a song in true Elvis Presley style? The second was this: http://bit.ly/lUfVpo Yes, a clip where the Khan himself features in a friendly warning to the audiences about the language of the movie and almost owning up to why the movie is not for the faint-hearted or for children. This is a first for Indian cinema and could have gone down negatively especially when Bollywood is an industry which prides itself for movies which can be watched with the family in a homely atmosphere. The fourth contributory factor which makes Delhi Belly a little different from the rest is the music of the film. All of the songs have separate music videos (although one doesn’t realise that they are not exactly a part of the actual film until you watch it) and an impact of their own on an individual level. “Bhag DK Bose” is, quite possibly, the song that stands out the most due to it’s bad-mannered lyrics and a concept which came across as limiting itself to be acceptable to a very open-minded audience. Khan was known to throw a party to mark the success of the song much before the release date of the film itself. This celebration was widely reported and it could have been seen as an act of rejoice at the film’s success prior to it hitting the cinemas. So you see, although I’ve mentioned just four dynamics by which the Khan has cleverly hyped Delhi Belly, I’m positively sure that there are many more that the majority of the audience members won’t ever become aware of.

In the 10 years since its birth, Aamir Khan Productions has produced films which have seen stupendous success at the box office as well as creating a place in people’s expectations, one would argue, would be hard to live up to. The production house has brought social topics to the forefront, given full-on entertainment and launched up-and-coming talents. The subjects and stories have varied and there isn’t one “stamp” that can be associated with Aamir Khan Production… Given this, I always find myself asking how the marketing is always so spot-on and outreaching. How does Aamir Khan and his production team produce a winning strategy every time? Or perhaps the Aamir Khan “Effect” is such that the audiences just get sucked in… I know I was when I attended the premiere of the movie.

Come onnn… Shake that biscuit baby! 😉

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