A few decades ago, managing actors meant handling their shooting schedules but today celebrity managers are the new powerhouses,often dictating terms.
Recently, Hema Malini and her daughter Esha Deol walked the ramp at the Lakme Fashion Week for designer Sanjukta Dutta. After the event, Hema and Esha chatted with the media and talk veered towards Esha’s short-film Cakewalk. Before the actress could respond, the coordinator intervened asking the media to restrict the questions. Upset by the highhandedness, Esha walked off while the designer was left embarrassed. When we got in touch with Hema Malini, she felt that the coordinator shouldn’t have got so antsy about it. “The media doesn’t get a chance to ask us about our work, whenever they want. So no harm if they pick a specific venue and event to ask us about activities that are not related to the event,” she said. The incident has caught the organisers in the wrong foot and left them embarrassed. “Guest experience at Fashion Week is very important to us. We regret the inconvenience caused to Hemaji and Esha Deol in any way. We look forward to hosting them again,” said the spokesperson for Lakme Fashion Week. Sources present say that since it was a multi-designer show, the organisers wanted to wait for the other designers to come for the post-show conference, the reason why they interrupted Esha. But many publicists feel that at events, sometimes, the purpose of the gathering gets lost because of questions that are completely unrelated to the event. Aamina Simone, communications manager for fashion designer Rahul Mishra, feels it’s important for publicists and managers to mediate interactions with the media since there is a scope for anything to be blown out of proportion. “As a publicist, your priority is to have your client’s best interest in mind but it’s easy to get so caught up in the job where you might even forget common courtesy. Such is the job — extremely demanding and high pressure; so I don’t blame the PR in this situation, she was clearly just doing the job,” she points out.
In the last few years, celebrity management has come a long way — from a one-person show to a full-fledged corporate set up with talent management agencies. Reminiscing on his hey-days, actor Shatrughan Sinha feels that nowadays, the PR-manager team wields too much power. “In the past, many heroines wouldn’t open their mouths without their mothers’ permission. Now the same is happening with the new generation of stars who pay a huge amount of money to these PR companies to build and protect their image. There’s no harm in that unless you allow these image-makers to take over your lives. This is sadly happening with many stars,” he says.
But Hema Upadhyay of 1H Media Consultants believes that personal touch still exists and a publicist’s job is to smoothen the process and streamline communication for a celebrity. “Ideally there shouldn’t be any interference between a journalist and celeb during an interview. Most celebrities are capable of handling media queries and know how to respond. You can always say ‘I don’t know about this’ or ‘I would not like to comment’,” But trade analyst Amod Mehra agrees and feels that most stars have been reduced to mere puppets in the hands of their marketing teams. “The marketing team decides how to project and protect a star. Eight out of 10 times, their perception of what is right for a star is wrong,” he says. Often, the one who has to adhere to diktats are the ones who are yet to find their feet in the industry. “I have got contracts from PRs that ask me to consult them before making any comment. In fact, I am told to take the question from the journalist and then consult the PR before sending across my answers. They call it the corporate way of answering things so that the words are not used out of context,” says a young actor, requesting anonymity. But Shamita Mazumder Ganguly, Sr PRO, Spice PR, refutes this claim. “The publicist bridges the gap between the media and the star. There has to be a healthy discussion between the publicist and the celebrity beforehand about what exactly has to go out in the media. Strings are interconnected amongst the star, publicist and the media, there no such thing like setting up of rules or boundaries for the celebrity,” she says.