Bollywood – or rather a significant part of it – has a new challenge. More than one release has been greeted with #BoycottBollywood on social media. As with most such campaigns, there are no boundaries to the narratives.
Despite the no-holds-barred attack under the umbrella of #BoycottBrahmastra, the movie’s makers and stars are today celebrating its “success”.
Not very far back, those trending #BoycottLaalSinghChaddha among other hashtags against the Forest Gump remake were celebrating its “failure”.
Kipling’s “success” and “failure” may be impostors that need to be treated alike in a sporting arena, but a film industry cannot – for there are way too many lives and livelihoods involved.
Since success matters, we have to ask the questions.
Never mind where they’re comig from. But does the viewing public get swayed by #BoycottBollywood trends?
“In general, the viewing public has never been much impacted by #Boycott calls. To the contrary, in some cases it has the opposite effect, and actually creates curiosity around the movie and increases viewership,” observes N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research.
“In the case of Brahmastra, the matter was quite trivial, and the production team got their act together very fast, including a visit of the lead actor to the temple in concern. While such a step may seem to go an extra mile, it’s best to take PR steps like this, to ensure the issue does not get complicated,” he adds.
“The viewing public really does not care much for the social media bullies,” says Rajeev Balakrishnan, CEO, Image Advantage Consultants.
“There are a set of people on social media who just enjoy their momentary glory under the spotlight by calling for a boycott. A few of them belong to fringe parties which hope that they can negotiate a separate deal with the producer of the film by holding him or her to ransom. Reviews after the release may however impact the viewership to an extent. If the content is good no force can stop the film from becoming a hit. Brahmastra and its initial collection of over a 100 crores in less than a week is a case in point. #BoycottBollywood is just another failed movement,” he adds.
Karan Taurani, Senior Vice President at Elara Capital, believes that content of the movie is a bigger factor than controversies.
“The call for #BoycottBollywood was not a big reason for the movie collections, it is a small reason because it impacts overall consumer sentiments and affects word of mouth publicity in a negative way. This is a wrong way of demeaning a film and putting down the film industry. Nonetheless, whether the boycott happens or not, I believe content is ahead of these controversies. With Brahmastra, content is good also the VFX and special effects are top notch. The Indian audience has shown affinity and strong acceptance towards movies with VFX and special effects. We are moving towards the franchise route, something which Hollywood has been adapting since so many years of creating large scale franchises,” he adds.
According to veteran marketer Lloyd Mathias, Angel Investor and Business Strategist, there is no denying the aspect that the ‘cancel culture’ does create some degree of discomfort.
He further adds, “I believe the #BoycottBollywood and the cancel culture that has been happening for the last few months will be continuing for an extended period. The impact will be little short term.”
He notes that the boycott trend has taken roots over the last four or five years, with the spread of social media. Mathias cites instances like the call to boycott Chinese handsets, among many others, to trace its path.
He adds, “I believe it is the reality of the modern day social media world. With this kind of social media activism, brands will continue to face similar problems. To what extent it will commercially damage the brand is yet to be seen. We have witnessed boycotts of Chinese mobile phones, but if we look at the sales numbers in India, they are ranked in the top five. Finally, people make more rational choices based on their time and convenience. The impact is not long term.”
Has #BoycottBollywood lost its steam?
Mathias observes that with the opening box office numbers of Brahmastra seeming good, #BoycottBollywood may appear to be slightly losing its steam. But he cautions — as do other market watchers — that one needs to see the issue case to case and read the awareness on each boycott call as it comes.
“Yes it has, the impact it had on viewers is now a thing of the past. The spell has been broken,” says Balakrishnan.
Chandramouli believes that it never had much steam to start with.
“#BoycottBollywood was just hyped on social media and the regular media,” he adds.
“For now, #BoycottBollywood has lost its steam, but never know what form and how it might come back. But again, if the content is powerful, it will be able to compact the social media negativity,” concludes Taurani.