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Dear Aamir, is bad the new good in selling films?

Dear Aamir, is bad the new good in selling films?

Khan says 'Delhi Belly' is so bad that it has the potential to shatter the goodwill he has generated.

New Delhi: Actor Aamir Khan has put in a bad word for his upcoming venture 'Delhi Belly' starring his nephew Imran.

When Irish poet Brendan Behan commented “there’s no bad publicity except an obituary," little did he realize his words would find resonance with movie producers competing in an expanding industry that churns out hundreds of films a year - each fighting for exclusivity.

When Khan says his film is so bad that it has the potential to shatter the goodwill he has generated with his clean family entertainers over the years, it takes superhuman self discipline to curb the urge to roll the eyes.

Aamir Khan, late in his career, seems to have stumbled upon the power of carefully-casual bad publicity for upcoming releases.

The reticent actor who was once known for his limited media interaction and disregard for popular awards, has kick-started the promotional blitz for his new venture with a blog post that says 'Delhi Belly' has "the potential of destroying, in a single stroke, all the goodwill we have built in the last 10 years."

The film, co-produced by Aamir Khan Productions and UTV Motion Pictures, stars Imran Khan, Vir Das, and Kunal Roy Kapur and is slated to be released on July 1, 2011.

For years Khan struggled with his public image as he evolved from a baby-faced actor fighting for a foothold in an industry of titans to an actor extraordinaire with enough clout to alter a film’s narrative during its production.

From choosing his scripts carefully to fastidiously ironing out the kinks, Khan’s involvement in the process of filmmaking was largely dominated by his own pursuit of perfection.

But as production evolved into a technology-driven industry and forging ventures with Hollywood studios looking to offset sluggish box office sales became the norm, producers have increasingly started looking at reversing the superlatives to market films.

Industry insiders estimate that foreign studios spent around three to five billion rupees on producing Bollywood films but none hit the mark at the box-office.

However, producers have cottoned on to the reverse psychological effects of bad publicity and Khan has subscribed to it. Rather than letting his film speak for itself, Khan hinted ‘Delhi Belly’ has A-rated content – an infallible way of tantalizing the audiences into finding out what the fuss is all about.

At the time of the release of his home production 'Dhobi Ghat', Khan apologised to the washermen community "if he had unintentionally hurt their sentiments with the title." This may come as shock, but he need not have named his film 'Dhobi Ghat' if he didn't want to court controversy just as he didn't need to produce a film that could stain his spotless record.

Even the legend of a perfectionist Khan who makes directors change a script if it isn’t up to scratch has been honed to perfection by media managers to build the image of a man who acts in few films that mostly do well at the box office.

But does Khan really need to get into "bad" marketing to make a film work? Most of his films or the ones he produced have had strong plots and an ensemble of talented actors. Shouldn't that be enough? Or is the rat race inevitable?

first published:May 10, 2011, 18:06 IST