Once upon a time, Mumbai used to be famous for poster art and murals. Even today, we look at Mario Mirinda’s paintings at Cafe Mondegar in Colaba and gaze in delight. In recent times, the Mahatama Gandhi mural at Churchgate Station is also looked upon with awe. But from the last few years, not many have explored this art… at least, not in the suburbs.
But that’s just changed this week, with National Award-winning makeup, hair and prosthetic designer Preetisheel Singh and her partner-husband Mark D’souza at their company Da Makeup Lab, having set up their new office in Versova with a huge floral mask mural on its two-storied building wall. It’s the biggest mural on the building, with a face emerging from a large, vivid and burlesque flower.
Mark D’souza, business head of Da Makeup Lab explains, “At our company, what we do is transform an actor into a character. The murals depicts that. Here, the art is the flower, and the face is what emerges from this art.”
The ruling queen of prosthetics, Preetisheel Singh, who has designed the looks for Bollywood’s topline actors in films like Padmaavat, Bajirao Mastani, Andhadhun, Mom, Mulk, 102 Not Out, Thackeray and many others, is about to begin ‘Preetisheel’s School of Character Design’ at this place soon. “We intend to let the calm of our surroundings in Versova inspire the imagination of our students when we roll with the school in September,” says Mark.
Made by Delhi artist Amrai Dua, the murals are quite a sight for passerbys. So catchy are they, that they can give any eclectic Hollywood studio a run for its money. Apart from the humungous floral mask mural on the front, the second mural is of a fantasy-based devilish creature. The third has three masks, all emoting differently. A portion of the wall has a mural of Preetisheel doing what she knows best, transforming someone with a brush in her hand.
“Prosthetic is quite new to Bollywood. But we have got rave reviews for our work in the last few years. So our aim is to let filmmakers know that drastic transformation of characters are also possible in India. And the artworks are trying to convey that. One of the murals — the creature — is our way of telling people we can do world-class fantasy-based transformations, so the industry should start thinking about it,” says Mark.
After recently designing mother and daughter looks for Madhuri Dixit for an advertisement, National Award-winning makeup, hair and prosthetic designer Preetisheel Singh, has now designed dual looks for Southern superstar Vijay for his upcoming Tamil flick Bigil.
Preetisheel, who also received rave reviews recently for curating the looks for Ranveer Singh as Alauddin Khilji in Padmaavat, Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor in 102 Not Out, Ayushman Khurrana in Andhadhun and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in and as Thackeray, is excited as the first look poster of Bigil is out.
She has good reason to be. Because Vijay’s look in the film is unlike anything he has done before. The Southern hearththrob will be seen in two different avatars of father and son in the film directed by Atlee and having music by AR Rahman.
“Hours of study have gone into building the character designs,” says Preetisheel. “We didn’t want to lose the authenticity of the character or miss out on the aura projected by the legendary Vijay. Keeping this in mind, for the father’s role, we added wrinkles around his laugh lines and on his forehead, using special-effects make-up. Along with that, we gave him salt ‘n pepper hair which gave a classier touch.”
For his son’s character, Vijay was given “the trendy look that footballers of the current generation carry,” informs Preetisheel. She mentions that the superstar is a pleasure to work with. “Very humble and down-to-earth, Vijay not only showers trust, but patiently allows the team to work without interference. Both the actor and director put full faith in our vision and art, and that has immensely helped,” she concludes.
Apart from Bigil, Preetisheel is looking forward to many films, including the Akshay Kumar-starrer Housefull 4, Kangana Ranaut-starrer Panga, Nawazuddin Siddiqui–Radhika Apte-starrer Raat Akeli Hai and Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore; for which she has designed multiple young and old-age looks for an ensemble lead cast.
Powerhouse performer Madhuri Dixit has experimented with loads of looks and characters in her movies. But what she has recently done for a commercial, seems to have outdone many-a-looks she has been seen in earlier.
Madhuri has played a double role in a new advertisement for Aquaguard water purifier, where she essays the characters of both, mother and daughter. That’s not the only highlight of it. What Madhuri stuns with, is the aged getup. The finesse with which it is curated, and the effortlessness and versatility with which Madhuri has carried it out, is seen to be believed.
