Media: A professional hazard for stars!


SUNDAY  Special

Mumbai, Oct 1 : Film stars are in a kind of love-hate relationship with the media. That is to say, they love to use the media at their whim and convenience, but when the media needs to fill up space and need a star to talk to, they are unapproachable! This is the trait stars of this era have developed.

It was not so when the real stars ruled from the 1960s till about the 1990s. Most journalists who did the film beat were known by their first names to stars. The media was not so widespread in those days and the mainstream media hardly cared for films or film stars. The only space they allowed for anything to do with films was to publish a review!

Some of the reviews published by the mainstream media mercilessly slaughtered films. The reviews ridiculed just about every film! Yet, these critics commended a huge following! They were the only writers whose bylines readers remembered in a country where no one bothers to check about the author of an article or a report.

The films, especially the stars, got coverage through a film magazines such as ‘Filmfare’ and ‘Star & Style’, besides language publications. These magazines catered to film fans and gossip, if any, was subtle.

Actors did not like their personal affairs to be made public. Their fans idolised them and anything negative would affect their image. A couple of columnists did indulge in writing gossip and there are instances of a particular star getting violent with them.

That was till the advent of the gossip magazines, notably ‘Stardust’ and ‘Cine Blitz’. They became popular instantly. Not only with readers but also with stars. These were the magazines the stars would go to any extent to get on to their covers. The publishers, on the other hand, wanted to put a star who was popular or in a controversy on the cover.

How did these magazines get inside information about stars which they published after adding a generous dose of masala? Well, it all came from fellow stars, especially female actors.

A film journalist wanted to interview a star. He was just a phone call away. Or, you asked his PR (every star had one) and it would be fixed. A star would cultivate a certain reporter in a magazine to make sure he was kept in the news continually. Simple strategies!

The stars as well as the film industry involved the media in every event and celebration. Be it the launch of a film, completion, success and a jubilee, they were all celebrated with parties with the media being a part. It was a normal practice to invite media folk if a film was being shot on an outdoor location.

The print media ruled because people believed in the printed word. Usually, the media gave no cause to readers to distrust it.

Then came television channels. For some time they banked on films and stars more than politics and politicians for their TRPs. Can you imagine a channel having slots not only for film promos, but also ones for a film’s dialogue and scenes, such as the programme ‘Kya Scene Hai’!

The scene got worse with the arrival of the digital media. The websites published star interviews and film reviews and film buffs commented in hundreds. There were online forums that discussed every aspect of a new release, including the reviews by various critics.

What they thought of certain critics was not always complimentary. But it was not as bad as it is now, with just about everyone turning a critic.

Hindi film stars had hordes of fans and the fan mail they received daily vouched for it. In fact, a star had to employ somebody to sort out hundreds of letters and send replies with, as was customary, an autographed picture of the star!

So far, the groups were following their own interests but, with the coming of Twitter and Facebook, such groups were formed by the stars. Now stars make their own fans and fan clubs. And they are used like a personal army.

Stars send some of these so-called fans to press previews of their film. These shows are organised for critics but fans are employed to clap and whistle. It is foolish to think that mediapersons won’t figure out what is happening and are going to be influenced by gimmicks. These fan armies, however, are used mainly to fight social media battles.

So, what is the scene now with stars and the media? It is bizarre, to put it mildly. As things stand today, the media is at the mercy of film stars and their PR agencies. Various publications, which never cared for films and stars, have started publishing advertorial supplements to cater to films and stars. The channels needed stars and became dependent on filmy content.

No media could displease the stars, for if a star expressed a dislike for a certain media, no more invites and cooperation. So much so, even the film awards presented every year by publications are left to stars to decide. After all, what is an award function without stars? They have to be kept in good humour. Sponsors do not spend crores for nothing.

The publishing houses can’t do much about the situation that prevails, so think of the humiliation field reporters go through. They don’t matter to stars, their camera and coverage does. The stars invite the media for an event at a particular time, but make them wait for hours before they turn up.

These are poor reporters. If only a star remembers how he was made to wait outside a film producer’s office when he was struggling for a break and knocking on the doors of production offices!

It has become a trend to invite the media and make them wait for a few hours. And why invite so-called fans to a media event? That mix leads to confusion beyond the capacity of PR men. Also, some media persons are planted to ask a couple of simple questions, instead of letting the real media do it! Let me now share some instances of how the media is treated.

An event for the film ‘Jawan’ began three hours late. Earlier, Shah Rukh Khan had invited the media for lunch to celebrate his birthday. That his film was due for release was not a coincidence. Khan made the media wait till 4p.m.! We call it tea time!

The ‘Dream Girl 2’ event started two hours late. So did the event for ‘Zara Hatke Zara Bachke’.

The trailer launch of ‘Adipurush’ started an hour late. As the ‘fans’ had also been invited, it was overcrowded and there were not enough 3-D glasses. The press guys had to take turns to use the glasses. Why can’t a separate event be planned for this breed called fans?

The organiser was considerate and screened a live video of Sara Ali Khan on the big screen.

The ‘Gadar 2’ trailer launch event was a bigger mess. First, the media was let into the auditorium and later asked to move out. Why? Because, the trailer was not checked before showing it to the media! The event was compered by a RJ, who is reported to have messed up with the Q&A!

There are numerous such examples whether the film is big or small. Yet, reporters who attend such events are happy. All that they need to do is manage a selfie with the stars!