November 18, 2017
Image credit : Illustrative Image
Bengaluru: Actor Prakash Raj has been in the news lately more for his political statements than his films. And his latest comment about ‘Film Stars in politics ‘a tragedy’ in our country’ has come at a time when superstar Kamal Hassan is tip toeing into politics and Kannada actor Upendra is showing interest in joining the same. Though one can’t completely rubbish what he is saying( Amitabh Bachchan confessed that he wasn’t meant for politics and his skills lie only in acting) but it is not true entirely, look at Shatrughan Sinha, Smriti Irani, Hema Malini and Anupam Kher to believe otherwise. “He made a valid point. The intent of the actor should be scrutinised. The popularity of the actor shouldn’t be the only reason to cast vote in favour of him. He should be able to take the responsibility. Actors often live in a bubble with yes men around them. It is important for a politician to be in touch with the grass root level, understand his constituency and the problems and be able to resolve the issues with his able administrative and leadership qualities. Fans should make responsible and informed choices,” says Sriranjini Roy, a PR who manages many celebs in Bangalore.
It is interesting to hear from PR representatives who have a unique perspective because of their close association with the actors. Bollywood PR guru Dale Bhagwagar has not only handled the media for cinema greats like Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Shilpa Shetty, Vivek Oberoi and Govinda and films like the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Don and Farhan Akhtar-starrer Rock On, but also for controversial godman Swami Nithyananda and Global Advertisers; the patrons of godwoman Radhe Maa. He disagrees with Prakash Raj, “Human beings are themselves only when they are in their own company or in the company of a mirror. But while in the company of others, we are either behaving as per our culture, traditions, upbringing or self-perceived personality. Basically, we are all ‘acting’ according to the images we have formed of ourselves. We do the same on social media. We are living a perception of ourselves,” says the publicist.
“As far as professional actors and film stars go, they take this ‘acting’ to a whole new level with varied characters and role-play. Thus, for them, getting immersed into roles, or even professions, comes more naturally than most others. This makes it easier for actors to be in a profession like politics where they are catering to the same set of people that they impress though the medium of cinema. So most actors can take to politics like fish to water.”
But does that mean, they should enter a profession they are not well-trained to deal with. “Why not?,” asks the PR specialist. “None of our politicians come trained from birth. In fact, some of them goof around, till they polish their skills some day. Just look at Rahul Gandhi and how many chances he has been getting and you will get the gist. At least, most actors know how to handle crowds as they pros at it. They know more about looks, camera angles, speech orientation, quotable quotes dressing sense, facial expressions, and maintaining an attractive persona than most politicos would know. I would say, that makes them more refined candidates. Isn’t it?”
But what about ones like Kamal Haasan who give over-the-top statements causing national uproar. “That’s alright, as long as the list of statements is not so weird, so as to destroy their careers,” adds the public relations expert. “In fact, I often say — Good publicity is good. Bad publicity is better. Ugly publicity is the best… because it travels the fastest and hits the hardest. The worst of all is no publicity.”
“See, you have to understand how publicity works with masses,” Dale explains. “People and media, both like to hear big shocking statements. That’s what helps generate the noise. Once a person or brand arrives with a bang, the noise can be filtered. Then, the statements made can be more mature; smoothened with the help of a good PR and some constant imaging, branding and crisis management.”
“You can think of this current noise like a trailer before a film. It needs to catch the wave, ride it and bring in the audiences when the film releases. If the trailer fails to generate that hype and hoopla, the film will not be able to get those initials required for a strong start. So if people think that Kamal Haasan is shooting his mouth off, probably it could be a strategy with a plan.”
But then, what about Rajinikanth? He has been relatively quiet. “He does not need it as much,” Dale points out. “Rajinikanth’s innings in the last two decades have been much stronger than Kamal Haasan’s. Plus, his persona and style are also different. In PR too, no two brands can apply the same strategy. PR positioning is customized as per nature, standing and personality. What works for Kamal Haasan, may also not be right for Rajinikanth,” he concludes.