The release of the Tamil Superstar Rajnikanth’s recent flick, Sivaji – The Boss is a perfect lesson in marketing. Its unclear if the entire marketing campaign was a planned effort or it just came to be. In any case, it was the most brilliant marketing effort in desi tinsel town in a long long time. It all started with the original announcement of the film over 18 months back. The coming together of leading lights of Kollywood — AVM Productions, Director K. Shankar, AR Rahman and Rajnikanth for India’ most expensive film ever (supposedly over 75 crores) . From then on, there were incessant leak of stills, youtube videos, the speculation over choice of leading lady (Ash to Rani, to finally the relatively less known Shreya), the storyline, reports of how the superstar had accepted only Rs. 1001 as advance for the film etc. etc.
Then, the release date of the film was moved out time and again until 15, June was settled on as the big day. This had already driven the expectations (not to mention patience) to a frenzy among the scores of die-hard fans. All along there was frequent news about the sale of overseas rights, Telugu rights, Kerala rights and what not.
The otherwise reclusive star himself appeared before the English media in a rare 2-minute interview on the eve of the release of the film. The simplicity of the man and his humility won him more well-wishers (like he needed more!). In a further attempt to win broad support for the film, the superstar arranged for separate private screenings for politicians Karunanidhi, Jayalalitha and Chandrababu Naidu. The Channel rights of the film were sold to Karunanidhi’s Kalaignar TV channel for a record sum (Sun TV losing out on what would usually have been their deal, given Maran’s recent fall-out with Karunanidhi)
For the first time, several corporates joined in the drama by signing up for shows of the film in droves for their employees en masse. As for the print media every single magazine and newspaper imaginable had a report about the movie and the frenzy surrounding it.
The producers and distributors of the film decided to cash in on the mania by releasing the film in an unprecedented 850 screens across 25 countries! (a clear record for an Indian film). Tamil Nadu accounted for 350 of those screens showing clearly that the star has a huge following well beyond the state. This widespread release ensured that even if the film was a flop the sheer initial momentum will ensure at a minimum a recovery of the investment. In any case, the film has been running to packed houses. Rajnikanth is easily the Boss of the box office by a long long way.
Overall a brilliant marketing effort, planned or otherwise.