An enthusiastic audience cheered the ritualistic ‘chant’ as the fourth documentary of Bangtan Boys (BTS) band- Break the Silence– flashed on the theatre’s screen at Inox multiplex in Quest Mall in Kolkata on Tuesday afternoon.
“Kim Namjoon! Kim Seokjin! Min Yoonji! Jung Hoseok! Park Jimin! Kim Taehyung! Jeon Jungkook! BTS!” they roared, naming members of the seven-member boy band on the first day of the film’s screening.
Theatre owners in the city said that for the first time since theatres reopened after the Covid-19-induced lockdown, seats of theatres were close to the stipulated capacity.
BTS, which has received international acclaim and a loyal legion of fans usually features R&B, reggae, hip-hop and EDM in their music. In their fourth documentary, the band members speak about the Love Yourself: Speak Yourself 2019 World Tour.
How did this group of South Korean boys set up a loyal fan base in India and ensure maximum ticket sales for their documentary during a raging pandemic? Silverscreen India takes a look.
During the interval, fans sang BTS’s Dynamite.
Staff members at Inox were given instructions to keep reminding fans not to form big groups.
Attending the screening on the first day, post graduate student of Calcutta University Ayesha Tahreem Siddique explained that fans of BTS call themselves the ‘BTS army’ to show allegiance and strength in numbers.
“This is my second BTS movie screening. The chit-chat and the noise that you see around is not nearly symbolic of how loud it can get. In 2018, the entire cinema hall was packed with people and banners. Fellow movie-goers were surprised,” said school student Tisha Barnal.
When the last three documentaries- Burn the stage (2018), Love Yourself (2018) and Bring the Soul (2019) were released, members of the BTS Army across India organised grand screenings with other experiences like flash mobs, free posters, placards and lights.
Although the fanfare was absent on Tuesday, those attending the screening at the hall made up for it in spirit.
Much of the action has shifted online, said fans.
Social media connection
According to members of the ‘Bangtan_Army’ a social media fan group with a presence on Instagram, the last three screenings before the pandemic were like a celebration.
This time, armies across India decided to not take the risk of organising an event with over 300 people, sources said. Fan pages have resorted to organising online events and ‘shoutouts’.
“We have been asking fans to take pictures of themselves at the screening and re-sharing them on our page instead,” a member of Bangtan_Army said.
Darsheeka Bipin Singh, a resident of Mumbai and one of the admins of Bangtan_India, one of the BTS social media fan page with pan-India coverage since 2016, said that although she was happy with the announcement of the movie release in September, she was disappointed for not being able to watch it in the theatre.
The Bangtan_India page cautioned movie-goers against going for the show because of increasing Covid-19 cases. In places where followers attended screenings, they advised caution and asked them to keep in mind the regulations set by the theatre as well as the government.
Kinkini Dasgupta, an admin of BTS Bengal Army, said that their first event in June 2018 saw 120 people coming together to watch BTS concerts recorded on DVD. However, since then, there has been a phenomenal rise in the number of fans.
During the last screening, followers of BTS Bengal was 3,000. Now it’s 4,300, said Dasgupta.
The army projects usually take place nationally. There are 37 regional BTS fan armies which are connected to the Bangtan India group, which provide broad guidelines of the events.
According to the online fan pages, most fans are aged between 12 and 25. “There is even a separate section called the ‘Noona Army’ for fangirls above the age of 26,” said Dasgupta.
Until the pandemic, fan groups would collaborate with multiplexes, like Inox and PVR, for events before and after the screening.
This time, according to the press release issued by Inox, in Mumbai, the tickets were priced as low as Rs 150 due to the overwhelming response by the fan armies. Inox even changed its official logo and made it purple for a day as a tribute to fans, who associate the colour to the group.
Juhi Majumdar, a member of the BTS army, said that there is only one reason for the growing fan base in India- powerful music.
“In 2017, I was undergoing a low point in my life. I was introduced to BTS by a South Korean friend. Their songs give me goosebumps when I listen to them. It’s so inspiring,” she said.
Unlike most bands from South Korea, BTS was not introduced by a popular agency, she says. “It’s like rags-to-riches story and people love to hear that. They resonate and aspire along. It’s inspirational, if they can do, so can I,” says Dasgupta.
Dasgupta says that if BTS continues making powerful music, accompanying it with phenomenal beats, catchy tunes and perfectly choreographed dance moves, the number of people in the Indian wing of the BTS Army will surely grow.
She adds that she can already see the change with the increasing number of social media followers.