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Bollywood PR firms in a spot after Anupama Chopra exposes message about paid reviews

Recently, journalist and film reviewer Anupama Chopra revealed on Twitter that she got a message from a PR agency, asking if she does paid reviews.

Her tweet said:

“Got this text today from a PR firm. Am still processing. #wanttoweep

Hello

Hope your doing well.

I am X from X. Wanted to check if you are open to do paid movie reviews.

If yes, request you to please let me know how we can go about it.

Regards” (sic)

There was a big hype over this on Twitter as well as a lot of news articles in the media over it. However, we feel that when film review manipulations are done by top Bollywood publicists, the PRs simply go ahead and get them done with clout or PR pressure. Most of the time (unless the PRs are rookies), they don’t go about inquiring from journalists if it can be done.

We are reminded of the first time such a PR manipulation happened in a film review, some fifteen years ago. Yes, it started back then! And the PR guy who manipulated a film review for the first time even publicly admitted to the spin move. His name is Dale Bhagwagar and he is currently famous as

Bollywood’s only PR guru Dale Bhagwagar at an event in Mumbai.

Over the years, the entertainment publicist has handled the publicity for over 300 personalities, 30 movies and 20 Bigg Boss contestants. His Mumbai-based entertainment PR agency Dale Bhagwagar Media Group has been at the forefront of the Bollywood PR brigade for more than two decades.

It so happened that at an early stage of his PR career, Dale did not like a few lines written about an actress PR client by reviewer Subhash K Jha in a film review on a website.

He felt that the reviewer Jha had written them out of bias and prejudice towards him as the said reviewer did not vibe with him. So the publicist got in touch with the site and got the lines about the actress changed from negative to positive.

But he did not stop at that. He went ahead and informed the media about it. Woah! There was a lot of ruckus about his PR control tactic. A publicist had interfered in a film review for the first time then. There were reactions from some film industry folks.

Veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt talking about PR manipulation in Bollywood film reviews.

Responding to a question about this, veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt had said, “There is a market force which controls every industry, and the newspaper industry is no different. Media is supposed to be the watchdog of the society but unfortunately, now it has become the lap dog of power. But there are exceptions. There are some journalists who still care about moral standards.”

There were more reactions. “I think the Government of India should intervene and a line should be drawn. The way there is censorship in films, we have to have some kind of censorship in media too. Journalists need to refrain from damaging reputations of actors. Then such PR manipulations won’t happen,” actor Shakti Kapoor had said.

Renowned actor Anupam Kher talks about the changing times in film journalism and Bollywood PR.

Noted actor Anupam Kher had retorted, “Times are changing, and so are a whole of aspects in journalism. I am not even aware if PRs are actually making changes in articles and reviews. I’m surprised to hear about their influence from you. But if this is the case, it’s really not right.”

Fifteen years later nothing has changed since that first PR manipulation of a film review. With the advent of Paid News things have gotten worse. In fact, Bollywood publicist Dale Bhagwagar is now ruling the roost in the Bollywood PR industry, being one of the market leaders in his profession.

The celebrity publicist says that “journalistic ethics have fallen to the extent that some journalists eat out of the PRs palms.” Dale points out that “since the advent of Paid News, many journalists are in a sorry state and not as respected as before.”

“Please understand things from the correct perspective. It’s part of a PRs job to plan, plant and plug content. Propaganda and manufacturing consent is what publicists do. Public relations professionals are known to manipulate and spin. That’s their job. That’s not the problem here,” points out the Bollywood PR expert.

“The problem is that because of Paid News the ethics in journalism have gone for a toss. It’s the news media who have made PRs more influential by introducing Paid News in India. So calling out PRs for trying their luck to manipulate film reviews is interesting, but not fair on publicists,” Dale explains.

What can we say here! This guy is known to talk the talk. As usual, he does have a point here. And a very strong one.