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Deepa Gahlot

Amitabh Bachchan in Aks It's a strange kind of trap. There must be filmmakers (and the rare actor), who just want to release their films with minimum fuss and let their work do the talking.

It is understood that a certain amount of publicity is necessary, or people won't know when and where the film is releasing. But what is happening now is that every film opens with tremendous pre-release hype. And God help it if it can't live up to it. The rejection of the film is swift and brutal.

The fate of the recent release Aks - The Reflection is a case in point.

However, with so many print publications and their supplements, websites and TV channels looking for film-based material to stuff in, it has become mandatory for producers, director, actors, composers and anyone remotely quotable associated with a film to have a mike shoved under their chins and be barraged with questions.

It is inevitable that they put their foot (feet?) into their mouths while bragging about their putative masterpieces.

Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai Earlier, people used to see the Coming Soon ads in the papers and wait for films by their favourite directors and stars. Today, they are deluged by the 'buzz'.

They watch, on television, songs shot specially at exotic locations to make promos look good, watch The Making Of shows in which everyone brags about how great a film they have made and how different it is from the usual Hindi film.

They show some clips and songs, do some mutual backslapping and try to look all excited and nervous. If they are good actors, they succeed, else their excitement looks put on.

That Amitabh Bachchan can still manage to perform this act convincingly after all these years is remarkable.

Of course, Amitabh's generosity in conferring praise on his directors has made him look a little ridiculous in recent times. When he says the script of Ek Rishtaa - The Bond Of Love moved him to tears, and the script of Aks got him jumping out of his chair and rushing to produce it (or something to that effect), it makes one marvel at his off-the-mark script sense.

Ditto for son Abhishek, who felt (or at least said so), that Bas Itna Sa Khwaab Hai had a fabulous script.

Ek Rishtaa -- The Bond Of Love One can, of course, see it from the stars' point of view. There are just so many really good projects going around.

So unless they are Aamir Khan, they can't sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for the perfect role.

And if they do take on what is offered to them, they are obliged to defend it and plug it for all they are worth. Never mind that they end up with egg on their faces most of the time.

It is sad to see egos deflate so publicly every Friday. And nobody can take failure -- especially when a few days earlier, they were all over the media and on top of the world.

Journos can also be as cruel to flops, directors and stars as they are obsequious to successful ones. Invariably, "Why didnít the film work?" will be asked.

And all but the most sensible and mature will first deny that the film was a flop and then find someone to blame -- bad timing of the release, inadequate promotion (in these days of overkill), cricket match, festival, exams, eclipse, or sheer bad luck.

One just remembers Mansoor Khan sportingly admit that he went wrong with Akele Hum Akele Tum, and Ramgopal Varma laugh at his own goofs in Daud and Mast. Almost all the others remain in denial forever.

Urmila and Aftab in Varma's Mast This business of hyping films to absurd limits is a relatively new phenomenon -- less than a decade old -- when films and stars moved from fanzines to the front pages of newspapers and on to the covers of news magazines and satellite channels had to vie to grab viewers. Films are always easy bait.

The film which went overboard in recent memory was Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. Producer Boney Kapoor knew how to manipulate maximum publicity for his film which took too long to make and went terribly overbudget.

So he simply called it the most expensive film ever made and got wide coverage even in international publications. The film turned out to be a flop. His next 'blockbuster' Prem suffered the same fate.

One remembers the tremendous hype for Trimurti -- two giants coming together and all that. When it flopped, producer Subhash Ghai and director Mukul Anand pointed fingers at each other.

A lot of biggies have been laughed out of the theatres by the public. What they read, see and hear of a film may arouse some curiosity, but people are smart enough to smell a bad product.

Aamir Khan in Mela There have been so many multicrore star-studded disasters -- Raj Kumar, Koyla, Mrityudaata, Dil Se, Jeans, China Gate, Mann, Dillagi, Mela, Raju Chacha -- and they were all expected to be hits going by the pre-release buzz generated by overactive PR machinery.

Debut films of star kids released with huge promotional campaigns -- Barsaat, Himalayputra, Prem Aggan, Refugee -- were all flops.

But sometimes it is difficult to decide how much publicity is too much.

A few weeks before the release of a film, the media feeds the public's curiosity. The people involved with the film are sucked into the whirlpool of hype, which they may not even have wanted in the first place.

But how can they turn down one set of journos and favour another -- it could result in a backlash of hostility.

So they have to give endless interviews in 15 minutes of rationed time to everyone who asks. They are forced to say exaggeratedly nice things about the film whether they believe them or not -- who can pull down their own work?

Fardeen Khan in Prem Aggan So, the same quotes, the same pictures, the same soundbytes recycled for days on end -- till the curiosity is whipped up to a frenzy or all the mystery about a film is destroyed.

Only the strongest film can survive this kind of hype. The rest are just sucked under. Till the next round...

E-mail Deepa Gahlot

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