Bollywood PR guru Dale Bhagwagar is the Rajinikanth of Bollywood PR. Over the years, the publicist has made his own rules, own styles and own world. Apart from being widely quoted across all Indian media, he is the only publicist from the country who has been quoted in international media such as BBC World, BBC Radio, Sky News, Channel 4, The Times, Guardian, The Independent and many more.
Among some 200-odd clients he has worked with, Dale has also been instrumental in shaping images of Hrithik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty, Priyanka Chopra and movies like Don and Rock On!! Plus, some 20 scandalous names who have been on Bigg Boss. We grill him on some sensitive topics here and he answers with great honesty.
You have always been in favour of the digital media. Do you think the print media will be over soon?
Dale: It may come as a surprise to you, but let me tell you that while Print Media is a dying medium almost all over the world, India is one of the only countries where it has been thriving and sometimes even growing. This is mainly because India has such a wide variety of languages and language newspapers. So while the urban readers are slowly shifting to checking their daily dose of news on desktops, laptops and mobile phones; there is still a humongous chunk of readers in the rural segment who boost the readership and circulation of newspapers, newspaper supplements and magazines. Having said that, Print is indeed a dying medium. Because the youth is slowly stopping to patronize it. So the coming generations are not going to subscribe to newspapers at their homes… unless they do it online. But language newspapers will survive much longer than English papers. So vernacular Press has nothing to worry for now. Plus, certain English newspapers like The Times Of India, DNA, Hindustan Times and Mid-Day; which sell advertisements in package-deals along with their sister publications and brands (including television channels, radio stations and film award shows) across the media spectrum, will also survive. As for me focusing on online media, it has been the case from almost a decade now. I like to change with the times, as I have seen many PRs perish because they could not change. I am the longest surviving publicist in the film industry in India. And I intend to keep things that way (winks). So I have to always keep ahead of time and change and evolve. I have to always beat the current lot of PRs at their game if I want to keep being a leader of things. That’s how it’s always been, and that’s how I intend to keep it. (smiles)
From managing PR of debutantes to superstars, what has been the most cherished moment?
Dale: I have often stated that my PR clients are like my children. And just as a mother loves all her children equally, I love to work for my PR clients with equally devoted energies and passion. All have been interesting and challenging; otherwise they wouldn’t have been my clients in the first place. However, there are certain projects and personal PR assignments that have interested me more. Handling the work for names such as Hrithik Roshan and Priyanka Chopra has been a pleasure. Whereas handling the media publicity and hype for more controversial brands such as Shilpa Shetty, Vivek Oberoi, Rakhi Sawant, Swami Nithyananda and Global Advertisers (the patrons of Radhe Maa) has been more challenging at times. One of my current clients is makeup and prosthetics designer Preetisheel Singh. Handling her work is also very interesting as it is quite different from my regular assignments which involve actors and movies. Doing PR for movies like Don and Rock On!! too have been good fun.
Bollywood PR guru Dale Bhagwagar addressing a press conference in Mumbai
What are the things that you would like to see among the new generation of PRs?
Dale: Integrity is the number one thing that seems to be missing in the current lot of PRs. That is one very important reason for loss of trust. Second is street-smartness, which every PR needs to possess — that quality of being sharp and scheming to the extent of being manipulative with the media. Ha ha. Ya, it is important for a PR to be a manipulator. Because that is the job. One has to know how to strategize, play, plot, plug and plant news in the media. The better the manipulator, the better the PR. Another thing that Gen Next needs to keep in mind is media ethics. Manipulative PRs need to also have a lot of PR ethics. They need to know and understand where to draw the line. They need to be pro’s at doing a balancing act between ethics (a demand of the times) and exaggeration (a demand of the spice and sensationalism-hungry media). Otherwise they can end up influencing society in a bad way. See, PRs have the advantage of being able to reach the public at large through the voice of celebrity clients. So if they misguide their clients or misuse their clout, it can spell mayhem from the cultural point of view. Thus PRs need to be deep-rooted in media ethics even while they plot and plan to promote their clients using national and international media platforms at their disposal.
