Kabali Dishooms Sultan
By Prof. Rasananda Panda
Kabali completed ten days in theatre across India and overseas. Industry sources believe that the movie has grossed rupees 400 crores so far. Of this, around 300 crores of rupees came from box office collections and rest from music rights and other related brand associations with the movie. In a way, thalaiva of Kabali has given a nice dhisoom to khan of Sultan and proved who is the boss? This Rajinikant starrer has in every aspect broken the records of Sultan (released on 6th July) – be it the day one collection, first week-end collection or the first week collection. The overseas collection of Kabali in the opening weekend was around 90 crores and 28 crores out of that was from US where it was one of the top ten films watched in the country – in spite of the heat in the US political saloon owing to their presidential elections – the Kabali juggernaut is just too lucrative to ignore.
Perhaps, Rajinikanth is the only star who steadfastly had refused to endorse any label after the first and last one he did at the beginning of his career for a regional cola brand, forty years ago. Nevertheless, people flock to theatres to have a glimpse of his movie trailer. Many queue up nights to catch the first day first first show of his movie – leave aside the multiplex viewers who would not mind paying that extra bucks to see it in the day one of release. His jokes, his style of wearing spectacles, putting cigarettes in lips, cracking punch lines and even the fight sequences in his movies has made him a cult figure in Indian cinema. To marketers, brand Rajini is a ‘”cult”” brand. He is seen as a brand with that Middas touch. As it is, this 65 year old second highest paid Asian actor after Jacki Chan, Rajinikanth’s demand as a brand endorser has risen even if he has been refusing to play into the game of endorsement. Rajini stays out of public eyes, does not endorse brands, politicians or even social causes but still is like gold dust to many brands given the fact that his ordinary movies gross over rupees hundred cores in the box office. Brands such as Pepsi, Hindustan Unilever, India cements, ITC and Asian paints were a part of earlier Rajini movies.
For this movie Kabali, brands such as Muthoot, Foodpanda, Ola, Uber, Mobikwik, Air Asia, Cadbury 5 Star, Amazon, Shop CJ, Airtel come on board and many are intending to keep their association going even after the movie goes off the screen. And it is not out of any charity but the brand Rajini has delivered value to them. For instance, Muthoot finance introduced special Kabali silver coins and in a week’s time, 102 kg worth of coins were sold raking in close to 75 lakhs of rupees for the company. Similarly, Foodpanda saw a 30% jump in footfalls after its association with the movie. Transactions of the mobile payment company Mobikwik increased 3-4 times after its special Rajini promotion. App based taxi operators Ola and Uber also introduced special Kabali offers to increase their sales. Emani is advertising its Fair and Handsome cream using the actor’s Kabali character. AirAsia India – the latest entrant to India skies has gone creative in its promotion by branding its air craft with Kabali posters. In addition to this, the airline is offering special offers to its customers travelling between Chennai-Bangkok-Kuala Lumpur – a route that is a part of the Rajini’s journey as portrayed in the movie. Not only this, the flights of AirAsia India painted with Rajini’s picture will keep flying across India for next 12-18 months.
Unlike Big B, Khans, and Kapoors of Bollywood, and other regional superstars; Rajini Sir has never lent his name to products and campaigns. It is believed that this reclusive nature and status of Rajini makes it the unique selling point of actor Rajinikanth that delivers to his producers in the box office and thus making the companies leverage the power of his brand. Added to this, is, the super human status of the actor and his genuineness – a rare commodity in the world of glamour.
After all, money matters but money alone does not matter; other things do matter. And thalaiva is a live example of it in Indian cinema industry.
Rasananda Panda, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, MICA, Ahmedabad. Email: Panda@micamail.in