Viacom localizes Deepika Padukone, Vin Diesel-starrer ‘xXx’ for India

Keen to spell the country out as a priority market, Viacom will release ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’ in India on Saturday—a week before the rest of the world


(From left) Actors from the film ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’, Nicky Jam, Ariadna Gutierrez, Ruby Rose, Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone and Nina Dobrev pose for a portrait with director D.J. Caruso in Mexico City on 5 January. Photo: AP
(From left) Actors from the film ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage’, Nicky Jam, Ariadna Gutierrez, Ruby Rose, Vin Diesel, Deepika Padukone and Nina Dobrev pose for a portrait with director D.J. Caruso in Mexico City on 5 January. Photo: AP

New Delhi: American action flick xXx: Return of Xander Cage that releases in India on Saturday—a week before the rest of the world— is keen to spell the country out as a priority market, a fact strongly reflected in not just the early release but also the exhaustive promotional campaign designed for the film by Viacom18 Motion Pictures, which will distribute and market it in Asia’s third-largest economy.

The reasons for this are numerous but the first obviously has to do with the growing awareness of and demand for spectacle-driven Hollywood films in India.

“We have to understand a few market facts that have come up in recent times,” said Rudrarup Datta, senior vice-president, marketing, Viacom18 Motion Pictures. “The dubbed version of a Hollywood film which used to average about 20% of its total box office earnings, today makes up 30-40 and in some cases, even 50% of it. The contribution of Hindi is going up because even audiences in small towns or those for whom English is not a primary language, want to enjoy Hollywood films primarily basis its big experience factor. Plus the penetration of multiplexes with 3D facilities is increasing.”

xXx, Datta emphasized, is “bang-on” in that segment, it’s the kind of film that larger Indian audiences want to watch but with the Hollywood experience.

“The fact that xXx has Deepika Padukone in a lead role makes the task all the more easy,” he said. “With due honesty, it’s a no-brainer that we need to localize it as much as possible for India, reach across to as many numbers of people as we can and not restrict it to the English-speaking, core Hollywood audience.”

Viacom represents Hollywood studio Paramount Pictures (producers of xXx) in India and brings action comedy Baywatch starring Priyanka Chopra to the country later this year. It has constantly reiterated the importance of localizing the marketing of these films to reach out to wider Indian audiences, a point further driven home by the success of Disney’s The Jungle Book last year.

As part of the intent to spell out that this wasn’t going to be a segmented or niche media plan, Viacom first had a special Padukone trailer created, focusing only on her scenes from the film and launched it on Bigg Boss, a top-rated reality show and high-reach platform on its flagship Hindi channel, Colors. xXx male lead Vin Diesel is to come down to India on 12 January, to participate in a premiere and a fan-event where the public will get to interact with him. This makes Diesel the only major Hollywood star to visit the country for promotions besides Tom Cruise and Jackie Chan.

The outdoor plan includes a partnership with multiplex chain PVR Cinemas to convert three of its properties—PVR, ECX-Mumbai, PVR, Priya-Delhi and PVR, Phoenix-Bengaluru, as xXx PVRs. The rebranding exercise which covers everything from seats, entrances, washrooms and ticket windows to a special xXx photo and gaming zone and a large meal combo, will continue till the film’s release and culminate with several activities such as stunt performances in multiplexes during the release weekend.

Datta added that this is the highest they have ever spent on marketing a Hollywood film on high-impact digital properties in India.

“In the US, digital forms a very large part of what movie production houses are actually spending on promoting their films. Of course they do a lot of outdoor, print and television but I think by far, digital is becoming one of the best ways to create buzz around a film starting with PR (public relations), going on to a teaser that further talks about a trailer,” said Anand Chakravarthy, managing partner at Maxus India, a GroupM India company.

The build-up happened with Padukone beginning to post images of herself and Diesel on social media 7-8 months ago, Chakravarthy said. The very reason that a Hollywood banner would pick an Indian actress, means they recognize the power she holds in India and the opportunity with that.

“The core audience, a combination of English and Hindi-speaking would all be on platforms like Facebook and YouTube,” he said.

For an action film like xXx, it would typically mean a largely male audience between 15-35 years of age. Also while the studio is still in various stages of negotiation with brands, those in the premium space and that want to be associated with an action star are likely to sign up.

“If you take past Hollywood films as the benchmark, they tie up with 8-9 brands. Media tie-ups are a given—television, radio, a news channel. Brands are keenly looking at the opportunity and seeing what they can do. But typically those in the male-targeted action space will look at the franchise. At the end of the day, even Deepika Padukone is not here in a glamorous but an action role,” Chakravarthy said.

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