We all know that Malayalam cinema is not known for its marketing techniques, and yet they somehow sometimes succeed greatly. Sharing reviews posted by nobodies on social media, posting the BookMyShow seat booking status of a specific show in a popular theatre, and republishing substandard reviews posted by amateur reviewers/publications like FilmiBeat are some common methods employed by the makers. Yet, this past weekend (third week of May 2017), something happened that defined a new low for the Malayalam cinema box office business.
Adventures of Omanakuttan, also known as AOK or AOO, an avant-garde romantic feature film by debutante Rohith VS and starring actors Asif Ali and Bhavana in the lead roles, became the cynosure of the Malayalam film industry for a brief time. After being stalled for months due to a variety of reasons, the film finally released on 19 May 2017 to polarized reviews, hitting all its chances to be counted among the best Malayalam films of 2017. Quoted as “a tedious watch” by Sify, sentiment soon spread across social media that the film is trash, and that it is only suited for people who adore experimental films. Considering that two other big titles – namely Kannan Thamarakkulam’s Achayans and Basil Joseph’s Godha – also released the same day, the film was going to have to beat heavy competition to come out victorious. In addition to the obvious factors (poor trailer and response, lead actors’ last film’s poor box office performance, and other recent related affairs), one another reason why the film failed to perform was because it was distributed in a very few theaters in Kerala, with no presence anywhere else in the country or in the UAE.
So, what do you do to salvage the situation? Use social media non-sparingly and request people to watch the film without making presumptions and without giving in to reviewers’ dumb-downs. Ask the debutante director to cry out loud, literally, by posting a heart-breaking request on his Facebook page urging people to go and spend some money before the film is taken off the listing, so that “Malayalam cinema” can stay above the waters. Ask the cast actors to support the cause. Ask fellow friends in the film fraternity to support the cause. Create hashtags like #SupportAOK and #SupportGoodMalayalamCinema. Mercilessly post updates about the booking statuses of different shows in different theaters and share related photos. Create memes.
And as days pass by, cash registers will start to make more noise, and you have succeeded at it, because people are gullible. The ratio of negative reviews to the positive ones started minimize, and Adventures of Omanakuttan somewhat became a hit. That is how you save a film from tanking at the box office by using the power of social media and compromising a bit on self-esteem. The actual roots of the problem – quality cinema and not distributing widely enough – was unfortunately lost in the wind.