The double role transformation for the diva has been executed by none other than India’s most popular look designer, Preetisheel Singh. Yes, the same makeup, hair and prosthetic expert, who has given us the stunning looks of many-an-artist in movies such as Padmaavat, Bajirao Mastani, Mom, 102 Not Out, Mulk, Thackeray and Andhadhun. As for this one — it just raises the bar.
For the record, Madhuri had earlier received accolades for playing mother and daughter with excellence in the 1992 K.Vishwanath film Sangeet, as well as the 1993 Mehul Kumar film Aasoo Bane Angaarey.
Actress and comedian Aneesha Madhok, known for the play Aliza-Free, will soon be making her Hollywood debut in Bill McAdams, Jr.’s coming-of-age feature film Bully High as the main lead. The story revolves around a Muslim girl who gets bullied in an American high school, but learns to stand up for herself and defeat violence with love.
Born in Kenya, Aneesha has lived in New Delhi. “I felt, I could express myself better on stage than in ordinary life,” she quips. No wonder she took to dancing at the age of three and began winning school plays and dance competitions.
At seventeen, Aneesha’s grittiness compelled her to secretly write her play Aliza-Free, while her parents thought she was doing her summer holiday homework. She managed to stage the play in Delhi with a cast of 16 actors. Being a sensitized dance drama, aimed to create awareness about the lives of visually impaired people, Aliza-Free received critical acclaim. And this made Aneesha more determined about her career path.
Moving to Los Angeles to pursue her education in theatre and screenwriting at University of Southern California (USC), Aneesha became the president of the USC stand-up comedy club. She began doing stand-up comedy shows all around LA. On her summer vacation to India, the spunky gal became a finalist on Queens of Comedy 2017.
While studying at USC, Aneesha wrote and starred in a short film The Dancer Girl, which was inspired by her life. It won best drama short at Calcutta International Film Festival, Universe Multicultural Film Festival, best student short at Los Angeles Independent Filmmakers Showcase, and was the official selection at Feminist Media Film Festival.
Graduating from USC, she played the lead in Christopher Vened’s play Infidel, where was spotted by director Bill McAdams, Jr. (of Gallows Road fame) and cast as the main lead in Bully High.
“Aneesha dives into her role with crafty finesse, falling deep into the heart and soul of her character, Maryam. She makes me laugh and she makes me cry… her passion for acting truly shines. I can’t wait to release her to the world,” notes McAdams, Jr. That makes it even more interesting to wait and watch if Aneesha can hit a high note with Bully High.
Alex Reece, who played the main villain in the Diljit Dosanjh-starrer Sajjan Singh Rangroot, will play the bura gora once again in Indian born British director Kavi Raz’s historical drama Sarabha – Cry for Freedom.
Being made in Hindi, Punjabi and English, the movie will be based on the life of an important but yet unknown personality Kartar Singh Sarabha from the history of Punjab. Starring Japtej Singh and Mukul Dev in lead roles, the movie will depict the emerging of the Ghadar movement in America and its relation to the beginning of independence movement in India.
Alex, who will be seen playing a Hindi speaking British Intelligence officer named Hopkinson, says it’s early to divulge more about his character. But this is not the first time Alex has a spy connection to his role. The British actor who has worked in Hollywood flicks, is also known for his appearance in a mega-budget James Bond commercial starring Daniel Craig.
“We just had a very exciting schedule in Canada and I’m super excited to be part of Sarabha,” says Alex. He is learning Hindi from some time now. “There is so much culture and history embedded in the language, that if an actor wants to be able to contribute and integrate his performance into Indian cinema, I think learning the language is a necessity.”
“Learning Hindi not only helps me communicate, but emote with a better understanding,” he adds. Must say, this is one foreign actor who seems to love India so much that he is prepared to take uncalculated risks and even learn a new language. Impressive indeed.
With sparkling eyes, a radiant smile and being a champion in tennis, 19-year-old Dakshata Patel recently made a sincere debut in the film Tennis Buddies. Receiving praise from many, Dakshata now wishes to turn a new page in her career.
“It’s been quite a roller coaster ride for me. And I am so grateful to my parents, the makers and so many who supported me during the making of the film. The encouragement and appreciation I have received throughout and continue to receive, fills my heart,” says the young sportstar-cum-actress.
The level- headed an grounded newbie got started at tennis at the iconic Rama Rao’s academy Practennis at Andheri and then honed her skills to perfection under the eagle eyes of Praja and Srinivas Kola at Leo Tennis Academy.
