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.

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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.

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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.

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The Lunchbox (international version).
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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.

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Trapped.
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From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich

A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.

For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.

Lisbon

Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.

The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.

While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.

Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.

If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.

Munich

Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).

If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.

There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.

The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.

Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.