‘Loins of Punjab…’ will appeal to non-Indians as well: DirectorSeptember 14th, 2008 - 1:32 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Sep 14 (IANS) The makers of “Loins of Punjab Presents”, the highest-rated Bollywood comedy, are hoping to make it as “roaring” a success in the US as it was in India by reaching out beyond Indian Americans.”I think this movie has the potential of really reaching out to the non-Indian community, and defining it in a new and positive way,” said director Manish Acharya who has chosen a US distributor as part of a new strategy to penetrate the admittedly “tougher” American market.
“The desire to go with a US distributor stemmed from that,” Acharya told IANS in an e-mail interview. “If anyone was going to get this movie to break out from just the Indian-American theatres, it would have to be someone who was not Indian or Indian-American. And Emerging Pictures is a well-known and respected name in the distribution community.”
“An employee of theirs, Myrna Moncayo, saw the movie at a festival, loved it, and got me in touch with the head of the company. And now we are together bringing this movie to American theatres,” Acharya said.
Starring Shabana Azmi, Ayesha Dharker and Ajay Naidu, the film revolving around a nutty Bollywood-style singing contest set in New Jersey opened Friday in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. It opens Sep 26 in Chicago, San Jose, and San Diego followed by Dallas and Houston Oct 10.
Acharya was not ready to rate the prospects of the film in America as “the US is a tougher market as there are many more movies, as well as many more competing entertainment options, from sports, to live music, to plays, to art, etc.
“However, going by our festival screenings and awards, and the initial press meetings, I am hoping for a sustained run and a break-out film. But … no one knows,” he said.
To reach an audience beyond the Indian American community, Acharya has chosen to go with word-of-mouth publicity. “I think a non-Indian will see the film, if it is recommended to them, either by a critic or by a friend.
“And so we are doing a strong mainstream press outreach. But just as importantly we are telling all Indian-Americans to bring their non-Indian friends to the film with them. The movie is in English, set in New Jersey, and accessible. So, hopefully they are doing that,” he said.
In India, Acharya had chosen a slightly different strategy. “I always thought that if people see the film there is enough in there for them to like it. And the right strategy would have been a slow release, in increasing number of theatres, as word-of-mouth built.
“However, given piracy concerns and the fact that all exhibitors want the movie at the same time, we went into 22 cities and 85 screens on the very first weekend,” he said.
But as their marketing budget did not allow them to sustain 4-5 weeks of a full-blown Bollywood-style campaign, “we really went all out in the last week. So suddenly in the seven days before release, we were everywhere. Full page ads, on television, on reality programmes, in the press, and so there was huge curiosity value and buzz.
“Once people walked in to see the film, they loved it and would tell others. So it was the combination of an explosive week-long campaign, followed by stellar reviews and strong word-of-mouth that resulted in the, as you put it, ‘roaring success’,” he said.
The movie, Acharya said, reflects your beliefs and concerns - issues of belonging, of defining “home”, of self-image. “The whole idea of having a Bollywood-song contest so far from the home of Bollywood is right away a desire to define a new ‘home’ that has the characteristics of the old one even though one is in a ‘foreign’ land,” he said.
“And I have put the quotes around foreign, because how do we define foreign. When Preeti Patel sings ‘man kyon behka’, is she foreign from an American perspective?” he asked.
“Now she was born in the US, goes to a US school, sings in a auditorium in the US … so what is the foreign part? When Josh (Groban) sings, some audience members hold up a sign, ‘Go home foreigner’.
“So where does Josh belong? Not among the Indians and also not among his own people who see the India fascination as weird,” Acharya said.
In fact, Acharya said, Shabana Azmi told him that she thought the script was very political, and powerful because the politics were submerged beneath the comedy. “But really the movie is an entertainer.
“If all you want to do is laugh for 90 minutes, it will serve your purpose. If you want to analyse it later, and delve into the subtext, well, there is enough there for that as well.”
The filmmaker, who studied physics and industrial relations and then had a career in software, said: “…all that was a way to make sure that my parents didn’t ever worry about me” as he was the only child from a middle-class family where the idea of having a stable career is often so paramount.
“So … after my company was successful, I felt like I could ‘indulge’ myself,” Acharya said. “For some people, their indulgences are good food and drink, or fancy cars, or great vacations. For me, it was a new career.”