Among the top five players of Mumbai, Dakshata ranked 30th in women’s tennis category in India. She was the lead player of the Mumbai University team which won the Inter University trophy, and was instrumental in winning the team a trophy for Maharashtra during this year’s Inter State Women’s Tournament.
Ask her what the future holds for her and Dakshata is quick to say that “I have got so much in life at such an early age that my confidence has shot up. Now I want to look at things which take me to a higher ground and help me grow from where I’ve reached.” Here’s wishing this upcoming and dynamic girl all the best.
As John Abraham-starrer RAW and Vivek Anand Oberoi-starrer PM Narendra Modi near release, both the films have come out with videos about how National Award-winning makeup and prosthetic designer Preetisheel Singh transformed their looks for the films. Both the movies which rely heavily on get-ups and prosthetics, have been a revelation for fans who have been lapping up every bit.
Last week, a behind-the-scenes video of the Modi biopic was released on YouTube. It began with Vivek sharing that prosthetics required almost five-six hours to be applied on his face and could be used only for the same duration while shooting.
In the video Vivek remarks, “We managed to stretch our shoots from six hours to twelve hours, and from twelve to sometimes even eighteen hours, and the make-up and prosthetics held up. Prosthetics are internationally famous, par ussmein humne apna desi tadka laga hi diya.”
Director Omung Kumar
and producer Sandip Ssingh reveal that at one point during the look test, they
thought of dropping the idea as they felt, the looks didn’t match so well.
Which is when Preetisheel tried a new technique that totally worked out.
And just as Vivek’s
looks for PM Narendra Modi were breaking the internet, comes in John Abraham’s
designer looks in Robbie Grewal’s spy thriller Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW). John
has released a video centered around one of his most difficult looks, where he takes
on the avatar of a bearded old man.
The film has John
taking up several get-ups to do a secret service officer’s job on alien soil,
and he will be seen masquerading as a Pakistani local in several scenes in the
film. A tribute to spies, RAW is set in 1971, when India and Pakistan were on
the verge of a war.
Meanwhile, Preetisheel is also elated for the glowing feedback she has been receiving for the Qasim Khallow film Gone Kesh released last week. A light-hearted take on alopecia, Gone Kesh has the heroine Shweta Tripathi braving out her fear and conquering societal norms of beauty.
It can be noted here that Preetisheel gathered accolades
last year with her work for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat, Umesh Shukla’s
102 Not Out, Anubhav Sinha’s Mulk and Sriram Raghavan’s Andhadhun. She began
this year by curating the look for Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Shiv Sena supremo
Balasaheb Thackeray in the movie Thackeray directed by Abhijit Panse and presented
by Sanjay Raut.
Dakshata Patel hopes to shine with Bollywood’s first tennis film Tennis Buddies
In recent times, Bollywood has seen some very interesting movies on sports. Starting with the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chak De India on hockey, we witnessed Salman Khan and Aamir Khan in Sultan and Dangal focusing on professional wrestling. Akshay Kumar came up with Gold on football, and R.Madhavan with Saala Khadoos on boxing.
We even had biographical films like the Farhan
Akhtar-starrer Bhaag Milkha Bhaag on champion runner Milkha Singh, Priyanka
Chopra-starrer Mary Kom on boxing, and the Emran Hashmi-starrer Azhar and
Sushant Singh Rajput-starrer M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story on the lives of the
great cricket stars.
This week the film industry gears up for another film on sport, but with a difference. Highlighting tennis for the first time in Bollywood, the upcoming release Tennis Buddies, will actually have a real tennis star Dakshata Patel playing the lead. What’s more! The girl is making her Bollywood debut at the young age of 19 along with powerhouse performers Divya Dutta and Ranvir Shorey in pivotal roles.
No wonder that during the promo launch of the film sometime ago, tennis legend Leander Paes turned up in support of Dakshata’s endeavor. “Tennis Buddies has been a big challenge not only because I am young or a tennis player in real life,” quips Dakshata.
“It’s been a revealing journey for me to bring sport and entertainment together,” adds the introspective newcomer. The trailer of the film has her bringing freshness and innocence with versatility in her expressions. She well understands that only sport wouldn’t attract the viewers.
