PR armtwisting: Open letter to Rani Mukerji on her busybodies
(3 months ago)
Dear Rani, I've known you for years. We've had our ups and downs. To your credit you've never held any of my write-ups about you, against me no matter how negative it was. I remember I had once written an especially nasty tabloid piece on you for which Karan Johar (rightly) rebuked me and (wrongly) asked me who put me up to it.
To your credit, you didn't say a word. You just kept quiet and when I apologised you accepted gracefully and we moved on. Yes, we had a rapport. I would like to believe we still do though now your over-enthusiastic marketing team from Yash Raj films decides whom you speak to and whom you don't. It's like you've handed over the key to your better judgement to people who claim to know better but usually don't.
It doesn't stop there. These ultra-efficient marketing maestros -- determinded to justify their pay-checks -- resort to open bullying to get their way with journalists. It's all about controlling the news about their clients. Most mediapersons, including editors, give in to their absurd demands. As one harassed editor-friend puts it: "What do I do? I need the stars to come to my awards function. And the only way to reach them is through their marketing team. I can't afford to antagonise them. It's the love-me-love-my-dog syndrome. If you want the stars you have to bear with their PR team. As simple as that."
The problem here is one of perception. I don't WANT the stars. You, Rani, are not a star for me. You are a friend whom I met through my closest friend in Mumbai, Sanjay Leela Bhansali. We shared some super times together. Do you remember the evening after the release of Black when out of sheer uncontrollable joy , you jumped on top of the dining table at Sanjay's residence and did a jig?
I was pleasantly surprised. Aditya Pancholi, who was also there, looked like he would suffer a seizure.
These are the times we shared, unhampered by PR-giri. Do we really need your PR team to decide when and how we talk? Regrettably this is the PR-otocol that all mediapersons today are expected to follow. But the determination to exercise complete control over the entertainment media does not end with monitoring the interviews.
I was Aasked to give an undertaking that I will henceforth not write anything about Yash Raj without informing their marketing team. I refused, as any self-respecting journalist would. In that case, I was told politely, the interview with you, Rani, was off.
If this is not armtwisting, what is? Most of the PR companies thrive on controlling the written word about their client. I know of PR companies that misinform their star-clients deliberately to create a rift with mediapersons -- those that they don't like. One such trouble-maker recently tried to ruin my professional rapport with my friend Farhan Akhtar and his partner Ritesh Sidhwani.
You would think that seasoned, intelligent denizens of the entertainment industry would know better and not encourage these busybodies -- the self-appointed custodians of showbiz -- to rule their careers. But no. The PR companies are, alarmingly, predominant in the entertainment business. They tell the media what to write, when to write it and even which font-size to use. They also dictate which pictures to put in with writeups on threat of cutting the umbilical cord with stars.
But sorry, I don't care. Rani, I wait to see you dance on that gleaming table-top once again. But without your marketing team monitoring every move.
Until then, we shall have to live with all these hichkis. Hic to that.
(Subhash K Jha can be contacted at email@example.com)