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Varalaxmi Sarathkumar kidnapping for film promotion: Bollywood debates the stunt

A movie promotional gimmick, announcing that actor Varalaxmi Sarathkumar was kidnapped, went wrong when the film faced backlash for it. Here’s what Bollywood celebs have to say about such publicity gimmicks.

bollywood Updated: Apr 20, 2017 13:16 IST
Nikita Saxena
Nikita Saxena
Hindustan Times
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar,Nikkil Murugan,Twitter
A screenshot of the tweet posted by film publicist Nikkil Murugan, saying that actor Varalaxmi Sarathkumar was kidnapped.(Twitter/onlynikil)

Tamil film publicist Nikkil Murugan sent Twitter into a tizzy on Tuesday, when he posted that Tamil actor Varalaxmi Sarathkumar had been kidnapped. He tweeted a picture of the actor gagged and tied to a bed, and captioned it : “#VaralaxmiGotKidnapped”.

Hours later, when panic levels were peaking, Varalaxmi tweeted a clarification saying it was all for a film promotion. “I’m absolutely fine.. thank u for ur’s a part of our movie promotion.. announcement at 6pm..!!” she wrote. The film’s team clarified through a tweet that it was a promotional stunt and Varalaxmi wasn’t aware of the move, but the backlash was already out there. The crew was slammed for trivialising kidnapping and using a crime to promote a film.

This incident comes just two months after the very real ordeal of a Malayalam actor, who was abducted and molested in a moving car. That may have made the outrage over Varalaxmi’s fake kidnapping fiercer.

Talking to HT City, Varalaxmi says that she wasn’t aware the team was pulling such a stunt. “I had no clue that such a tweet was being posted. I was in Delhi for a campaign at that very moment. It was only when I got a call telling me that something of this sort had happened, that I found out,” she tells us. “The crew had discussed this move earlier, and I had told them not to go ahead with it. But it’s done now. It’s okay, this is all a part of showbiz.”

However, the incident has thrown up the question: how far is too far when it comes to movie promotional gimmicks? Commenting on the stunt by Varalaxmi Sarathkumar’s film crew, Bollywood personalities and publicists debate whether faking a crime is the right way to catch the potential audience’s attention.

Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt feels that promotional gimmicks ultimately don’t do much for promotion. (Yogen hShah)
Everyone wants to sell their wares in a cluttered marketing space, but no one should do illegal things. - Vikram Bhatt

Filmmaker Vikram Bhatt says, “Everyone wants to sell their wares in a cluttered marketing space, but no one should do illegal things. Promotions are about creating awareness. While such gimmicks may create some intrigue, it doesn’t do much for promotion.”

Actor Richa Chadha says that people’s personal health and safety should not be compromised. (Waseem gashroo/HT Photo)
There’s a fine line that needn’t be crossed. - Richa Chadha

Actor Richa Chadha believes that the “all is fair in love, war and promotions” policy should stay within a limit. “People’s personal health and safety should not be compromised. There’s a fine line that needn’t be crossed,” she says.

Actor Saqib Saleem says that misleading anyone is wrong. (IANS)
Misleading anyone or creating a false perception is wrong. - Saqib Saleem

Actor Saqib Saleem is against using a falsehood to publicise a film or a show. “Misleading anyone or creating a false perception is wrong. People shouldn’t spread something untrue to promote a film. There are other ways to do that,” he says.

Film publicist Parag Desai says that ultimately it’s the film’s content that ensures a film’s success, rather than the publicity spike following such a gimmick. “There may be some buzz after such a gimmick, and the film may get some attention, but finally, it’s the content that works for a film,” he says.

Diksha Punjabi, another film publicist, is of a different view. She says that while such a move may backfire, it may work, too. “People may not accept being fooled, but youngsters may also think that the filmmakers managed to pull of something really cool and crazy. In the end, it all depends on how much faith audiences have in a filmmaker,” she says.

Film publicist Abhishek Thukral feels that such gimmicks never assure a film’s success, they only inspire some memes. “There is a line that one needs to draw,” he says. “Such moves worked six or seven years ago; now people can tell bullshit and reality apart. And then memes follow really quickly.”

However, publicist Vasundhara Prasad believes that these gimmicks do work in generating awareness. “They may be misleading, but these gimmicks do work,” she says. “There may be some people who wouldn’t know about a film at all, and then a gimmick of this nature would raise awareness about the movie among the public.”

This is not a first
  • There were reports in 2008 that actor couple Malaika Arora Khan and Arbaaz Khan (now estranged) had broken up. Later, this turned out to be a publicity stunt pulled for a skin cream brand promotion.
  • In 1995, Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt had floated rumours of actor Manisha Koirala being murdered. However, they forgot to inform the actor herself and needless to say, mayhem ensued.
  • Rumours of an affair between actors Pulkit Samrat and Yami Gautam turned out to be fabricated for a film. However, the rumours didn’t do much for the film.

First Published: Apr 20, 2017 12:54 IST