Movie trailers

What goes into cutting a Hindi film trailer? ‘Stick to the story, don’t use random gags’

Three leading Bollywood trailer editors share their trade secrets.

The marketing strategy of any Hindi movie can be characterised in one sentence: the tyranny of the trailer.

An upcoming release’s fate is decided by its star power and the strength of its soundtrack but most of all, its trailer. The first glimpse of a movie’s universe lasts a few minutes but has the power to influence how quickly it buzzes through cyberspace and how well it will be received in cinemas.

“The first footfalls on Friday is heavily dependent on how excited the audience is by the trailer,” said Aditya Warrior, whose Warriors Touch is one of the leading trailer editing companies in Bollywood.

Companies such as Pentacle Creationz, run by the brothers Ravi and Binny Padda, and Promoshop, set up by Chinni Nihalani, have been cutting teasers and trailers for several years, but the heat has increased considerably at a time when social networking sites and video sharing platforms decide a movie’s fate even before promotions and marketing activities have begun.

“The process is the same but I feel the panic has increased,” Nihalani said. “It is so important to crack a good trailer, because despite the many different promotional strategies, a trailer sets the tone and buzz for a film.”

While Bollywood trailers follow the Hollywood model, the scale of production and budgets are vastly different. “The entire Hindi film industry’s turnover is almost as much as the quarterly results of a big corporate house,” Binny Padda said. “There aren’t big budgets to make trailers unlike Hollywood.”

Making a trailer can be nearly as challenging as directing a film. A trailer has a beginning, middle and a dramatic end, just like a movie. Sometimes the plot twist is the hook, at other times the storytelling or the performances. Warriors Touch made the trailer for Poorna, Rahul Bose’s biopic of 13-year-old Poorna Malavath from Telangana who scaled Mount Everest. “For Poorna we made 18 versions over a year before we decided,” Warrior said. “For a biography or a real-life story, people know how the film ends, so you try and excite people to watch the film for the way it is made. In Poorna, the story that she climbed Mount Everest is already out there, so you can’t create suspense on that front.”

Hindi movie trailers have often been accused of giving the entire story away. Binny Padda, Chinni Nihalani and Aditya Warrior explain the hows and whys of trailer cutting and illustrate their insights with case studies.

Binny Padda, Pentacle Creationz: ‘Stay true to the story’

Why trailers matter: Ever since I’ve started making trailers, this has become an industry within the film industry. A trailer is two-and-a-half minutes of trying to convey a film in the best possible way. It is very difficult to get to the heart of the film in a couple of minutes and that’s the challenge.

Binny Padda.
Binny Padda.

Trailer tales: I like staying true to the story. We try to give an accurate representation of the film. We try to do different things and variations. In Indian film industry, similar films get made repeatedly and then it becomes difficult to communicate the same format differently to the audience each time. Graphics are most crucial and something like the font can change the entire tonality of the product.

After helming almost 400 campaigns, I believe that you need to identify the strong points of the film, you need to know the popularity of your actors, and it has to be driven by good music and sound. We are generally involved in a project right from the beginning and some other times, it is a last-minute association.

Play
Raees (2017).

Case study: One of the most exciting things that I’ve done in my career is to helm two big campaigns with two big stars – Raees and Kaabil – that were both set to release on the same day. Both producers had apprehensions about trusting their material to the same facility. But I think we managed to achieve something good there. Till the last day people couldn’t decide which movie they wanted to watch first. The balance didn’t tilt in the favour of one film.

Play
Kaabil (2017).

Both units outdid each other every step of the way. We had been working on Raees for longer but the theatrical was still under construction. From when the release date of the film was decided, we had close to three months to prep for both films.

I’ve worked with both producers – Rakesh Roshan and Excel Entertainment – several times, so we were already connected on what we want to achieve.

For example, with Lagaan, we took about six months to lock a 30-second trailer. I’ve never had a bigger learning experience than that in my life. So the time period also differs from one project to another.

Chinni Nihalani, Promoshop

Why trailers matter: I come from a film family and have been in the midst of films since I was a kid. I went to an art school in California and that’s where I discovered my love for editing. When I came back, I heard someone needed promos and I took a shot at it. This was in 2010 and my first project was with Excel Entertainment. I have an affinity towards writing and promos are a good mix of writing and editing.

Chinni Nihalani.
Chinni Nihalani.

Trailer tales: Making a trailer is a post-based job. The work really starts when the shooting is done. Depending on what the story is, you need to find what connects best with audiences, since film is commercial art. It also depends on who is creating it, in terms of ideas, packaging and presentation.

If there are 20 gags in a film and I connect particularly with some of them, I might use those gags in the trailer. Every trailer has a script and if you are trying to set up a narrative in the trailer, you cannot use a random gag or scene just because it is good.

Play
The Lunchbox (international version).
Play
The Lunchbox (Indian version).

Case study: The Lunchbox trailer made by us and the trailer made by Sony Classics in America were different. The same film and the same content were pitched in two different ways. They were speaking to American audiences and they are selling the idea of dabbawallahs in India. We were selling the idea of how two people who have never met before fall in love, through the exchange of their dabbas.

Whom you are pitching the film to is also important. In this case, Karan Johar came up with a line “Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met?” We created a structure around how we perceived that line. That trailer was passed with almost no changes. The amount of time the process takes differs from project to project and also on who and how many people need to approve it.

Aditya Warrior, Warriors Touch

Why trailers matter: I was in advertising previously and I didn’t like it because there wasn’t much storytelling. Then I moved to television and I found it repetitive. Then I moved to films and since editing was my forte, I started making trailers. After working in a couple of years, I wanted to do my own thing and started Warriors Touch in 2013. Making trailers is an art form.

Aditya Warrior.
Aditya Warrior.

Trailer tales: We pitch an idea and if they like our pitch, we get on board. We get involved after they have their rough cut and want to start planning their marketing strategy. Then there is a back and forth and many iterations. For Margarita with a Straw, someone was already on board. I asked the director Shonali Bose if I could pitch anyway. We made a trailer and Bose later showed both trailers to a very respected actor, who decided our trailer was the one that he liked.

Case study: Making the trailer of Trapped was an amazing experience. The story is set in a room, so the challenge is in how do you make that interesting. We pitched an idea and got on board. The use of sound in this particular trailer was more interesting than any others in recent times, because there is very little dialogue. It was a difficult one to do and we made a number of iterations.

Play
Trapped.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.

Play

In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.

Play

Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.

Play

The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.

Play

The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.