'Avengers: Infinity War isn't just a film; it's a life event'
... says Bikram Duggal, the Executive Director & Head & CMO of Disney India, who believes all the credit for the franchise's success must go to Marvel's storytelling
Marvel's biggest film till date -- Avengers: Infinity War -- is getting released on Friday, and much like the fans of the franchise, Bikram Duggal, the Executive Director and Head of Disney India, can't wait to catch it on the big screen too.
The buzz seems justified given that MCU's last film, Black Panther, crossed $10 million in India, and big numbers are again riding on the upcoming 19th film of the franchise. The 18 previous films have collectively made close to a whopping $14 billion worldwide and Rs 800 crore in India alone.
Disney films have always had a market in India. How did the arrival of Marvel change this dynamic?
We've got different brands within Disney like Lucas, Pixar and Marvel. Amongst all of them, Marvel has truly become a pop-culture phenomenon. References from the Marvel films have seeped into our culture and conversations. They're so powerful that popular brands are using Marvel, its icons and references for consumers in India.
How big of a release are you expecting Avengers: Infinity War to have?
We know from the buzz on social media and fans that it's going to be quite something. Every time, we put up a trailer or a video, the reception is mind-blowing. The euphoria of Avengers is actually on par with a big Bollywood or South Indian film. We're expecting it to be the biggest film to get released in India. It will also bring in more audiences who are new to English and superhero films. Our numbers are despite the fact that the culture of comics is not as huge as it is in America. Even though the films aren't intrinsically Indian, the values that they portray are universal.
From a business perspective, how does Disney promote a film of this magnitude?
On seeing the film rushes, the reception for trailers and the general anticipation, we realised that we wouldn't be pitching it as a film, but as a life event. Hence, the whole campaign and distribution strategy was reworked. The challenge is self-induced rather than market driven. The idea is to make it more accessible to more fans. Hence, Avengers: Infinity War will be given the widest ever Hollywood release in India. The anticipation is already there and we're trying to match with localisation efforts so that new audiences can enjoy the film. For example, in the Telugu version, Rana Daggubati is voicing Thanos.
Can we expect a film on an Indian character maybe?
Be it Wakanda, New York or even Bruce Banner coming to Kolkata (in The Avengers, 2012), the whole idea with what Marvel operates is to tell a story that can be enjoyed by fans across the globe. Universal theme is the key criteria. We're open to stories and if there's a story that needs to be told that's fresh, then sure.
In India, we also have our own superheroes such as Shaktimaan, Krrish and Ra One. But what makes Disney place its films on a pedestal that our stories haven't been able to match?
While I can't comment on other storytellers, I can tell you that Marvel has been able to do what it has done with three things. While everybody sees our films as superhero films, more than that, there's an adherence to the character. Tony Stark, for instance, will sport a rich, cool and maverick persona, in all the 18 films. Second is our ability to tell fresh stories. We've broken the mould during the last ten years. Third, people can always count on Marvel film to be great entertainers. Fans are aware that even if a new character is being launched, they can still expect the film to be an entertaining experience.
How does the future of Marvel look? With Antman and Wasp coming out, is it a challenge to continue from a film as huge as Avengers: Infinity War?
Marvel has the ability to create new characters and have them on par with the Avengers. When fans were happy with Iron Man, Captain America and Hulk, we introduced fresh characters such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Antman, Doctor Strange, Black Panther or even our first female superhero, Captain Marvel, that's coming out in March 2019. They've been accepted as characters by our audience and over a point of time, they've become extremely famous too.
How does Disney look to tackle piracy, a menace especially for such big films?
It's a huge challenge and we continue to work on it. One of the strategies is to make sure a film gets the same worldwide release. Also, we are trying to create brilliant stories executed in such visually stunning fashion that people would want to see them only in theatres.