A lot has been written about how Aamir Khan's marketing savvy has turned a low budget art house mockumentary into a commercial hit. "Peepli Live" got an opening like no other film of that kind of budget, genre and cast ever got, and the numbers offered for music right, satellite right and other ancillary rights have already made this a profitable venture many times over. This is irrespective of the merit of the film which already had a seal of quality in the minds of art house audience by virtue of its selection at the Sundance film festival. That notwithstanding, the final product was artistically a bit disappointing even for those who like this kind of cinema, myself included. The first half of the film was exciting, innovative and well paced and the interval point when frame freezes on the wacky Natha family with two goats in their arms, all of us who had gone to see the film looked at each other and gave it a thumbs up. Even though the media brouhaha for the sake of TRPs has been a subject of many films in the past, including highly under-rated, Aziz Mirza's "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani"; the rural setting and believable performances by the actors made "Peepli Live" feel fresh as a political satire. However, second half of the film dragged on without any new insights and the wrap up of the film was quite clumsy.
Prior to the release of the film, we saw Aamir on every TV channel doing talk shows, reality shows, playing drums with Indian Ocean, playing dholak with Raghuveer singing 'Mahengayee Dayan' with a folk troupe etc., hyping the movie to an extent that for the weekend of Friday August 13,2010; it became the film to watch and most other commercial films stayed away from that release date. Aamir had the marketing savvy but more important he had the clout as a brand to be able to carry out his marketing plan in all these various media. If anybody else had produced this film, it would have been nearly impossible to get this kind of visibility even though they may have the savvy to plan a campaign like this. Implementing this ambitious media hype needed the clout which few people have in this industry. Aamir has, over time, built a brand brick by brick, and his association with a project already gives it a quality seal of approval. His "Taare Zamin Pe" followed by "Three Idiots" consolidated that association of quality even though he was only an actor in the second one. Now that "Dhobi Ghat" has been selected for showcasing at the Toronto Film Festival, this image of Aamir 's name associated with quality cinema ( Niche or Mass) is likely to continue.
Great marketing ideas will only remain ideas on paper, if one doesn't have the clout to get them implemented. On the other hand clout alone doesn't guarantee marketing savvy. You need both to be able to qualify as the man with the midas touch, as Aamir is now called.