Bollywood’s only PR guru Dale Bhagwagar is also the only specialist on Bigg Boss. Having handled the PR for a full 20 contestants while they have been on the controversial show, Dale also has guts to call a spade a spade. He boldly addresses queries in this exclusive no-holds-barred interview to QNA India.
Bigg Boss 13 has shifted from Lonavla to Filmcity Studios in Goregaon, Mumbai. Do you think it’s a good move?
Dale Bhagwagar: That fresh breath of Lonavla air that the Bigg Boss Housemates felt in the garden area is missing. Also, knowing that they were far away from Mumbai city, gave the contestants a feel of being separated from their near and dear ones, which went perfectly with the show’s concept. That is now missing too.
But being at Filmcity, has its own share of advantages too. Availability for props, food items, staff etc would definitely be better when in Mumbai. Travel time for staff and Salman Khan is less.
Moreover, security is better as Filmcity has two security gates before one reaches any studio floor. The distance between the first and second gate is almost 2 kilometers. So for any anti-Bigg Boss protest morchas to walk all the way, would be quite a task, and also provide the makers ample time to call for police help, just in case any protest morcha breaks through the first security gate.
Will Bigg Boss 13 get better TRPs than last season?
Dale Bhagwagar: I have a feeling Bigg Boss TRPs may not rise with the passing of its seasons now. The reasons are many. The attention span of people have changed. Also, most youth want to watch shows on the go, and not sit in front of television sets anymore. Though on Voot, the show has limited its visibility by being absent on YouTube; the most popular platform for videos.
Another reason is that the show has deviated from its original concept of being truthful to reality television, and feels more and more like a game show. Being a publicist in the entertainment field and having handled the PR for the maximum Bigg Boss contestants and watched them closely, I’m of the impression that the media publicity for the show also needs more innovativeness and improvement.
Many more journalists need to receive its daily synopsis and publicity images. The PR images for the media could be of better size, correct format and higher resolution too. This would make the journalist’s job of covering Bigg Boss, easier. Scribes may then refrain from searching and lifting random images from FB pages or channel website, which may not satisfy their needs for a great image-resolution.
Apart from all this, one has to also understand that Gen Z does not sit and watch TV serials. So most of the times, they identify quite less with the TV stars which feature more and more on Bigg Boss nowadays. All these and many more transformational changes could give the fortunes of Bigg Boss a punchy boost.
Bigg Boss approaches a lot of celebrities, but only a few of them finally go to the Bigg Boss House. Do you think this is a promotional ploy by the makers to create a wider buzz for the show before it rolls?
Dale Bhagwagar: Ha ha! It seems you have stumbled upon some secret. Yes, this does create a buzz initially, as not all who are approached are aware of the secrecy clause in BB contracts. So they yap and talk and hint, or tell their friends that they have been approached for Bigg Boss. Some even pompously write on FB that BB approaches them every year. But I don’t think that kind of PR buzz helps them. If they really want to be on the show by getting in the limelight, or catch the attention of the makers, there are other intelligent PR strategies and methods.
What if the selection process goes on public voting?
Dale Bhagwagar: That could be an interesting turn. But the public will have to see the drama quotient of the contestants and judge by that. Only then will it work well. Hai na.
Is it better to have only celebrities in Bigg Boss or is it better to have common people with celebrities?
Dale Bhagwagar: The hero of the show should be the concept. I feel, the best thing for Bigg Boss will be to focus on its original ‘reality television’ format and reduce the number of games and tasks. I also strongly feel that Bigg Boss should have two seasons every year — one with celebs and another with commoners.
What do you have to say about most contestants who win Bigg Boss, but are not able to remain in the news after winning? What could be the reason?
Dale Bhagwagar: The primary reason for this is that success goes to their head. The months they spend in isolation makes them believe that the show has made superstars out of them. When they meet their family and friends on the show, they hear stories of how they are being talked about in the outside world; about how famous they have become etc etc etc. They think they have ‘arrived’ and this thought goes to their head.
