In the last five years, Athira has worked in over 150 films. And that is no small feat, she will assure you. She has managed to take over a space that has been a male bastion for the past few years in Malayalam cinema. Why should film marketing be the only space left for women to explore considering they are taking over other fields of expertise in cinema now? She started with Mohanlal’s ‘Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol’ and today she is straddling ‘Bheeshma Parvam’ and ‘Naradhan’ simultaneously. And then there are those projects in Tamil and Telugu she is handling—from Allu Arjun’s ‘Pushpa’ to Rajamouli’s ‘RRR.’ Their company Diaz Idea Incubators are handling quite a few upcoming films currently. In the last five years, her company has done PR work worth 5 crores for films. So here’s yet another woman taking over a male-dominated area like marketing in Malayalam cinema. Excerpts from an interview
Born and brought up in cinema
My father used to run a distribution company called Sree Murugan films. So I literally grew up hearing about cinema, new release dates, failures, and hits. I wanted a job in media and used to anchor television shows during school. When I reached college, I started working as an RJ. Later I took a full-time job as a programme producer and also did occasional anchoring.
I have worked in several channels. Once I quit my job, I produced a short film called ‘Happy New Year’ which addressed child abuse. Mohanlal had put in a word for that film, and it was widely discussed. After marriage, it was my husband Diljith who encouraged me to start marketing work for media. I started taking ad works. One day I went to meet Sophia Paul regarding an ad work. Sophia ma’am asked me if I can market her new film and that’s how I took the marketing of ‘Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol.’
Film stars and distribution
It’s been five years since ‘Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol’. My second film was ‘The Great Father’ and then it was Amal Neerad’s ‘CIA’—all were big films with big stars. I managed to do a lot of big and small films during this time.
During the discussion of a project, the team also discuss their marketing strategy as well. That’s exactly where an efficient PRO team comes into the picture. We are required to be with the film promotion work right from the start. Even after the film releases, our work isn’t done yet. Our biggest blessing are stars who are cooperative. For ‘Bheeshma Parvam’ promotions, Mammukka was there with us from morning till evening. He gave several media interviews as well as other stuff we asked for. Lalettan is also like that, and this shows their dedication. When they are giving us so much of their time, we should make sure it doesn’t go waste. That’s the way to do it.
In the same boat
Though our job doesn’t give us so much tension, I can't deny that it can be stressful at times. We are required to sit with the director and producer and plan a marketing strategy. I am lucky that I am working with my husband here. The minute a film comes to us, we are already making plans regarding its marketing. We will have a lot of discussions on this. Since there is no question of ego between us, we take the suggestion that works best. Later we discuss this with the film team. So this is also about teamwork.
Be at the right place
I haven’t been treated differently because of my gender. So far they have always treated me with respect and acknowledged my worth. Maybe because I have always made sure the films always reach the right audience. Like every field, there are good and bad guys and all we need to do is exercise caution. Even when you get a casting call make sure you do thorough research about the team before going there. Currently, cinema is in the hands of thorough professionals. Am not saying that all are professionals but make sure you only reach those professionals in cinema for your own safety. My biggest privilege is my father. If I get calls from a team, I am not familiar with, I discuss that with my father. Besides I discuss everything with Diljith. That way cinema has been a lucky field for me so far.
Work with your heart
We were with the ‘Pusha’ team right from the beginning. We got through ‘Pushpa’ as the same team had handled ‘Dear Comrade’ which we had handled. Theirs is a huge production company in Hyderabad. And their team offered their full support to us. Since Corona restricted our travels, we mostly communicated through phone calls. Our work with the Pusha team started two years ago. Right now we are in discussion about ‘Pushpa 2’.
Allu Arjun was so cooperative. Two months prior to the release, he called us and discussed our promotional plans. “You work with your heart,” is what he told us. I have always felt that he had a special affection for Malayalam cinema and Malayalees. His fans were equally with us regarding film updates and such things. Allu Arjun came to all the promotions, including in Kerala. He complimented us and laughed when we told him that “we also work with our soul.”
1000 crore club
So far, our company was able to do 1000 crore PR work. That is what we consider as our biggest feat. Films like ‘Pushpa’, ‘RRR’ and ‘Rocketry’ gave us that opportunity.
We are waiting for a lot of upcoming releases now. Though we didn’t have much work during the first lockdown, soon after when we got a call from the Rajamouli office to take up promotion work for ‘RRR’. After that, we did a lot of films. Our promotions for Kurup were much talked about. Our next release is Navya Nair’s ‘Oruthee.’ Vyjayanthi movies Prabhas-Deepika Padukone film is also under production. The big-budget film includes stars like Amitabh Bachchan. There is a huge market for other language films in Malayalam. Every film is a result of years of planning and discussions. The minute a film discussion is on, our job also starts. Though we are doing several films at the same time, we make sure they don’t clash.
Starting from ‘Munthirivallikal Thalirkumbol’, some of my films include ‘Tiyaan,’ ‘Spider’, ‘Clint’, ‘Parava,’ ‘Puriyatha Puthir,’ ‘MasterPiece,’ ‘Eeda’, ‘Aadhi’, ‘Kali’, ‘Kuttanpillayude Shivarathri,’ ‘Neerali,’ ‘Maradona’, ‘Varathan’, ‘96’, ‘Odiyan’, ‘Luka’, ‘Big Brother,’ ‘Shylock’ etc. My recent releases include ‘Bheemante Vazhi’, ‘Kurup’, ‘Member Rameshan’, ‘Hridayam’, ‘Member Rameshan’, and ‘Upachara Poorvam Gunda Jayan