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Facing Fan Fury

Friday, August 11, 2017
By Deepa Gahlot

At what point does blind adoration of a star end? When fans love a star, they wait eagerly for his (usually a male star) film to release, and dash to see it, on the first day first show. It's the mark of a superstar, that his film gets a terrific initial.  In the old days the success of a film could be gauged by the rate of the tickets sold in ‘black’. Online booking has killed the scalper—these days the show timings are updated an afternoon before the day of release.

Now, it’s not enough to just put ads in the papers and hope for the best. The biggest stars have to promote their films—start right when the shooting starts (often before) and build to a crescendo as release date approaches.  That could mean anything from media interviews, going to colleges and malls to interact with fans, appearing on popular TV shows, eating paan, building toilets...whatever it takes to sell tickets.  Nobody is spared the grind. Fans dutifully line up for selfies and autographs. But they don’t necessarily buy tickets!

And after all that effort if the film doesn't live up to expectations, the reprisal from those very fans is swift and brutal. Today, it's not just word of mouth flogging, but decimation by social media. Tweets, memes, Facebook posts... the full works. Critics are kind and respectful by comparison.

Shah Rukh Khan and Imtiaz All are currently facing the full force of audience fury after Jab Harry Met Sejal;  Anushka Sharma not as much. To express disappointment is fine and legit in a way, but to pronounce a star or filmmaker 'finished' is totally uncalled for in a business when fortunes can change overnight. (Salman Khan, considered infallible so far, also got a mild shock with Tubelight.)

The star --both actor and filmmaker--probably realise that what pleased the audience earlier has not worked again. It's time for a new formula, and age appropriate roles.  Audiences are no longer all that impressed with big budgets and foreign locations. For a change they are watching and appreciating films about real people, set in small towns of India.

There is also such a thing as over-promoting a film; the more effort expended in promotion, the higher the expectations built and the harder the fall. Why not leave something to the viewers’ imagination… and discretion?

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