How important is social media for celebrities and PRs?
Dale: This is a very good question. Especially because many celebrities tend to focus too much on Social Media. So much so, that they often sideline mainstream media. Social Media is a pillar of the media; a means of support. However, it is NOT the main media. The real media is Online Media (websites), Television Media, Print Media, Radio Media. These have more credibility; as before a news is carried on these places, it is written by a trained and experienced writer/reporter; goes through checks of a sub-editor, news editor, deputy editor or the executive editor, before it is finally published. So that news will definitely carry much more credibility compared to self-published and self-generated news on Social Media. Plus, when one is featured on websites, the news gets archived and is searchable for all time. This archive-value of the news, along with some good Google Search Engine Optimization (SEO), can help a celebrity much more in the long run, as it provides more consistency and value than a post or picture which will be lost on Social Media within a day, unless it goes viral. And as we know, just one out of thousands and thousands of posts have the potential to go viral. So the chances of getting noticed on social media is miniscule, compared to building a strong image through website articles and write-ups. News on websites last longer and can have a consistency to it, which can’t be found on Social Media. To sum it up, Social Media is fantastic, but it has to be used as an add-on to actual mainstream media.
Do you use social media to reach and impress traditional media?
Dale: Yes, I do. But I feel Social Media becomes unsocial at times and is gradually losing credibility. When it began, it gave a voice to millions. But many started to misuse it and abuse it. Twitterati is well-known for being rude and abusive to people… resulting in a lot of celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan complaining about the negativity on it. Actor-singer Sonu Nigam got so disgusted with it that he ultimately quit the platform. These things say a lot about changing trends. Moreover, the recent Cambridge Analytica data-breach scandal has everyone worried about Facebook privacy and stability. Whereas Social Media could have brilliantly focused on citizen journalism, and even educating along with informing. But it went on to create the demon of ‘fake news’ in many instances. Even the concept of ‘Paid News’ and ‘Paid Media’ which has been the domain of Print Media until now, is creeping into online media, including Social Media. One is asked for monies to improve the visibility and boost posts. If one can pay and be famous, then the people with monies will be the ones to be. What about the deserving? What about the ones with creativity? These money-making tactics have marred Social Media’s credibility as a platform for information dissemination. However, it still remains a very strong segment. And I feel that with time, it has an enormous potential to refine, redefine and mature.
What fascinates you most about PR work?
Dale: Like journalism, public relations is one of the few professions where there is constant activity. News happens 24×7 and one has to always be on toes. Moreover, muck also happens 24×7 and people need crisis management via PRs all the time. This is a very interesting part of the profession, as there is never a lull. One is always in the thick of things. I feel like a ringmaster of the grand media circus. No day is ever boring.
What makes you happy in your professional life?
Dale: The choice to live life the way I want to live it.
Who has been your favourite client and why?
Dale: Now! Now! Are you trying to put me into trouble by having me to take just one name here? Ha ha! But seriously, if I were to answer that question honestly, it might sound narcissistic. But the fact is that I, myself have been my most favourite client. Yes, I treat myself as a client — a brand — a PR brand who can be relied upon, trusted; one who delivers and who is consistent with growth. In my eyes, there is no further satisfaction to know that your work helps others grow and be famous. That you are able to propel people into the limelight and strengthen their image and brand by influencing the media. That you have the means to make their careers better. That’s what gives me the ultimate high.
Got a video interview done for my PR client Preetisheel Singh on Chetna Vasishth’s ChetChat. Makeup, hair and prosthetic designer Preetisheel reveals a lot that goes behind the scenes in transforming actors into characters.
Wake up my fellow Bollywood PRs. And do it like Dale does. 😉
1 Press Release / 24 hours / 40 links for my PR client Preetisheel Singh. Covering leading outlets The Times of India (and no, Dale never does Paid News. NEVER), Mid-Day, Times Now, Zoom, Santa Banta, Koi Moi, Yahoo, Bollywood Dhamaka, Bollywood Hungama and The Quint. And this without the help of UNI, PTI, IANS or Reuters.
