After bikini row and boycott calls, Pathaan adopts different PR strategy


Recent media reports state that the makers of Shah Rukh Khan’s upcoming film Pathaan have adopted a ‘new’ marketing strategy of not having any star interviews before its release. Previously, Drishyam 2 starring Ajay Devgn was said to have taken a similar approach. It is mentioned that the decision has been taken by Pathaan makers to avoid controversies like the bikini row and boycott calls which have surrounded the film from the last few weeks.

Trade experts have mixed views on this PR strategy, with some believing it should be the new way forward for film marketing. Others see it as specific to the controversies surrounding Pathaan.

The ‘No Interviews’ policy

However, industry insiders say that avoiding media interviews is not a new practice. Senior journalist Sapna Sarfare points out that it was entertainment publicist Dale Bhagwagar who introduced a practice of distancing PR clients from journalists back in 2007.

“At that time, one of his clients had won an international reality show and was the center of media attraction. To avoid overt media glare and handle all the controversies surrounding her, Dale stopped all one-on-one media interactions with her and turned spokesperson to address all media queries himself. This marked a new phase in the manner in which crisis management was handled in Bollywood with complete PR control,” says Sarfare.

“Dale later went on to make this a norm for all his PR clients, emerging as the first and only publicist to have a ‘no direct media interaction’ policy for his clients,” recalls the journalist.

She mentions that the media fretted and fumed, but the celebrity publicist’s PR agency Dale Bhagwagar Media Group did not budge. Today we know Dale as Bollywood’s only PR guru. A simple Google search in his name brings up thousands of results. He still adopts the same media policy, but it’s now been accepted by the media, who got used to it a few years ago. The publicist also runs Bollywood PR, the premier authoritative PR website of the Indian entertainment industry.

Audience is the Shahenshah

Eminent film journalist and author Chaitanya Padukone says, “Pre-release publicity interactions with celebrities is definitely a big boost for the movies before their release to attract high box-office collections. However, in recent times, at least four blockbusters flopped miserably, inspite of the lead star cast giving interviews to the media. Sometimes, silence can be golden! Ultimately, the audience is the Shahenshah, which decides the fate of the film. If the content is good, the audience is content. What counts is word-of-mouth publicity, backed by awesome trailers.”

Face the public

Regarding the news about Pathaan not conducting interviews for news media before its release, corporate public relations veteran Kalpana Swamy says, “I read that there will be no customary media interviews before Pathaan’s release. In this particular situation, the best crisis management would have been to be dabang and go for it. Staying away may be safe, but this is a time to face the public trial,” she says.

Trolls need closure

Public relations professional Payal Dasgupta, the co-founder of Review Media recalls, “After the JNU incident, Deepika had chosen to stay mum. It did not help, as once again the trolls reared their heads and brought that incident back on Twitter before the release of Pathaan. Such matters require firefighting, and a lot of speaking up, or else the trolls keep bringing it up.”

“If the actor doesn’t want to speak about it, then there could be a celeb manager, secretary, public relations expert, spokesperson or lawyer who could address the media. But letting the matter just lie and fester feelings isn’t a good idea,” adds Dasgupta.

In the meanwhile, Pathaan is expected to have a strong opening day at the box-office. The controversy surrounding Pathaan has only added to the curiosity about the film and increased buzz. The film is expected to perform well globally, with trade experts believing that Shah Rukh Khan’s hiatus will bring more excitement and charisma to the box-office and that he will consolidate his superstardom and box-office authority with Pathaan.

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