I get a lot of questions on a daily basis from the readers of this blog but I haven’t answered any of them.
However, I have realised that answering them is important because a lot of misconceptions float around Bollywood these days.
So, this blog post is dedicated to all my readers who have bombarded me with questions and in this post, I will try to answer some of them.
The questions have been sent by my readers over Facebook, Twitter and on mail. I am not attributing the questions to any individual because I haven’t taken permission to reveal their names.
1. How do you know who’s the number one star in Bollywood?
Answer: All these rankings are pure speculation and not based on any scientific method. Most journalists allot a ranking to a star based on their individual perception. In some cases, these rankings are released to promote a particular star or a set of stars who oblige the media house (often by attending their events or award functions). In some cases, they are driven by the PR industry. In most cases these rankings have no connection with the audience, but help to drive up the acting and endorsement fees of a star. If you are really looking for a systematic ranking then you can check this micro-site of Zoom. The channel had introduced a ranking system based on a transparent calculation. You check it here.
2. Vidya Balan has won so many awards. including the National Award. So, why is she not considered a top actress?
Answer: It’s a misconception. Vidya has been in the top three bracket for the longest time. She might have slipped down recently. She is one of the few actresses who has made a film successful despite it having a female hero. She gets frequently criticized for her weight and style but there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind of how powerful an actor she is. As I had told you earlier, the number game is generally a ploy to drive up the endorsement fees of a star.
3. Why don’t you find Karan Johar mentioning Vidya Balan as a top actress ever?
Answer: It is Karan’s show and he is entitled to have his own selection (or ranking) just like all other media houses.
4. Is it true that Bollywood actors have journalists and critics on their pay-rolls?
Answer: I have never seen or heard about any actor paying money to a journalist or a film critic directly. Some production houses pay money to film critics for favourable movie reviews so that it can garner audience in the first week of its release. There are some PR houses who gratify journalists through gifts, parties and exclusive access to film stars in return for a favourable write-up. Almost all the media houses are fighting a battle to stop corruption among Bollywood journalists and critics.
5. Is it true that most of Bollywood content that appear in the media is paid for or PR driven?
Answer: Most newspapers clearly demarcate the content that’s been paid for. The TV channels doesn’t have to because it is not regulated by anybody. But this is true that most of the ‘news’ that appear in different media platforms are PR handouts. You see, PRs have blocked access to all actors for journalists. Not only actors, producers, musicians, even dress designers interact with the media under the watchful eyes of the PR. Most journalists are clearly told what to ask and what not to ask. If a journalist oversteps the line, he/she is banned from the PR agency for all future interactions with their clients. Journalists never want to get into such a situation because because celebrity or Bollywood journalism is all about access to the star. Most of the news that appear in the media are actually selective PR hand-outs. You may ask any PR in town and they will admit that they control the Bollywood news media. Those who speak directly to the media — more often than not — don’t have the money to hire a PR.
6. How come some stars and directors often get quoted in news articles and feature articles? How does the PR regulate all of them?
Answer: There are exceptions to the rule. We have a handful of directors and actors who speak to the press directly. You can expect a Mahesh Bhatt, Madhur Bhandarkar or Sudhir Mishra to speak to any reporter who call them. They are not afraid of the media and don’t discriminate between media houses. But all and I mean ALL Bollywood stars have a selected group of journalists that they talk to and that list is generally approved by their PR companies. Most journalists who are here in this field for a longer time and have developed a rapport with PR companies, get the quickest access to stars.
7. Why have Bollywood stars stopped interacting with journalists?
Answer: It is because they don’t trust journalists anymore. PRs are paid by them, so they will work as per their wish. It s their duty to promote a star. But journalists can behave strangely. Some can be extremely mean while others can act very pally. Over the years, Bollywood journalists have been trained to believe that scooping out a juicy gossip is the best form of Bollywood reporting. A few journalists are corrupt while some others expect to be pampered all the time (sometimes through exclusive access to stars whenever they want). There are instances of a journalist plugging a ‘negative’ article when he/she was rubbed the wrong way.
On the other hand, a Bollywood star always expects to see good and promotional articles no matter what the truth is. Most of them are not professional enough to understand that a journalist won’t always write promotional articles about them. They don’t get the concept that at times journalists might criticise an actor or report a fact that doesn’t show them in good light.
To be continued...
First picture taken from here