“The film has a lot of human interest angles to make it an entertainer. But most importantly, it showcases a beautiful father-daughter relationship, which all parents and kin would identify with,” she remarks.
Dakshata hopes the audiences would accept Tennis Buddies as it hits the theatres this week. And who knows! If this works, it can even be the start for a fledging career as an actress for her. For now, she has her fingers crossed. Presented by CFSI and Kandell Media, Tennis Buddies is directed by Suhail Tatari with story and screenplay by Anoop Wadhwa.
Tensions often grow between countries to the extent when things come to a boil and bring nations on the brink of war. Of course, no sensible person wants war, but in case it has to happen, you need to know how to be prepared for it. Mass Media student Anchal Sujanti spoke to PR guru Dale Bhagwagar to find out how people could prepare and survive war from home. Here is a summary from her conversation with the public relations expert.
During a war, everything becomes expensive. Retailers might want to take undue advantage of such a situation. After a point, shops near you could close down as well. Black markets may thrive. So you need to stock up on food with longer shelf life — items such as wheat flour, rice, pulses, cooking oils, frozen foods, packed instant noodles, jams, honey, sugar, tea, coffee, biscuits, snacks, energy bars, corn flakes, oats, dry fruits — stuff that could not only feed you and your family, but also maintain energy levels.
Not to forget, lots and lots of drinking water to keep you hydrated. There are high chances of electricity cuts during war, and these can quickly lead to water shortages. Also remember vehicle fuel and cooking gas supplies.
Filling up the fuel tank could be a good idea, in case you need to make any emergency trips. Keeping some raw vegetables and fresh fruits in your initial stock can help, in case of lack of cooking gas supply. Some with a wider vision, may stock up immunity boosters and anti-septic naturals like turmeric, garlic and ginger.
A helping hand
In a crisis, life is more difficult if you try and survive alone. But if you have the support of your family members, close friends and trusted neighbours, you could share resources, which could make things easier. Plus, caring communities can also be of great moral support and reduce fear. Help the injured. Don’t forget that you too could be in their place and would want others to help you. Children too need to be explained rules and the importance of discipline in the event of any possible mishap.
Find sources of correct information
During a war, it is vital to find authentic news from the right sources. In such situations, the government normally sets up websites and helplines which could keep you aware of developments. In case your phone, cable TV and internet networks are down, you could tune in to the radio to get authentic news updates. Whatever be the case, beware of fake news and false propaganda, whether it is through the internet or through rumours. When in doubt, cross check and double check.
Keep these basic tools ready
At such times, the administration generally switches off electricity at nights and instructs people to keep lights off, so that enemy planes cannot easily spot places to target and bomb. You might be instructed to draw curtains and use very dim lights when necessary. In such circumstances, you will need a decent torch and a good stock of candles.
Also, batteries to keep your phones, radios and laptops charged and running for news flow and to react on emergencies. Whichever gadgets require USB charging, keep them fully charged in advance.
Your building society should also ensure that your building has all the firefighting equipment like fire extinguishers in a working condition. For worse situations, face masks could also be kept in handy, in case a fire breaks out in the building. Mind you, in such situations, many collapse due to the smoke first.
Decide on your personal shelter space
During the World Wars, there used to be huge bunkers and shelters, where people could go and hide during bombing air-raids. But in today’s time and age, we do not have such bunkers in cities. Neither does the government have means to build shelters for a large population at short notice. So the best place where one can be safe is probably their own house.
Every house has a place where you can hide a bit, in case of a bombing. When war breaks out, your family immediately needs to decide on nooks and corners inside your house where you can take shelter, in case you spot any enemy planes approaching. You need to plan in advance and designate places you would want to duck in, whether it is a wardrobe enclosure, bathroom, or under tables or beds.
This is mainly done to safeguard yourself from any debris that may fall from the ceiling or any portion of your house which may collapse with the impact of a bombing. Make sure you do not designate such spaces in the kitchen or near glass windows or mirrors. You need to make a Plan A, Plan B and even Plan C, because in a deep crisis situation, you will not have time to understand what would happen at the next moment. It is important to understand that wars are not fought in the conventional way anymore and weapons of mass destruction are more and more powerful now.
Don’t forget cash
One of the most important things you would need is cash. If nearby banks are closed, you would need cash in hand to buy whatever available goods you can. So, withdraw and keep a decent amount of cash at home, which can come of help to survive the war period. Also, be prepared to barter stuff with your friends and neighbours.
