Dancing In The Streets: Bollywood Goes Mobile

The most formulaic of foreign film industries is being forced to innovate. For the first time, a Bollywood film is marketing exclusively via mobile and the web.



Bollywood, in some respects one of the more traditional corridors of international filmmaking, is finding that when it comes to marketing its product, it needs to start innovating. AFP has an interesting story today about how this most analog of industries–enormous, hand-painted posters have been a marketing staple–is now turning to mobile technology to recapture a dwindling market. An upcoming film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You Only Live Once), starring Bollywood heart-throb Hrithik Roshan, will be promoted only via mobile phone and online–an industry first, per AFP.

The studio behind the film, Excel Entertainment, joined forces with Aircel, a leading mobile operator in India, and will be sending a pair of three-minute trailers to Aircel’s 55 million users. At a recent news conference, the producer of the film, Ritesh Sidhwani, said that, “Many people and especially the young crowd watch promos on the Internet, so we felt it was better to go with this plan.” He added that using mobile tech allowed for a greater targeting than the spray-and-pray approach of TV and in-theater marketing.

The film’s heavily interactive website is a virtual playground, containing links to photos, videos, and a Spanish tomato festival, La Tomatina, that apparently figures in the film. The movie, opening July 15, concerns three Indian men who go on a road trip across Spain on the occasion of one of the men’s impending marriage (essentially a Bollywood-style Hangover?). The trailer here makes it look like pretty much the best thing ever.

But despite its sexy talent and stirring musical numbers, Bollywood, like other forms of traditional media, remains in something of a slump. The Indian film industry in its entirety has suffered a 20% revenue drop over the last three years. Headlines about Bollywood revenue over the last few years have been disheartening. Piracy to the Indian film industry is devastating, costing it something like $4 billion a year, according to some sources.


In this context, mobile makes sense as a source for new revenue streams. AFP rounds up some numbers on why India is the worlds fastest-growing cellular market. There are over 750 million mobile phone users, almost a 45% growth over a year ago. About 19 million people subscribe to Internet, almost a 25% growth over last year. Almost 11 milion of those have broadband access, a 40% growth over last year. Cheaper handsets will soon enable greater penetration into the rural market, with fully 82% of India’s 1.2 billion people expected to have a mobile inside of three years. If ever there were a time to start experimenting with non-traditional forms of advertising, this is it.

And now, a gratuitous dance scene. You know you want it.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Email David Zax, the author of this post, or follow him on Twitter.

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.