Bollywood Publicity Stunt Backfires with Claims that Capitalism Trumps Family Values

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Filed under: Publicity Stunts

Gimmick & bear it!
Bollywood Buzz, NKUT Movies
April 20, 2008

It was sensational news – ‘rumours' that Malaika and Arbaaz, Bollywood's happily married couple, were headed for divorce. Turns out that there was no truth in the rumour.

Malaika & ArbaazIt was merely a publicity stunt for a fairness cream they were launching. But was the couple fair in leading on the entire country?

A suitably penitent Malaika tells us, "The episode has affected us badly. We have been written about as publicity and money hungry. But we don't need both these things and especially not this way. Pond's told us that it was going to be like a stage musical wherein we'd have a fight, break up and then remarry.

The story was then leaked and Arbaaz and I kept getting calls from the media (Pond's PR, though, insists it did no such thing). Thinking that we cannot reveal anything till the event happened, we kept telling them, ‘wait and watch', not realising that it's going to work against us and not Pond's. We've been called liars, but we are not. We're just actors who were given a script to act." But backfire it did. For, whatever the couple may choose to tell us now, they were very much a part of the whole ‘staged' affair. But Malaika insists that the company is equally to blame for what happened, and so, it would be wrong to single them out. "Pond's had decided on this publicity gimmick. Not Arbaaz and me."

But they're not alone in spinning sensational ‘personal' yarns, for the sake of the brands they promote. Not so long ago, a ‘phone conversation' between Priyanka Chopra and Sreesanth did the rounds, validated by suitable quotes from the latter about this ‘crush' he had on Priyanka. Finally, it was revealed to be a part of an ad campaign for Lux!

"Don't they have a sense of responsibility? After all, they must know that an entire nation follows their actions very closely," asks adman Prahlad Kakar. It would be tough to believe that they too do it for publicity. Money, then? "Even if it is for money, it is in very bad taste. Love, marriage, these things are still considered very sacred in our country," opines Kakar.

"And these things do backfire," he adds, recalling one of his own experiences, "When Hrithik was a newcomer, we did an ad for a cola company, making fun of one already on air by a rival company. We burnt our hands, lost essential brownie points with the audience." And adman Alyque Padamsee, now the chairman, London Institute of Corporate Training, says, "The client, the stars and the ad agency should be ashamed of themselves, and beware, the public doesn't takes to being fooled kindly. What if they decide to boycott the product? I am totally against mixing up the fantasy life of the celeb and his or her real life – whatever be the stakes."

And why do brands resort to such gimmicks to sell their products? Sociologist Rita Brara sees this as "a reflection of the very materialistic approach of modern India. Where emotions are increasingly losing their meaning, where everything is being commoditised. It is not a question of is it too much or too little, we can't do a value judgment here. But this is definitely a trend of advanced stages of capitalism, that we're all in right now," she says.

Alyque has the last word. "Stars who agree to do such phoney news items better be careful otherwise instead of being a voluptuous personality, Malaika will turn into a corny Rakhi Sawant who is always playing such games."