Conviction Firsts

Less is more

The unconventional marketing of Sanju

When Fox Star Studios acquired Sanjay Dutt’s biopic, Sanju, we knew that we would need a radically unconventional marketing narrative that mirrored the unbelievable journey of Sanjay Dutt.

Released in June 2018, the Rajkumar Hirani-directed biopic, which stars Ranbir Kapoor as Sanjay Dutt, has not only become the biggest hit of the year but is also among the top 3 highest-grossing films in box office history. Even though it wasn’t released in a traditionally lucrative festival or vacation period, Sanju has earned over Rs 334 crore at the domestic box office and is still continuing its successful run in theatres.

Although he remains a popular actor with a massive fan following, Sanjay Dutt’s life is not of a celebrated icon and the challenge at Fox Star Studios was therefore to create a campaign that spurred curiosity and conversations but remained true to Sanjay Dutt. In the process, we created many firsts in the industry. 

Ranbir as Sanjay – the teaser

It was very important for the audience to believe that Ranbir could embody Sanjay Dutt and his radical transformation was the focal narrative of the teaser. The intention was to shock audiences with the unbelievable similarity between the two of them.

The 85-second-long teaser was launched with the biggest ever television roadblock across 80 channels over a period of two days. The teaser became viral instantly. “Sanju” was the No.1 trend on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Google saw over 2 lakh searches in 24 hours. In total, it reached over 150 million viewers across the world, making it the most viewed teaser ever. 

The teaser ignited audience interest by offering a glimpse into the unbelievable but true story of a man who lived many lives, leaving fans wanting to see more.

The time lag of one month between the release of teaser and trailer was planned keeping this anticipation in mind. All promotional materials, including songs, were deliberately held back as well.

When it was finally released, the trailer touched upon the controversies in Sanjay Dutt’s life and explored the relationship between a father and a son. 

The objective of the Sanju campaign was to build conversations and scale. We were very clear on how we wanted to position the film. As Rajkumar Hirani said at the start of the campaign – bad choices make good stories. This is one such story: of a flawed individual who lived the outcome of his bad choices across the many phases of his life, one so unbelievable that you almost want to pinch yourself and ask “did this really happen?” This was the crux of the marketing narrative and we constructed everything around it.

A father-son story at heart

At the heart of Sanju is a father-son story. The film also portrays the story of Sunil Dutt who stood by his son unconditionally through a tumultuous journey of upheavals and resurrection. Father's Day gave us an opportunity to celebrate this father-son bond through the #JaaduKiJhappi campaign. This drove over one lakh conversations on a single day on social media.

The Munna Bhai legacy 

We also released a scene from Sanju that depicted the celebrated character of Munna Bhai. This iconic unit was released online to appeal to the many fans of Rajkumar Hirani’s memorable movie franchise. The scene trended at the no. 1 spot on YouTube for more than 48 hours and became an instant topic of conversation. 


“The Sanju campaign had many don’ts. Many more than the dos. We didn’t do multiple things. We said let’s do one thing and make it the biggest thing.”

Shikha Kapur, Head Marketing, Fox Star Studios

Audience focused strategy

In the initial phases of the campaign, we focused on the many avatars of Sanjay Dutt, and followed that by encouraging meaningful user-generated content inspired by the film, across social platforms. We used these insights to create the classic Sanju look filter in partnership with Facebook. Close to 5 lakh people have engaged with the filter. This is 10 times the engagement on a regular filter, making it the highest performing filters on Facebook India across categories.

Challenging the sacred

The Sanju campaign had many don’ts. Many more than the dos. 

“We didn’t do multiple things. We said let’s do one thing and make it the biggest thing,” Shikha Kapur, Head Marketing, Fox Star Studios said.

There were no TV and radio interviews of the cast or Rajkumar Hirani till one week before the release of the film. By curtailing these, we were able to focus all the attention to the teaser and trailer. We also avoided the typical long TV campaigns that run for 4-5 weeks.

Normally, most songs are released before the release of the film but Sanju’s case was different. Besides ‘Har maidan fatah’ and ‘Main bhi badhiya’, all other songs were released only after the film was out in theatres.

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