Mumbai Masala

‘Masala’ in Hindi means basic sauce or mixed spice powder. Simply, it is the base for any curry. If you add tomatoes, the curry will turn red; if you mix chicken, the curry will be curry chicken. Different types of curries get its colour and flavour from the thing you mix into it. The first step to making any curry is the masala. The first week of the program, ‘Marketing Bollywood’ has been a mix of everything in Mumbai- from learning from amazing marketing managers, to being challenged by a traditionalist opinion, and even being starving sick in a car for 2 hours. The variety of expertise and difference of culture has certainly been a spicy mix with a Mumbai base!

My name is Angela Bee and I’m in my last year majoring in Public Relations at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS). ‘Marketing Bollywood’ (run by India Student Abroad Center or ISAC) is a ‘Build’ leadership program run through our university for students who want to discover and explore a new culture whilst making a difference- whether it may be participating in microfinance programs to help people in need, to teaching English in non-English speaking countries, or, in our case, learning about Indian culture and the Bollywood film industry to bring back to Australia.

After a week here in Malad West, Mumbai, its safe to say that I have adjusted pretty well. From backpacking up north in the sun scorching 45 degree heat in the hectic honking streets to the cool but rainy monsoon season in the suburbs, this comfortable guesthouse is now a home away from home.

So what have we done so far? SO MUCH!!

The program is jam packed and usually there are 1 or 2 things on the agenda for the day. Doesn’t sound a lot, right? Transport is the kick. It takes approximately 1-2hours each way to travel to a meeting. Mumbai traffic is a constant traffic jam and there’s no escaping its busy streets!!I’ve learnt to be patient and observant, but at the same time its actually really nice talking with those you’re with!

In the afternoon we met up with Vikramjit Roy at the National Film Development Corporation. They are a government organisation that promotes independent films and new talent. This intense 3 hour session was very comprehensive introduction about the Indian film industry. There are two types of films: commercial (stars are the emphasis of the film) and independent (stories are the emphasis of the film). Huge movie star equals immediate success of a film and not necessarily the storyline. Another interesting thing he said was that screenwriters thus don’t have a huge role in how the story plans out. They are instead at the bottom chain of command. Bollywood is very different to Hollywood. Imagine the opposite as a normality.

Wednesday was television shoot time! We travelled north to a distant temple where we observed the first scene of the first episode of a series. The basic scenario was that this guy was moving to Mumbai and found the perfect apartment but in order to buy it, he had to be married. So his friend (a boy) dresses as a girl to pretend they are married. In this particular scene, the friend is begging the Hindu god to go to Mumbai. His script is hilarious: ‘I’ve added you on Facebook, I was the first to comment on your statuses, I have retweeted your tweets on twitter, I’ve even bought you the best Indian sweets made from the best ghee (oil).’

Thursday was a full on day. Firstly we met up with ‘Wishberry’ co-founder Priyanka. Wishberry is site that forms a platform for anyone wanting to to crowd-fund. Crowd-funding is when people (not just only your peers) contribute any amount (from $10-$20 000) to help achieve your desired project. It could be through music, videogames, or even film making! It helps you to gain a pool of money to help fund your idea as well as build awareness- who knows who could be out there looking at your project and make an investment in you! Its inspiring to know that you, as an artist can be imaginative and creative where money doesn’t have to be an issue. Crowd-funding helps you to extend yourself beyond your boundaries!

What’s happening next? Gautham, our program manager, has briefed us to do 2 marketing pitches on 2 films: Gattu and Shootout. We should to pick a theme and use that to create a marketing campaign without constraints. We will still be learning and attending meetings to extend our knowledge in the Bollywood realm but the pitch will be our main challenge.

Angela, Marketing Bollywood Program, India

This is an excerpt from Angela’s blog Marketing Bollywood: Discovering the Spices of Indian Culture 

Indian spice box!
Indian spice box!
Vikramjit (right) and one of his producers (left) with the UTS team
Vikramjit (right) and one of his producers (left) with the UTS team

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