The incident with Hema Malini and her daughter Esha Deol at the Lakme Fashion Week earlier this week when Esha walked out of a media interaction when a PR person rudely intervened to remind journalists to restrict their questions to the event on-hand, spotlighted the growing influence of marketing agencies and PR teams on stars’ images.
Of late stars in Bollywood rely almost completely on PR persons for their interaction with media persons . Many leading stars are scared of overruling their PR person’s diktats to the extent that they do not open their mouth without their permission. “The PR-marketing teams are almost the new equivalent of the ‘Ask Mummy’ syndrome that heroines were known to propagate. In the past many heroines wouldn’t open their mouths without their mother’s permission. Now the same is happening with the new generation of stars who pay a huge amount of money to these PR companies to build and protect their image. No harm in that, unless you allow these image makers to take over your lives. This is sadly happening with many stars,” says Shatrughan Sinha.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra agrees. “Today the stars are mere puppets in the hands of their marketing teams. The marketing team decides how to project and protect a star. 8 out of 10 times their perception of what is right for a star is wrong.”
Producer Rahul Mittra feels the PR exercises for stars do not appear credible or convincing. “Most of the PR today is about the hammering of the actor’s visibility and his alignment with some ‘social drives’, most of which are not organic. One actor friend who does real work is Randeep Hooda. Whilst all others were busy tweeting about the havoc caused by the recent Kerala floods, Randeep was busy preparing meals for those suffering along with Khalsa Aid, a non-profit organisation. In this race of being ‘with the times ‘ and ‘social media marketing’, actors are losing their focus on right scripts and their performances. In today’s world, it’s good to evolve and reach out to the evolving audience (15-35 age group) but no point overdoing it. In the end it’s the story and the actor’s performance that’s going to get the adulation, not the number of followers on their twitter /Instagram account.”
Filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri feel feels the kind of PR aid that a star employs reflects on his or her personality. “Though there’s nothing wrong in it if they manage someone’s affairs in a professional manner. But the key word here is professional manner. Some PR agencies are brilliant but most of them are just an unprofessional bunch. In my experience professional stars have professional managers. Whereas rest of them are as good or bad as their masters.”
Writer-director Akshat Varma feels stars are being held hostage by their image makers. “Although I’m not aware of how PR and marketing teams are being deployed I have heard from younger actors about how they feel the pressure to be in the news, even if a lot of this ‘news’ is actually advertorial. I was once told ‘Jo dikhta hai voh bikta hai’ by an executive asking me to sign up for some media-package for a newspaper. I had to laugh.”