There was a time when Cinema was the only game in town for most Indians. Films were the central entertainment medium in the country and its primacy in terms of that was unchallenged. However, the liberalisation policies of the early nineties brought Cable and Satellite channels and though it took time, soon enough, the people had Television as their new darling. Television brought Cinema up against its only real competition in terms of obsession – Cricket. India’s home and overseas games would lead to people staying in to watch and their ODI games in World Cups would empty theatres across the country. Thankfully for the industry, these games were few and far between. At least until 2008. That was the year the BCCI brought the IPL to life.

Now a cricket tournament would last a month and a half and would show a match every day and two on weekends meant that now there was sustained supply of cricket which unlike before could keep audiences out of theatres consistently. The fi rst IPL was a bit of unknown but the people took to it and there was plenty a night of empty theatres due to people staying in to watch gripping matches every night. The fi lm industry adjusted in the second season, pushing big releases to pre and post IPL. That window really became a big thing for the next few years as producers were keen not to put their fi lm up against the likes of India’s and the world’s best cricketers.

However this didn’t last. As IPL began to reach some saturation, people seemed to be willing to step out again and seek alternatives. Big films began to once again pop up during IPL time as producers began to see opportunities in the mid season fatigue that set in for the tournament yet remaining well clear of the start and end of the competition. That is where we are now. There is no doubt that the IPL is a juggernaut of awesome proportions when it comes to marketing and promotion but it doesn’t mean that films are completely averse to releasing during this period. You only need to look at the huge release – Avengers: Infinity War – which is slap bang in the middle of IPL season 11.

IPL is so much more than just the competition and it is this that needs to be remembered when thinking of releasing. Yes, the cricket that is beamed into our houses every night is of course something that can put us off watching movies a few nights in a row but there is the hundreds of crores of marketing that also is part of this. IPL being the light that will take all eyeballs for a month and half, will also attract all the advertising and new promotional campaigns. This massive barrage of media will mean that there is less space and less impact that any new marketing campaign for a film can make and even more so for a film who is in the last few key weeks of its promotion. Big films just cannot afford to have IPL take up all the headlines and mind space in the weeks before its release. Only a huge film, Avengers is an example, with a loyal audience and a hype that has been built for months, can afford to take on this media blanket, by fighting fire with fire. Most Hindi films though, cannot even remotely hope to compete.

That though doesn’t mean that there is no chance for films during this period. There have been winners during the IPL. Housefull 2 in 2012, Two States in 2014, Tanu Weds Manu in 2015 and Baaghi in 2016 are all examples of films that have done well during the IPL period despite all the odds against them. Most of these films used the massive IPL promotions to barter a solid platform for their promotions as well. Stars of the films appeared on the broadcasts and even commentated on some matches. All of while though, plugging the film that was releasing.

This demonstrates that if a film can find it niche and work out its marketing and promotional campaigns to play off the IPL and use it as a springboard and then couple that with compelling stories, there is a good chance that the IPL tsunami can be used by films to their advantage making these platforms complementary and not alternatives as has been previously thought.

– Author is the MD, at Mukta Arts.

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