The theatre was in Ghatkopar, Mumbai, a location I’d only crossed a few times during my seven-odd years in Mumbai. But there was this movie, with rave reviews from few reviewers I trust. There was another reason I wanted to see it. Not the actor, not the director; the producer.
The lights went out, and we stood lip synch-ing to the national anthem. The censor certificate went on screen. Then the titles began to run. The loudest cheers from the boisterous audience were not for Dhanush – no, he hadn’t done his Kolaveri act yet. It was for the title of the production house and the producer, which read: ‘Sun Pictures’, and then ‘Kalanithi Maran presents’.
The cheering didn’t stop for a while, and continued at a lower ebb when Dhanush’s name came on (he won a national award for this film, Aadukalam).
What evokes this kind of fan frenzy? He’s been in the media only in the past few years, and that too for rather unfavourable coverage and controversies.
From conversations with people who operate in the South media market, it is evident that the reputation that Kalanithi Maran has built for flagship Sun TV as a mass entertainer is unparalleled. The same has been continued through to the movie business, and the results of that were showing in Ghatkopar.
Yes, there is competition, and good competition, and there are controversies. But the controversies are something the average viewer – be it for the movies or the television programming – doesn’t care about. If anything, it only adds to the aura of Maran and Sun. The audience simply wants its entertainment. If the content creator has got his finger on the pulse of the masses, and delivers to get that pulse racing, the audience’s respect for and expectation simply go up.
Keeping with controversies, my colleagues at Campaign India decided to investigate if Kingfisher Airlines’ woes would affect brand Kingfisher.
Will it affect Mallya’s reputation as a businessman? Yes, the bankers are not going to evaluate him the way they did earlier. But what impact will it have on consumers of Kingfisher beer? ‘They wouldn’t care’ was the obvious response. Will brand Kingfisher be impacted? As with many such intangibles, one will have to answer that question with reference to each specific context in which it is posed: For a brand extension? In which category?
Over a few beers, a reputed brand consultant asked me if someone has measured how much visibility brand Kingfisher had garnered thanks to Kingfisher Airlines, and all the stories that appear in the papers and on TV day in and day out. In terms of ad value equivalent exposure, especially for a brand in a category where it needs to take the surrogate route to advertise, he argued that Kingfisher Airlines has done good for Kingfisher in its core category. Consumers buy Kingfisher for the beer, the persona of the brand, and the imagery it allows them to embrace and be part of, he said. I couldn’t disagree.
In the case of an entertainment company dealing with a critical relief component of the average Indian, i.e. the feature film and television content, there is an added emotional connect with the identified creators.
Which is why, I am excited and eager to see how Mr Maran and team at Sun will add to the entertainment and engagement that IPL provides.
The Iaw of averages does catch up with even the ones gifted with the midas touch. Not all movies and shows from Sun have been blockbusters. But for most part, Mr Maran and co. have not disappointed.
There are only two things that will stop me from cheering for the Sun XXXX team at the next IPL: Chennai Super Kings, and MS Dhoni.