Bigg Boss Season 2 contestant Rahul Mahajan, who re-entered the show as a Challenger as part of Bigg Boss Halla Bol, plans to help Gautam Gulati boost his zest factor on the show.
“Rahul and Gautam have been friends from before, and Rahul plans to help him feel more cheerful,” reveals his publicist Dale Bhagwagar. “Rahul told me, he felt Gautam was a bit low after Diandra left and he wants to pep him up.” With Puneet Issar out of the House this week, Gautam may welcome his old friend Rahul wholeheartedly.
Dale has also given Rahul loads of tips and ideas for Bigg Boss, including some for his equation with Gautam. “Rahul is a man on a mission to amuse, play and entertain. He is straight-forward and does not mince words. That is a quality which will stand him apart,” he points out.
The PR knows. After all, he is considered to be a specialist with many controversial Bigg Boss participants, having handled the media for names such as Rakhi Sawant, Kashmera Shah, Sherlyn Chopra, Pooja Misrra, Diana Hayden, Shamita Shetty, Vindu Dara Singh, Zulfi Syed, Salil Ankola, Anita Advani, Amar Upadhyay, Ashmit Patel, Season 8’s Aarya Babbar, Sonali Raut and even the re-entry Sambhavna Seth.
Apart from this, he has handled the publicity for BB8’s Upen Patel during the initial years of his career in Bollywood. He is also acquainted with inmates RJ Pritam Singh, and has interacted with Karishma Tanna, Ali Quli Mirza, Sambhavna Seth and Sana Khan before they entered the show.
For now, Rahul Mahajan has jumped the wall of the Bigg Boss House (something he was punished for during his first stint on the show). Only that, last time he had jumped it to escape; this time he has leaped to enter the House. What a way to enter. Lol. We are already amused.
Sonali Raut seems to be hitting all the right notes with her fans on the world wide web. Even as the diva wows in Bigg Boss, her fans seem to be on a different trip of scanning every bit of her past on the net.
After a topless pic showing her back in a photo shoot with Ranveer Singh caused quite a ruckus and debates on Twitter a fortnight ago, this week, a few of her bikini pics from the same shoot are making the rounds of social media.
“Fans are fans and if they are digging up stuff, it only shows that they are intrigued and interested in Sonali. That’s not a bad thing, neither are bikini pics. They are a gorgeous lot from a shoot she had done for Maxim India magazine,” says Sonali’s publicist Dale Bhagwagar.
Meanwhile, the Bollywood actress has come to be known as the only contestant in Bigg Boss Season 8 who is carrying on completely on her own steam. Neither has she forged a romantic liaison on the show, nor is she part of any camp.
Moreover, the gal has been part of maximum nominations for eviction earlier, and is now ‘permanently nominated’ by Bigg Boss; as part of a punishment for slapping a contestant. But Sonali has survived. As the publicist tweeted, “She is a fighter on cruise mode. She glides, where others flap.”
“Bigg Boss needs to stick to his stand for womenfolk when he takes one,” feels Bollywood publicist Dale Bhagwagar, who is handling the public relations for Season 8 contestant Sonali Raut and ex-contestant Aarya Babbar.
A few weeks ago, Bigg Boss took away Ali Quli Mirza’s privilege of becoming a Captain of the House again, as a punishment for inappropriately touching Sonali Raut without her consent. But seemingly going back on his stand, he offered Ali an option to have the ban removed, during a task this week.
“The Boss is looked upon as the righteous, mightiest, fairest, wisest, discerning, non-deceiving watcher and protector of the contestants. Will it be alright for him to RETRACT from his stand, especially when he has taken it for the RESPECT of a lady?,” questions Dale.
“Once the Boss banned Ali from becoming a Captain again in this Season, what is the logic and sense of offering him that privilege now?” the PR further asks. “Earlier too, Bigg Boss gave a re-entry to Puneet Issar just a day after being nishkasit (evicted) for being violent towards Aarya,” he points out.
“After the way Ali has behaved with Sonali as well as other contestants later, wont it be disrespectful to them all if the ban is removed?”
