Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Making most of social media (IANS Column: B-Town)

Films are a favourite subject of netizens on each and every social media. Sadly, of late, people find very little to discuss about films.

I have noted that even when Twitter, Facebook and other social media did not exist, films were the top-rated topic on websites such as Rediff.com. Yahoo, Hotmail and so on.There were groups and forums that discussed artistes, their performance.These groups and forums got busier every Friday when a new film was released. The new release was discussed threadbare, there were groups for and against. Then, there were also those who discussed the reviews and critics from publications, but mainly the trade papers (Blogs were yet to come.)
Realising the importance of social media, the stars created a cell to handle their promotion as well as defence against negative posts. This move also leads to a war of social media posts very often. For example, if a Salman Khan film is released, the other camp tries to run his film down, while his social media cell shields him.Such wars are usually backed by fabricated box office figures just to prove a point!

Internet debates on films were sincere but based on personal beliefs. People had different opinions. Fair enough. It all went dirty when the media cells of various artistes took to social media.
Often, these influencers also help a star. It is all about money. There are a few film trade magazine journalists who now carry a price tag to do an actor or a film’s bidding purely based on their past reputation as trade journalists.As if that was not enough, some others with no film trade background have also become influencers! People need to wise up. Such influencers have no credibility.

Lately, social media folks have taken to calling the stars’ bluff, running them down and insulting them. Probably, because there are no good films to write about (good, as in a film they would like to watch).People on social media are protected behind their ID, but stars are not. To look smart and knowledgeable, stars often post statements that only prove how stupid and ill-informed they are. They post comments which they have to retract — ‘what I meant’ kind of retraction!

The recent example is that of erstwhile star Kajol. As is the norm, a rather foolish one, she posted her opinion that the country was run by uneducated leaders. A school dropout that she herself is, it was rather out of place of her to comment about national leaders. But social media gives you that kind of courage. No wonder she was trolled so brutally that she needed to explain what she meant by her comment! You have a vote to change the system, Madam.

Social media works both ways and is a great way for celebrities to communicate if you know what you are talking about. Otherwise, avoid it. Because, all celebrities are under scrutiny and film stars get special attention.
One of the earliest celebrities to use social media to retain and add to his following was Amitabh Bachchan. His blog presented the human side of Bachchan, whose world was a secret, hidden away from people.He opened up about his life and won over his followers. He called the followers of his blog his extended family. Imagine those who wrote fan mails by thousands to stars, being called a family and being able to communicate with the legend, Amitabh Bachchan!

One can say that it went a long way in creating a bond between Amitabh Bachchan and people. Unlike what Bachchan did, to create positive vibes, a lot of flash-in-the-pan kind film artistes spew only negativism on the social media. They want to be noticed, no matter what; instead, they get trolled, abused.

If you remember the greetings cards business, which worked on the idea of numbing people’s logic, especially of the youth, cashed in on specially devised days (international day of so and so!): for father, mother, sister, chocolate, lover, rose, dog and what have you! Now we have a breed called influencers on social media!They are supposed to help people make up their mind to spend money on what they promote: they kind of influence your choices! I think only a moron would be influenced by others. They get huge sums to make you spend. Stick to making up your own mind about your choices and preferences.

What is it that works for a film’s promotion? Because, now there are no wall posters, no hoardings, no buying print media advertorial space either. That era is long gone. So what is the alternative? Internet and social media.Yes, that is the best medium nowadays, but only if you know how to arouse people’s interest and make them react positively en masse. Social media takes its thread from other sources. When it comes to films, it is mainly YouTube.

The reactions can work either way, for or against a film, depending on how you present it. The one example is ‘Adi Purush’; the other is ‘Pathaan’.

‘Adi Purush’ was rejected at the social media level. If one read the people’s reactions, the film’s release could have been held back to rework on it. The ‘Pathaan’ promo caught the imagination of the people on and off the social media. That promotion worked and the sagging career of Shah Rukh Khan was revived.

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