August 20, 2008

Politicians’ Public Appeal: Bollywood Ishtyle

By Nitasha Natu

MUMBAI: Political party workers seem to be getting increasingly innovative with their promotional tactics. For the past few months, they have been piggybacking on the success of Bollywood films to appeal to the public.

For instance, a hoarding put up in Santa Cruz (W) reads 'UPA is King' , inspired from the Akshay Kumar-starrer Singh is Kinng, with pictures of the party's head honchos splashed across the billboard. A Mumbai Congress spokesperson says it was designed after UPA won the trust vote. In mid-June, MNS supporters put up hoardings at Dadar which read "Sarkar Raj (ki hogi)," after Ramgopal Verma's film with the same name. The occasion was Thackeray's 40th birthday.

When a hoarding is designed, the idea is to make it eye-catching so that it stays in the people's mind for a long time. Earlier, parties used strong slogans like Garibi hatao, to connect to the masses. But now Bollywood film titles are chosen as they "strike a chord easily". "It's a big farce. It's sad to see political parties cashing in on Bollywood films in this manner. I will not be surprised to see them make promos next to promote their agenda. And I'm sure they would come running to us for help," says film-maker Rajkumar Santoshi.

Film-maker Mahesh Bhatt says parties are continuously looking for some window from which they can penetrate into the minds of their voters and leave behind footprints. Bollywood is naturally the most effective engine. "Every product these days is made with one clear objective-it should reach the consciousness of young India. Bollywood is a compulsory diet for Indians below 35 years. What could be easier than using an already popular film's name and adding your own party's name to it? It's the easiest route to appeal to the youth's consciousness."

Bhatt adds that most political parties are very clued in to the flavour of the moment. "It's called cultural literacy," he says. "The objective is to grab mind share." Observers say the West has always used this strategy. "In India, the trend is here to stay. In fact, it will be used more blatantly in times to come," they say.

Interestingly, political parties don't seem to find it necessary to take a film producer's consent before making use of his film's title for their hoarding. "We haven't faced any problems with film producers so far. In fact, we have received positive reactions from people because these hoardings really stand out," MNS spokesperson Nitin Sardesai said.

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