Do you have your medical supplies?
Also make sure that you have a proper first aid kit, along with all the basic medical supplies you might need — like paracetamol tablets, adhesive bandages, sterile gauze pads, cotton bandages, topical antiseptic liquid etc — and also your daily medicinal, vitamin or protein requirements, if any. Though it may sound trivial, you could also pay some attention on stocking up personal hygiene items like soap, toothpaste, health oils and other bathroom essentials.
Keep calm, smile and survive
Last but not the least, you need to remember that when you panic, you tend to make wrong decisions. In a crisis, stress management is crucial. When the situation gets aggravated to such a great level, people can snap often and tempers can flow. So one needs to pay a lot of attention to keep the mind calm.
This can be done through listening to music, watching movies (if you have the means), reading inspiring books, watching motivational videos and keeping yourself busy with some entertainment to reduce stress throughout the day. Meditation could also help.
Since one can’t stay indoors all day, you would also need to find a safe space to move around and exercise, as movement is crucial to a healthy mind and body. Maybe a corridor, your building lobby or even the basement. Of course, a little bit of sunlight could be a bonus.
Remember that war can bring untold disasters like black-outs, riots, societal corruption, martial law, and even biological, chemical and nuclear events. The key is to be mentally as well as physically prepared for any situation that is thrown upon you. These points will definitely go a long way in helping you and your family survive. Take care, stay prepared, protect yourself and keep smiling. Rock on.
Entertainment PR has evolved from straight-forward propaganda to notorious manipulative tactics. Anchal Sujanti takes you through the journey of Bollywood PR over the past 25 years, as she gives you insights about people and situations that gave shape to this current brand of public relations.
A few days ago, a journalist wrote a tweet criticizing PR professionals. “The role of PR machinery is to facilitate communication between journalists and corporates. But it seems PRs take a call on what stories to be pitched and to which paper. Sad!” she wrote. Her tweet generated some interest. However, the most significant response came from Bollywood publicist Dale Bhagwagar.
In a shocking admission of the PR-state-of-affairs, he responded to the tweet, saying, “Role of PRs is not only to “facilitate.” It’s to convince, brainwash, manipulate journalists to agree; and influence public opinion using them, the same way scribes use PRs to source stories. Just as scribes have right to refuse, PRs can decide whom to pitch.” Woah! What a brutally honest answer! Dale went on to add a link of the legendary Bob Dylan song, ‘The Times Are A Changin’ to the tweet.
And who can forget those famous lines:
“Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.”
How relevant they still are to the changing times in journalism and PR. While admitting to the devilishly mischievous manipulative ways of PR specialists, Dale knew exactly what he was talking about. After all, he has been one of the Indian entertainment PR industry’s most significant agent of change. Which is why, it is impossible to sum up how Bollywood PR has evolved in the last 25 years, without understanding the phenomenon he created for the profession.
His ways, good and manipulative, brought about a paradigm shift which benefits all PR professionals in this day and age. Over the years, the publicist has handled PR for more than two hundred actors including names such as Hrithik Roshan, Govinda, Shilpa Shetty, Priyanka Chopra, Vivek Oberoi and movies including Don and Rock On!!, apart from various contestants of India’s biggest reality show Bigg Boss. He also handled publicity for Shilpa Shetty during the time she participated in and won the worlds №1 reality television show Celebrity Big Brother in the United Kingdom.
In the testimonials section of his website, you can find some of the who’s who of mainstream media praising him. Sudhir Chaudhary has called him “a very good publicist,” while Prabhu Chawla has termed him “one of the most efficient PRs in Bollywood.” The most controversial publicist of the world Max Clifford, has described him as “the best PR to go to in India,” while Shobhaa De has called him “an on-the-ball (well-informed) publicist.” What’s more! There are some words of praise even from media magnate Vineet Jain, the Managing Director of Times Group, saying, “You have done a remarkable job for Shilpa Shetty.”
The PR giants
Research reveals, a little before the 90s there were some PR greats who ruled the roost in Indian film industry. These included stalwarts such as Bunny Reuben, Gopal Pandey, Hilla Sethna, RR Pathak, Raju Kariya, Rajendra Rao, Keshav Rai, Arun-Gaja and Ajit Ghosh.
