I have been attempting to write this post for a long time, ever since I wrote one on how a few top entertainment journalists treat Bollywood PRs. Before that, I had written about how a few PRs and journalists control the entertainment news space in Bollywood.
So, I wrote about (a) powerful journalists who are on top of their game, (b) Powerful PRs who rule their fiefdom with equal elan (c) How, PRs who are not-so-powerful, are given a raw deal and how frustrating their day-to-day job is.
Obviously, there is one missing link that I didn’t touch upon – how some journalists who don’t belong to the top media houses – are treated by the top Bollywood PRs.
These are stories that most don’t talk about but if you ask around (specially the entertainment journos who represent online media), you will hear plenty of these. I was too subjected to third degree treatment when I was representing a website.
The brutal realization
I was a film critic at DNA for about two years before I decided to move out to be part of a website which was being re-launched with a new design and editorial policy.
Post the re-launch, the website was getting good traction among the internet audience and I was confident that I, as editor (news & entertainment), would be able contribute in making it the top entertainment website in the country.
Movie reviews usually get a lot of traction online and I used to get 10-15 K (even 30-35 K at times) hits for my reviews on an average. Naturally, I wanted to concentrate more on my movie reviews and wanted to upload a review at the earliest because the sooner a review is posted, the more hits it gets.
Being a part of the DNA movie review team for two years meant that I never had to ask a PR about a press preview.
The invite – either through an SMS or a mail – would reach me well in advance and most of the times, there would be a follow-up phone call from the PR to ensure my attendance.
There were times when we had to request a PR to postpone or prepone a press show because we didn’t have sufficient transit time between two shows. The requests were always accommodated promptly.
I soon figured out that being a film critic of a website and that of a newspaper were not the same.
One month down the line, I was texting some PRs about the location of the press shows. One more month and instances of PRs ‘forgetting’ to inform me about press previews were getting repeated with alarming regularity.
Three months into my job with the website, it became my job to find out where the press show was. After six months, I found my name struck off from the media list of most press shows.
I was told later that a PR’s preference is guided by their client’s preferences and most clients were only concerned about the reviews that appeared in prominent dailies. Websites didn’t matter to them.
Then one day an incident happened which completely threw me off gear. I felt humiliated in front of the entire press team and after that I vowed never to attend press shows unless I was invited for it.
‘Kindly get in the queue’
This press show was organised by a leading PR agency and as usual, I never had any information about it. Since, there was pressure to upload the review before other websites, I finally texted the head of the agency.
She immediately send me a message asking me to come for the press preview. As usual, I complained to her about how I was not receiving the invites properly. By that time, the complaint had become routine.
The short conversation on text messages soon ended with each other sending smileys and she assuring me that she would meet me at the multiplex the next evening.
Unfortunately, she was not there at the multiplex during the press show and I was told that she was busy supervising the premiere of the film.
Her bulky brother (who worked in the same agency) arrived with a large bunch of tickets half an hour before the press show. Immediately after he went around distributing the tickets to ‘prominent’ critics. Before giving them the tickets to each of them, he would politely ask, ‘How many tickets do you need?’
Some of the critics had brought their friends, boyfriends and girlfriends along with them. Most took two tickets but some, who were accompanied by their colleagues, even asked for six or seven.
Some people, who were doled out tickets generously, were not even film critics but reporters of prominent channels and newspapers who had just landed up to watch the film.
He then took his position near the food counter and we formed a queue to get our tickets. Before handing them over, he politely announced that everybody in the line would get only one ticket.
I stood in the queue patiently and waited for my turn. The dark, scruffy, forty-something gentleman with specs and a visible paunch asked me step aside, somewhat like a customs officer at the airport. Soon, three others joined me in the ‘step aside’ queue (two of them were women). Incidentally, all of us were from the online media.
Ten minutes later, everybody else had their ticket except the four of us. This PR was still clutching to a bunch of tickets.
The lady behind me got a little irritated and asked him again when she would be getting her tickets. This man rudely asked her to wait because “some more important people were coming for the show”.
Soon the gates opened and people started entering the audi. Some were hanging near the food counter to encash their free coupons for samosas.
I again politely approached him asking why I was being made to wait.
“I am expecting some important people and I have only 10 tickets. You will have to wait.”
“But the show has started. When they will arrive?”
“Now the trailers are running. You still have time. Why don’t you wait here?”
(He pointed to a corner. By the time everybody was listening to the conversation as he was very loud. I noticed a critic smirking over the treatment being meted out to me. One also came upto me and asked why I was not being allowed to enter.)
Then a few people from the production house arrived and were handed over the remaining tickets.
“All the tickets are over. Kindly wait till I get more. If I cannot accommodate you in this show. I will try to get you a ticket for tomorrow’s (general) show but I cannot promise anything now. Get in touch with me this evening and I can tell you whether I can arrange for a ticket.”
By that time I had enough and I sent a text message to the lady who headed the PR. I told her that I am returning from the press preview as the show had already begun and I was not being allowed in.
The bulky, short scruffy brother got a call next and promptly took out another set of tickets that he had been hiding in his pocket.
He finally gave a ticket to me.
Though I went inside the hall, I had already missed the first scene.
During the interval of the film, the guy came and said if I was enjoying the movie.
The sarcasm in his voice was still intact.
Two of the other three critics who were kept waiting with me had been sent back.
Shortlink -> http://wp.me/p3x1zT-ML First picture, purely for illustration purposes, taken from HERE Second picture, purely for illustration purposes, taken from HERE Third Picture, purely for illustration purposes, taken from HERE