How 'Jathi Ratnalu', a Telugu film without big stars, managed to draw in big crowds

TNM spoke to the team behind the extensive promotions for the film, which is having a successful run in theatres across India and overseas.
Actors Faria Abdullah, Naveen Polishetty, Priyadarshi and director Anudeep KV with Prabhas
Actors Faria Abdullah, Naveen Polishetty, Priyadarshi and director Anudeep KV with Prabhas
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Telugu comedy film Jathi Ratnalu, which released in theatres on March 12, has turned out to be a massive hit, showing in packed theatres through the weekend. Reports suggest that the film’s immense success is a significant milestone in the return of Telugu films and audiences to theatres, since the onset of the pandemic. The film, directed by Anudeep K V, has pulled Telugu audiences to theatres not just in the metros and districts of the Telugu states, but across the country and even overseas.

While reviews and audience reactions have almost unanimously declared the film a non-stop laugh riot, the team of Jathi Ratnalu had managed to create and sustain anticipation among audiences for weeks before the film’s release, and theatres were reportedly full from the very first day. TNM spoke to the film’s marketing team to know more about what went into promoting the film, with no big star cast, to a wide range of audiences. 

Gautam Pattikonda, one of the six members of the marketing team, who was involved in strategic planning, says that apart from the conventional TV interviews and social media campaigns, on-ground interactions were planned to create a buzz outside of the metros. “We knew metro audiences would be looking at social media, but to reach a wider audience, we went to places in the city like Rythu Bazaars and MGBS (Mahatma Gandhi Bus Station), where we had one of our lead actors Faria Abdullah talk to people about the film,” says Gautam. 

The film marks Faria’s debut, while the rest of the lead cast, Naveen Polishetty, Priyadarshi and Rahul Ramakrishna, are more well-known faces. However, a song from the film based on her, ‘Chitti’, has been viral since January. Faria was also seen handing out merchandise while telling people about the film, and these videos which were picked up by many YouTube channels helped create a lot of buzz, says Gautam

The merchandise included T-shirts featuring lines from the film and masks with the film’s title. They were designed by Kiranmaye Kothapalli, an artist, who is also behind the charming illustrations of many Telugu actors and filmmakers featured on the cover of journals that were part of a gift basket to mark the film’s release. The Jathi Ratnalu-themed art was also sprawled across Instagram stories of these celebrities, making the film unmissable among their fans too.  

In the week leading up to the release, the actors Naveen, Faria and Priyadarshi visited colleges and malls in places like Vijayawada and Guntur, and even held an interaction event on the Vizag beach. “Once we got the attention of the college-going crowd, we knew they would spread the word,” Gautam says. 

While the film is backed by a major production house, Swapna Cinema, it doesn't have big star names attached to it. Yet, the lead cast's wit and enthusiasm, even in conventional TV promotions, has managed to grab views, the team says. “The cast themselves were more pumped to be part of promotions than all of us. That’s how we pulled off such a massive campaign,” Gautam says. While Naveen had garnered a considerable following for his comedy through his earlier work, director Anudeep K V’s dry humour on the game show Cash blew up unexpectedly, creating a buzz around his persona as well. “Even we all have started calling him ‘Cash’ Anudeep,” says Gautam. 

Producer Nag Ashwin, and Swapna Dutt and Priyanka Dutt of Swapna Cinema, threw in a lot of ideas, which were improvised on, says the team, which also includes Mrinalini Vemulapati, Akhil Reddy, Prakeerthi Uppalapati and Praseedha Uppalapati. These efforts got the word out beyond the metros to towns and districts, to attract audiences beyond just the multiplexes. 

Jathi Ratnalu's marketing team - Prakeerthi, Kiranmaye, Akhil, Mrinalini, Gautam, Praseedha

Promotions happened not just on the streets but also online, with virtual meets with NRI Telugu audiences, as theatres opened up in Australia, New Zealand and the US. “Since virtual events had become the norm during the pandemic, it was easier to pull it off,” says Praseedha.

The interactions were informal, like friends catching up and discussing life and movies, rather than a star-audience interaction, the team says. “The idea was to make people feel like they’re part of the film, and experience a part of it even before its release,” says Akhil, who was also an Associate Editor for the film. 

While stars like Prabhas and Vijay Deverakonda were roped in during the final stages of promotion, by then, many Telugu moviegoers had heard of the film, and had a sense of its fresh and zany mood. “Overall, the producers’ idea was not to push the audience to come watch our movie but to make them feel like they were part of it, and to want to celebrate it together,” Gautam shares.

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