Currently, apart from Dale, there are some great individual PRs and independent PR agencies doing amazing work in the entertainment media. There are prominent agencies like Prabhat Choudhary’s Spice PR, Rohini Iyer’s Raindrop Media, Parag Desai’s Universal Communications, Anusha Srinivasan Iyer’s Naarad PR & Image Strategists, Nilufer Qureshi’s Hype, Parul Chawla’s Picture N Kraft, Himanshu Jhunjhunwala’s Dwapar, Dolly Bhattar’s Brand N Buzz, Neelam Guupta’s NR2 — The Image Engineers, Vipul Sipani’s Media Monster, well-known names including Parull Gossain, Prashant Golecha and Pritam Sharma, and digital PR agency Everymedia.
Change is constant
But the industry scenario was very different in the nineties compared to how it is now. There was no online media back then. India’s №1 Bollywood trade analyst, Taran Adarsh reminisces, “I remember when I used to work in Trade Guide in the 80s, PRs used to send the news handwritten on paper or on a typewriter. They would invite journalists to mahurats, shootings and even at song recordings. It used to be a long process back then. The media was not so widespread, and only 20–30 journalists would be there at press screenings.”
“We had Bunny Reuben and Gopal Pandey as PRs in the early days. Now we have a new breed of publicists who know how to create a buzz. I would not like to go into names, but they are young and bright minds, who know how to use technology really well,” adds Adarsh, who is one of the greatest forces to reckon with in Bollywood journalism since decades.
Veteran journalist-cum-publicist Indermohan Pannu echoes, “In the 90s, we had no emails or WhatsApp and sometimes press releases would be accompanied by handwritten request notes from PRs. It used to be a tedious job. Box-office collections from across the country used to be sent via telegrams. Couriers were also not well-serviced at that time. PRs used to get press releases typed, xeroxed and couriered in the hundreds along with multiple photographs. All of this was very time-consuming.”
He adds, “There were no channels dedicated to Bollywood and only a few publications were there. Many newspapers did not have dedicated sections or supplements for Bollywood news. I remember that Navbharat Times used to carry film news only on Fridays, while The Times Of India waited to carry the film reviews on Sundays.”
“In the olden times, there were PRs like Bunny Reuben who used to handle the publicity for actors like Raj Kapoor. It used to be a relation-based industry and artistes used to keep PRs on retainer with fixed salaries for long. When technology came in, many PRs could not adapt and stopped getting work. Some of the huge names who had been in the profession for decades, disappeared from the scene within 5–6 years. PR agencies, including corporate firms, came into the picture. Technology is the key, which Dale Bhagwagar has been using most extensively over the years,” concludes Pannu.
The paradigm shift
“Beginning in PR around mid-nineties, Dale brought more respect to the profession as he emerged as one of the classiest to deal with. He had that spark in him to bring about change in the way business was carried in the profession. Though at that time, not many would have predicted his rise,” says senior journalist and eminent author Chaitanya Padukone, who has been in entertainment journalism for over three decades.
A little more probing and internet research about the changes Dale has brought to the profession, and a clearer picture emerges. Apart from his PR press releases and handouts to journalists being in impeccable English, Dale also insisted that all his clients sign legal agreements. In those days, Bollywood deals worked more-or-less on word-of-mouth, and PR agreements were almost unheard of. So he began convincing his PR clients for agreements on his agency letterheads, and then moved on to legal agreements.
He also introduced the practice of monthly advance payments to the profession, in order to safeguard himself and others. At a time when all content, including images, was sent on paper, he was the first publicist in the industry to adopt to email. He goaded journalists to check their mails regularly, so that they wouldn’t miss out on the latest content, along with high-resolution pictures he sent. He began writing PR columns in film trade magazines. Dale also became the first PR in the entertainment industry to adapt to the web, launching the world’s first free of copyright website then, which was inaugurated by none other than the veteran PR Bunny Reuben.
“Dale’s constant focus on change has resulted in him being leagues ahead of many. PR practices he brought to the profession then, have now become the norm. He is one of the longest surviving PRs in Bollywood, and still sets the agenda on how PR evolves in the industry, by talking about it on PR websites, television channels, social media, in various colleges, PR forums, blogs, etc,” points out public affairs consultant Rahul Jain, who has worked in corporate PR agencies Perfect Relations, Edelman and Avian Media.