It can be noted that apart from disrespecting Sonali, Ali has made fun of Karishma Tanna by keeping on ‘barking’ (imitating an irritating dog) in the presence of none other than megastar Salman Khan.
He has earlier badly yelled at Diandra Soares and also questioned the “auqaat” (status / true colours) of a lady, in his argument with Dimpy Ganguly Mahajan. Apparently, teaching him a fitting lesson for his consistent indecent behaviour, Sonali is shown to have SLAPPED Ali on the reality show today.
Actress Preity Zinta who is known for her dare-bare attitude has singled out another Bollywood actress Sonali Raut for praise amongst this year’s Bigg Boss contestants.
“Sitting in NYC and catching up on my Bigg Boss 8 episodes. Can you believe it? Love Sonali Raut for being a cool cat in that mad house,” tweeted the fiery Zinta.
“Some cats purr, some claw, some rave, some paw. But when one cat meows to another, its true love for sure,” responded Sonali’s publicist Dale Bhagwagar, who had once handled PR for Zinta’s superhit movie Kya Kehna!
Meanwhile, media maverick and film producer Pritish Nandy is also gaga over Sonali Raut. “There is something special about Sonali Raut,” he tweeted. Following up, Nandy explained, “I will tell you what’s special about Sonali Raut, since so many of you asked. It’s attitude. I like her insolent attitude.”
“Sonali Raut makes tea for all in Bigg Boss, cooks great food, makes chapatis by the dozen, washes utensils, mops and cleans the House. She actively participates in most tasks and has even continued tasks with great zeal after falling and getting hurt. Even then, most Bigg Boss housemates are hell bent on calling her a kaamchor (lazy bum),” laments her publicist Dale Bhagwagar.
“All one can fault her for, is her unique flip-flap way of sweeping the floor. Or for her dialogue ‘Main kya yahan jhaadu maarne aayee hoon?’ But repeatedly targeting her for that, isolating and bullying her, and branding her a kaamchor, is hardly fair on the spunky girl,” he remarks.
True that. From the last few days, most contestants have been criticizing the Bollywood actress or bitching about her without reason.
Karishma Tanna says “Sonali feels she is meant for bigger things in life, than work inside the Bigg Boss House”. Pritam Singh and Diandra Soares allege, “she sleeps all the time”. Ali Quli Mirza says “Sonali does not listen to the Captain regarding work and does her own thing”.
Dimpy Mahajan’s issue has been that “Sonali does not make round chapatis”. But the Raut gal proved Dimpy wrong, when she made perfectly round chapatis when Salman Khan asked her to demonstrate during the Weekend Ka Vaar episode.
Even the House Captain Gautam Gulati who was head-over-heels for Sonali earlier, doesn’t miss a chance to bring her down these days. “No one will speak to Sonali for two hours from now,” is what he ordered other contestants when Sonali complained of being targeted.
Dale points out that most Housemates, except Upen Patel, have made Sonali their scapegoat. “They have also conveniently forgotten the fact that whereas someone or the other have always fought with them, Sonali is still the only contestant who has kept her dignity and not indulged in a single dirty fight on Bigg Boss.”
Returning from Bigg Boss, Aarya Babbar had to rush to Delhi for an urgent meeting today morning. But when he boarded his flight, he realized that it was not the same feeling as before.
Having spent the first few grueling days in a claustrophobic mock airplane, with the aircraft theme in Bigg Boss, Aarya got the heebie-jeebies recollecting the memories of the tiresome sleepless nights spent on a plane’s recliner seat on the reality show.
“Aarya told me he felt uneasy throughout his flight to Delhi as he relived the Bigg Boss moments,” mentioned his publicist Dale Bhagwagar. “He kept calling the airhostesses, asking for water and eatables; just to make himself feel the difference between the Bigg Boss aircraft and a real one.”
Now now! The food may have surely been more interesting, but we wonder if Aarya found the airhostesses more entertaining than his BB Airlines passengers Karishma Tanna, Soni Singh, Sukirti Kandpal, Sonali Raut, Natasha Stankovic and Diandra Soares.