When they come out they are mobbed, first by the media and then by the people on the streets. They get a lot of instant recognition. In all this hullabaloo, most of them forget that PR plays an important role in the imaging, branding and consistency of any publicity exercise.
What they completely fail to realize is that long-term fame is not about hype, but about imaging and branding. That is why so many Bigg Boss contestants lose out in the long run, with most of these disappearing into oblivion. Even the winners.
“Actress Kajol kick-started her career in the showbiz in the 90s when the PR machinery was not in force. In the 90s, it was all about how actors conducted themselves in front of the media without the help of any PRs,” says an article on Bollywood Bubble.
However, Bollywood’s only PR guru Dale Bhagwagar has reacted in disagreement. “It’s incorrect to say that strong PR didn’t exist in the 90s. I’ve myself handled more than a dozen clients at any given time during the 90s too,” he tweeted.
“Though Kajol is a diva, Bollywood Bubble seems to be bumbling with ignorance about entertainment PR,” laughs Dale, who has handled the media for Hrithik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty, Priyanka Chopra and films like Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Don and Farhan Akhtar-starrer Rock On!!, apart from being a crisis management specialist to umpteen Bigg Boss contestants over the years.
“During the 90’s, there have been great PRs such as Gopal Pandey, RR Pathak, Raju Kariya, Ajit Ghosh, Hilla Sethna, Keshav Rai, Harish Sharma, Susheel Sharma, Peter Martis, Parag Desai, Indermohan Pannu, Shahid Khan, Arun-Gaja and Rajendra Rao.”
“They have planned elaborate publicity campaigns, advised and guided actors with image-building, have been an integral part of PR strategies, and wielded much more influence on media than most of the current publicists. I know, because I have been there,” says the publicist who started out in PR in the 90s and went on to become a trendsetter.
Dale is one of the few actively surviving Bollywood publicists of that time and still leads the PR brigade in innovation. A simple search with his name brings up thousands of web results. The PR expert points out that public relations existed in tinsel town much before the 90s. “Bollywood PR has been thriving since the days of Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt and Dilip Kumar,” remarks Dale, who also handled personal PR for Dev Anand as well as his last film Chargesheet.
“We have had PR greats such as VP Sathe whose publicity agency had a monopoly over media campaigns in the 50s and 60s. And then Bunny Reuben, who handled the PR for Raj Kapoor and films of Yash Chopra, BR Chopra, Basu Bhattacharya and GP Sippy. It’s been boom-time for PRs all the way since then.” Point taken.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY SPECIAL: Being a PR guy talking about ‘feminism’, may seem as if I am siding with some of my controversial hoity-toity Bollywood clients. However, I feel that people from the Indian film industry often objectify the word.
I wonder why many actors and actresses realise the importance of PR only when their career goes spiralling down. When they realise they are not making the monies they should be making, they decide to spend on PR and salvage or extend their career. Instead of ‘image building’ at an earlier stage, a PR has to then look at ‘publicity’ and ‘crisis management’. –Dale Bhagwagar
Thank you Google. 🙂 🙂 You are a true friend. Even better than FB. FB can block, stop and throw people out. And when its not doing that, it changes interface again and again and again and again and also increases the number of clicks per task for its own benefit. It also spams with Page invites, game invites and all sorts of distracting notifications which it does not allow users to shut off. You never do all that… at least not as much at FB Love you more than FB 😛 #TrueFriend
I feel, Bigg Boss gets the highest billing among reality shows not because Salman Khan hosts it. It gets top billing because it has been customised to bring out the best and worst of human emotions. Because it plays on fear and love… more importantly, on fear… which is a stronger emotion than love.
Sumita Chakraborty, the editor of Stardust India has given an interesting, informative and insightful interview to Hamant Verma of BizAsia. She aptly describes how PR has taken control over perception-building in entertainment journalism. She also mentions how “hiring the right publicists and agents” can be one of the important aspects for British Asian actors “to build a successful career in Bollywood”. She talks about Upen Patel, whom I handled PR for when he entered Bollywood… and also Katrina Kaif, whose debut film Boom was publicized by me. All in all, Sumita’s interview is a fantabulous read.