Futuristic, the buzzword
Vipul Sipani, a social media expert and the founder of Media Monster, one of Bollywood’s leading media agencies says, “Since the last few decades, all PRs have been trying to adopt to changing times. But no one had understood the need for future generations of publicists like Dale has. Just look at his Google presence and you will understand what I am saying.”
A few years ago, Dale began addressing the media as a spokesperson to all his clients whenever they would fall into controversy He even went out of his way to take time to train gen next by giving multiple guest lecturers to mass communication students on journalism and PR.
He is also the only celebrity publicist who has been quoted in every prominent newspaper and television channel in India, as also in various international media outlets such as BBC, CNN, The New York Times, Sky News and The Washington Post. As a matter of fact, he has been quoted in as many as thirty countries, which places him amongst the ranks of the most talked-about and extensively-quoted film publicists in the world.
Meanwhile, there is another major shift in media due to the prominence of social media. Fenil Seta, an accomplished journalist and upcoming filmmaker feels, “The workload for PRs has definitely increased. But PRs have become more creative. They don’t want a film to have the usual formula kind of promotions. Now they bring ideas and strategies which are customized for specific projects.”
He goes on to give examples of Ranveer Singh visiting a naval ship during the marketing of Simmba, and the promotions of Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero which took place at a venue that was made to resemble Meerut, replete with a paan shop, jalebi stall etc. “The visuals and pictures of these are shared by the attendees and the novelty factor helps this content to trend online and get talked about,” remarks Seta.
The internet of things
“There has been one more change in the approach of PRs. Compared to the traditional print media, many publicists have begun focusing more on web media as they are giving more and more importance to the archive value of news,” says Vipul Sipani.
“Nowadays, there is a media blitz and PRs rely more on sensationalism and controversy to hype their clients, like the #MeToo campaign,” remarks Chaitanya Padukone.
Freelance journalist Noyon Jyoti Parasara, who has also worked with The Times of India’s leading tabloid Mumbai Mirror admits, “We are fast moving from print and radio towards television and internet mediums. PRs are also changing tactics in the emerging scenario. The media boom has created a situation where there is so much to do, and we are falling short.”
When spin sucks
Parasara points out that though Dale was the first publicist to target web media, he has been taking too many risks. On probing more, we find out a dark side of Dale. Turns out, he is not only known for positive developments in the media, but also notoriously famous for beginning the practice of PRs cutting off their clients’ direct access to journalists. “After Dale began handling scandals and controversies for his clients, he asked them not to speak directly to journalists and editors. He is said to have even added restrictive clauses in his PR agreements, stating that he would be a ‘one-stop contact point’ between actors and media. This kind of manipulative PR control hardly happened before he came in prominence,” reveals Parasara.
True! An article on the net describes an instance when Dale came under heavy criticism from industry folks like Mahesh Bhatt, Konkana Sen Sharma and Anupam Kher. The reason — he got portions of a film review changed on a website, just because he felt the reviewer was unkind to one of his clients. Though journalists snarl at such PR censorship, Dale’s clients seem to love the hand-holding and big-daddy approach.
He is also accused of ‘prioritizing’ media to ‘selectively’ release photo-shoot images of his clients. On condition of anonymity, a veteran journalist divulges that “a decade ago, Dale began giving access to photographic content only to his friends in media and only those publications and websites who would let him have control over their stories. His reasoning was that journalists could create written content without his support, but they would have to come to him if he choked the supply of photographic content. Of course, that approach hardly works today, as journalists can easily pick up content from the net.”
“His worst arm-twisting tactics for journalists were when he would sometimes insist on copy approvals (going through journalist’s stories before they appeared in print) and even the practice of offering new controversies to journalists in return for killing certain stories on his PR clients,” discloses the source.
The source exposes the publicist further, stating, “he also has stealth means of news distribution, and even has some journalist friends double up as his spies in media. Plus, he has tied up with a few upcoming PRs to plug and plant content for him. In fact, he has even pompously admitted to such guerrilla PR tactics on his Facebook and blog.”
Finding morality in spin!
But how is that even possible? The source explains, “Dale does not have any dearth of new PR people willing to toe his line, as he has guided and mentored many of them through his lectures at colleges. Some of his students even work in other PR agencies, but stay in touch with him and respect him for training them. And he uses their connect for his gain.”
