I think I was about 12 or 13 then. A new Rajinikanth movie had just hit the screens and as expected, there was a lot of buzz in the media. In those days’ media meant Doordarshan, The Hindu and a couple vernacular magazines only. To create buzz, they announced a review contest. Top reviews were to get a mention in the press and autographed photos from the Superstar. After a lot of cajoling, my grandfather ghost wrote a review for me. A month went by and I almost forgot about the contents until my neighbor came rushing home one morning. He had a newspaper clipping in his hand. My review had made it to the top list! The newspaper clipping had my photograph (along with a hundred others) with a note of appreciation from the Superstar. The rest is history as I became the talk of the town (aka my street) for the next few days!
Unless you have been living in a cave, you probably know by now Rajinikanth’s latest flick, Kabali, released today. Right from BBC to my daughter’s 3rd-grade mates at HLC, to my driver, are talking about nothing but Kabali. As a student of marketing, this intrigues me.
Why so much noise, why so much excitement? Is it just a movie after all? Some friends were quick to pitch in. They said, it’s not some movie, it is ‘The’ movie. It is thalaivar, it’s a movement.
It is no surprise to us when big releases draw fanatical fan devotion; milk-bath to giant hoardings, queuing up overnight for tickets, spending their entire months’ salary on the release day. Unlike Kabali, such obsessions were limited only to certain segments of the society with some exceptions. With select corporate shutting down for the day, big brands lining up Kabali offers, to world media taking notice, this movie has certainly gone out of control.
While a lot can be, and will be, written about clever marketing & promotions, this reveals an ominous trend of how vulnerable people have become & how opportunistic brands have become today. This trend is not about frivolous things like gadgets or entertainment. It’s about how we are increasingly taking sides just for the sake of being accepted by peers. As a race, we have always suffered from a need to belong. We thirst for social identities with a desire to be among the first. When such a culture is mixed with something that has mass emotional appeal, it turns into a cult – a massive disruption of normal.
None of this is new, human behavior has been the same for centuries. But internet penetration & social media swelling has given individuals & brands the power to exploit our weakness. In a world where our Facebook walls know more about us than our siblings, we have become a civilization that can be so easily manipulated for commercial & political gains. We have seen such trends in the Indian political scene. The rise of the AAP movement, to the Indian National Congress trolls vs BJP trolls. Unfortunately, they seldom bring people together for noble causes.
All is not doom & gloom, though. What better example than the 2015 Chennai floods rescue operation when the whole city came together to save Chennai. But how many such movements have we seen? My friend Christy summarized it fittingly in his post this morning.
“I can’t see this unity when it is needed to fight oppression or support social change. Kim Kardashian and Kabali break the Internet, instead of campaigns on breast cancer, police brutality or corruption in politics.”
As we enjoy this Kabali movement, perhaps it’s time we asked ourselves two questions.
- How vulnerable are we to peer pressures and opportunistic brands?
- What higher goals can we reach as a society if we got together like these for causes that need our attention?
Let me now go back to ticket booking sites, hoping I’ll at least get a couple of tickets for the next next week.