Kishen Das on How He Promoted His Horror Film Sync with Just Rs 1500

The actor, who was last seen in Aha’s latest horror flick, tells us what Sync taught him about the commerce of cinema, and coming up with a unique strategy to promote his low-budget film
Kishen Das
Kishen Das

On July 21, when his horror film Sync was released on Aha Tamil, actor Kishen Das, the film’s protagonist, not only became the first reviewer to review the film, pointing out how several scenes could’ve been done better, but also went ahead and helped people watch the film. “If you haven’t subscribed to Aha Tamil yet or are unable to, please DM me and I can help you watch the film,” Das wrote on Twitter. Directed by debutant Vikas Anand Sridharan, Sync is an independent on-screen thriller, similar to Host (2020) and Connect (2022), and unfolds as a situational horror as four friends connect over a video call.

Did the actor send his log-in credentials to those who messaged him? Even if so, was the move profitable in any way for the platform or the makers? Das begins laughing as I ask him about this unique promotional strategy. “I can’t give everyone access to my account. It’ll also not be fair to Aha.” We can all agree on that. The actor looked at it as a promotional activity he could execute within a budget. “I created around 10-15 profiles on the platform when my film was released. Among the many replies, I might have texted back close to 50-60 people. I shared these accounts with a few of them and I Gpay-ed subscription money to a few others. I wanted people to watch the film.” 

A still from Sync
A still from Sync

The actor believes that word of mouth is the simple and sure-shot way for a low-budget film to reach many audiences. “If people see the film, they’ll spread the word. The subscription fee is Rs 100 for three months. So, with the 15-odd accounts I created, we can say that I spent Rs 1500 on promotions. It is nowhere close to people who spend lakhs on promoting their films. I am doing whatever I can with the money I can afford to spend.” The actor has also been sharing both positive and negative reviews about the film on his Twitter handle. Das says, “A lot of effort goes into making a film, and negative reviews are still okay as long as many people watch the film. My motive is to tell people that such a film was released.”

However, this is not the first time the actor has used social media to help the film. Earlier in April, the actor sought help on Twitter to release an independent film, urging his followers and friends to help with some leads. Sync happens to be that independent film and that Tweet helped them sign the deal with Aha Tamil. “Aha contacted us within 3 hours. We shared the film and they also got back immediately with an offer. We also reached out to different platforms. They liked the content but some of them wanted us to first release the film in theatres. However, that wasn’t possible with our budget. Likewise, the film’s runtime (87 minutes) was also very less so the theatrical release didn’t seem like a wise choice. A few of them weren’t too happy with the tight run time as well,” the actor tells us. 

Twitter was not their first attempt to reach out to OTT platforms. In fact, it was their last resort. “We finished shooting the film in June 2022 and the post-production went on for another six months. While the film was ready for release in January, we had no idea how to ensure it reached the masses.” A few self-proclaimed brokers promised to connect them with streaming agents, but that turned out to be a dead end.. “That’s when I told the makers that someone from Twitter might be able to help us out.” It is challenging to contact OTT platforms, the actor confesses. “We were unable to move to the next step. If they were a little more accessible, it'd be easier for independent filmmakers and people like me.”

This Twitter exercise also helped Das understand the importance of networking and the business side of cinema. “With a mostly fresh crew, I realised at one point that I needed to step up and somehow try to release the film. I also learnt the value of having contacts in the industry. When small films are launched or represented by a big celebrity, the film gets an identity. Nooru pera poi serura oru vishayam, latcham pera poi sendhudchuna, nalladhudhaana? (Isn’t it nice when a film that has the ability to reach just 100 people, reaches a lakh more instead?)”

Despite Sync’s budget constraints and experimental form, Das didn’t look at the film as a risky outing. “I don’t think I’m in a position to see decisions as risks yet. I am only one-film old. The only fear I had was whether I would be able to pull off the role. It is only now that I have started feeling the fear of responsibility, especially when someone invests their money (in my work) and trusts me.”

Das, who started out his career as an influencer, is still very much active in the content creation space, even if he is busy shooting for films. “When I act in films, my contribution is only in terms of acting. But when I do a podcast or a reel, I also get to satisfy my other creative sides. That is important to me. I am at a stage where acting alone doesn’t suffice me creatively and monetarily.” Besides, social media has helped him build a loyal audience. “If someone sees me in a film, they’ll say, “Indha reels panra payan da.” That has helped me. 

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