With such a network in place, Dale may have enough influence to plug and plant stories or even spread rumours in the film industry to benefit his PR clients. The strange part is, this PR does a balancing act between morality and spin.
As publicist Rahul Jain puts it, “Dale has always talked about journalistic and PR ethics in most of his interviews. And inspite of his PR maneuvers, no one has doubted his moral values and integrity. Since he is a loyalist to his friends and a master of words, he can well juggle these topics.”
Great PR is now about control
Meanwhile, times continue to change. The use of smartphones is increasing and gen Z wants everything easy and fast. Social media helps in doing so, by providing breaking news within seconds. To quote Mumbai’s leading social media specialist Sampath Iyenger, “It’s important for an entertainment industry person to have a website, a Twitter account, an Instagram account and also a Facebook account and Page, all managed professionally, with posts at regular intervals.”
World in your hands
Digital PR expert and founder director of Sarvashreshtha Solutions, Mayura Amarkant has some interesting insight. “Just travel in a city local train and observe how the poorest person carries a smartphone and watches content on the internet. There is a constant fight for eyeballs among apps, social media platforms, and independent entertainment avenues. Gaming has also taken over the screen time.”
She makes it a point to add, “With screens getting smaller and each individual having their own handheld device, the challenges in the entertainment PR industry are getting bigger.” In the past, Amarkant has been the Head of Communication Management at the high-profile Whistling Woods International — School of Media & Communication located at Filmcity, Mumbai. She is also a National Award Winner as Woman Business Leader in Digital Marketing and PR.
But new-age filmmaker and freelance journalist Prashen Kyawal feels that the increasing use of online media has made us complacent and careless. “The time saved due to digitalization should have been used more in quality writing and editing, but that’s not happening! Also, the respect and grace associated with television journalism has been nose-diving because of too many media portals competing for the same celebrity’s bytes.”
Sampath Iyengar notes, “The moment somebody does a web search on an entertainment industry person, all the relevant stuff should come up — for example, one’s personal website, Wikipedia page, IMDB page, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram accounts, and most importantly, news features on prominent Bollywood websites. The main point is that the sources of information should be authentic and reliable. Industry people should also have a good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team in place to manage web content.”
Is print media really dying?
Whenever one talks about changes in media, we often gets to hear the line ‘Print media is dying’. So is that really true? “Not at all,” says Fenil Seta. “Print media is still as relevant as before. Newspapers still have a wide reach. Morning newspapers are a habit, and that won’t go away so easily. It’s like saying restaurants have become irrelevant, because online delivery apps have entered our market.”
While Vipul Sipani and Prashen Kyawal agree with Seta, they feel that print media may not survive beyond 15–20 years. They observe that since the youth finds newspaper reading quite an effort, they will soon depend only on electronic gadgets for all of their news.
The last word
Taran Adarsh who has shifted to digital media, sums it up. “The biggest advantage of online media is speed. You can get the latest news instantly, that too on your phones. Videos and pictures can also be uploaded from anywhere and have a global reach. We are in an age where ‘information drives business’. What more can one ask for.”
From quite some time, there has been a lot of speculation about how John Abraham would carry the various get-ups he prepared to don in Robbie Grewal’s Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW). Finally, the cat is out of the bag. John’s varied avatars seem to compliment his role of an undercover spy in the movie to the T.
In the trailer, we see that John lies to his mother about being posted to another city in relation to a bank job. But in reality, he is being sent to Pakistan, on an undercover mission, to gather tactical information about the enemy side. It is now that his identity as an Indian agent will be put to test and John has to tread cautiously, while saving himself and his country from being exposed.
The film required John taking up several get-ups to do an officer’s job on alien soil, and he is seen masquerading as a Pakistani local effectively in several scenes during the two-and-a-half minute trailer.
Makeup and prosthetic designer Preetisheel Singh who worked on all the looks, is thrilled with the response to the trailer. “For a prosthetic designer, a film like this where one gets to curate so many looks, is a dream. And the response to the trailer is mind-boggling. The faith John put in my work has gone a long way in getting these results,” she says.
Romeo Akbar Walter
(RAW) featuring John Abraham, Sikander Kher, Mouni Roy and Jackie Shroff in
pivotal roles, is inspired by real incidents. A tribute to spies, it is set in
1971, when India and Pakistan were on the verge of a war.