By Priyanka Khanna
New Delhi, (IANS) Not content with unleashing an onslaught on our senses, Hindi filmmakers are sneaking Bollywood into our wardrobes, bedrooms and now even bathrooms as film merchandising reaches new highs in India.
And it is Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Saawariya" slated for Nov 9 release which has earned the unique distinction of helping sell bed and bath linens. Going by the promos it seems debutant Ranbir Kapoor has even put in a near nude scene to prop up the products of the Future Group, a retail manufacturer that has tied-up with the film. Thankfully, the group reassures that none of its products like men's apparel, bed and bath products and linen will sport pictures of the actors. Instead, their products have been inspired by the film's colour theme and motifs.
At the same time, Farah Khan's "Om Shanti Om" will fight it out with "Saawariya" in cinema halls as well as retail stores. The Shah Rukh Khan-starrer is also set to release on Nov 9 and clothes inspired by the movie are hoping to entice buyers in a retail chain, Shopper's Stop.
With Shah Rukh essaying a double role of a 1970s struggling actor and a new millennium's superstar, the clothesline is likely to be an instant hit, given that retro is very much in.
And that is not all. Very soon merchandise of the film "Goal" starring John Abraham and Bipasha Basu will be headed our way. The film's producer UTV has already launched a campaign to promote the film, including a tie-up with famous British football club Manchester United, ensuring that two lucky winners of the "Goal" contest will get to watch a Man U match in person.
Recently, "Laaga Chunari Mein Daag" had set new standards for in-film products by placing bath soap Lux at the crux of its script without making cinematic compromises.
Merchandising for Bollywood is no longer just about "spreading the word about the films". It is serious business for both the film and the merchandiser though the industry is still far behind multi-billion movie franchises like the James Bond, Harry Potter and Spiderman sequels.
"With every passing year, producers are going an extra mile to promote their films, especially in the festive period," says Devang Sampat, vice president, marketing and programming, Cinemax.
Merchandising has come a long way in Bollywood and films today. The movie might not run to packed houses and may fall dud but the accessories hit the bull's eye. Whether it is done to cover the expenditure of the film or for publicity but the truth is merchandising is the 'in thing' in Bollywood.
Bollywood's ace showman Subhash Ghai is credited with introducing the concept of in-film brand promotion long before any MBA-degree holder joined the field of film promotion. During one scene between Aishwarya and Akshaye in "Taal", he reportedly took two shots, one with Pepsi and the other with Coco-Cola. Then a bid took place and ultimately Coke won the bid for Rs.10 million.
But even before Ghai, Sooraj Barjatya had made Salman Khan's cap and black leather jacket in "Maine Pyar Kiya" sell like hot cakes. He had even tied up with gifts and greeting card makers, Archies, to sell memorabilia of blockbuster "Hum Aapke Hain Kaun".
The fact that Madhuri Dixit's "Didi Tera Dewar Deewana" sari was reproduced and sold over one million pieces is often cited as an example of how movies dictate fashion.
Maverick-turned-conservative filmmaker Ramgopal Varma also tried his hand at movie merchandising by bringing out ghost dolls to coincide with his movie "Bhoot". The recent big money-churning movie franchises were Hrithik Roshan's "Koi Mil Gaya", "Krrish" and most recently "Dhoom 2".
Bollywood has still not exploited the market for movie merchandise to its fullest. In Hollywood, movie merchandise is known to rake in as much money as the ticket sales.
Proponents of movie merchandising are banking heavily on "Om Shanti Om" to establish the industry's faith in this form of promotion. Of all the remaining biggies set for release in 2007, the Shah Rukh-starrer has the maximum potential to break previous records.
In fact, Bollywood's plans for this festive season had included five biggies - "Bhool Bhulaiyaa", "Laaga Chunari Mein Daag", "Saawariya", "Om Shanti Om" and "Taare Zameen Par".
Among them, "Laaga Chunari Mein Daag" has not lived up to expectations and it is evident that "Bhool Bhulaiyaa" will not be a super duper hit either.
"Om Shanti Om" seems most brand-friendly among the remaining three biggies. "Taare Zameen Par" is helmed by Aamir Khan who is not known to be marketing savvy and has no history of successful movie merchandising.
Remains to be seen whether Shah Rukh's charm that has remained undiminished for decades on the silver screen will work on budget-conscious Indian shoppers or not.