Want a birthday wish from your favourite celeb? These platforms can help

You can now pay to get a personalised video from a celebrity. Take a look at those signing up on both sides.
Shipra Dubey, 30, a resident of Delhi, watches a birthday video greeting from singer Shaan, gifted to her by her husband in September.(Abhinay Dubey)
Shipra Dubey, 30, a resident of Delhi, watches a birthday video greeting from singer Shaan, gifted to her by her husband in September.(Abhinay Dubey)
Updated on Oct 11, 2020 04:55 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByVanessa Viegas

Shaan wishing your wife on her birthday; Saina Nehwal telling your exhausted team they’re doing a great job; a Donald Trump lookalike popping up at an engagement ceremony, to wish the couple the kind of happiness he and Melania enjoy — these are some of the moments that shoutout agencies are helping make happen, for a fee.

It’s a trend that began in the US four years ago, when a company called Cameo began to offer personalised greetings, or shoutouts, from celebrities, via call or video, for a price. In India, agencies such as GoNuts, Unlu, Tring, Celebyte, Wysh and Fanjara have popped up over the past year, to do the same.

Among the celebrities listed are singers Shaan, Shankar Mahadevan, Kailash Kher and Leslie Lewis; badminton pro Nehwal; TV personalities Kiku Sharda, Ronit Roy, Sudha Chandran, even Sima Taparia from the viral Netflix show Indian Matchmaking; writer Chetan Bhagat; veteran actors Shakti Kapoor and Prem Chopra; cricketers Robin Uthappa and Jhonty Rhodes; wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat; even chef Ranveer Brar.

GoNuts, has about 700 celebrities on its platform. For a smaller price than the actual celebs, you can opt for a lookalike — options include doppelgangers for Salman Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, and US President Trump.

Susmita Singh Deo, 45, a licensing executive, booked a Trump lookalike for her cousin’s engagement ceremony hosted in Jaipur this July. “It was just hilarious,” she says. “He started the video by saying he was the greatest president the United States had ever had, then gave the couple his blessing and compared their union to his and Melania’s.”

Abhinay Dubey is the one who got Shaan to wish his wife, Shipra, on September 15, her 30th birthday. What would have been a rather staid stay-at-home affair lit up when the video he’d requested turned up in her inbox.

“It was just 45 seconds long, but it was enough to lift her mood, and it’s something she’ll have for life,” he says. “Shaan greeted everyone, wished her for her 30th, and even sang one of her favourite songs, Jab Se Tere Naina, in his velvety voice.” Dubey, 30, an IT executive from Delhi, paid 15,000 for the pre-recorded video via GoNuts.

“There have been requests for messages to motivate employees, bring hope to someone tackling an illness. We want to be a platform for human connection and communication,” says Joji George, co-founder of GoNuts.

On Celebyte, fans can choose from a host of options — live video calls, pre-recorded video messages, a phone chat. Bhavin Nandha, 36, a businessman from Nagpur, has booked two experiences so far. “Earlier, I requested a video by the TV actor Sushant Singh, for a friend. This time, it was a video message from TV actress Upasana Singh for my dad, because he has always loved her work,” Nandha says. “Not only did she wish him on his birthday, she even read out a poem for him. I didn’t ask for this so the personal touch was very nice.” This video cost 2,000.

“Fans look for access and celebrities want to monetise their time. Our role is to cater to both,” says Sanjay Tripathy, Co-founder and CEO of Celebyte.

V Gada, 31, a chartered accountant from Ahmedabad, reached out to another agency, Unlu, when she wanted to make her own work farewell more memorable. She was leaving a company she’d worked at for six years. “Instead of a standard goodbye email, Unlu got one of my favourite actors, Sharman Joshi, to voice my thoughts and best wishes on video,” she says.

Bhawna Sethi, 25, requested the Nehwal video for her team. “I was sure she would have an impact. Nehwal congratulated the team on some achievements that I had requested her to mention and appreciated their hard work and mentioned that the time has come for all of us to rise and shine,” she says. The video was 1 minute long and cost 20,000.

The celebrities say it’s a chance to reach out to fans more directly than even Twitter and Instagram allow. “I can be part of special moments, family celebrations, breaking all sorts of barrier,” says Shankar Mahadevan. “In this way I feel I can give back some of the love I receive. And the requests have been so varied, it’s heart-warming — from wishing an 80-year-old on her birthday to reading out a poem written by an aspiring author for Covid warriors.”

4 SIMPLE RULES

Now or never: A request typically takes 24 to 48 hours from payment to delivery. If not completed within a week, the request times out and a refund is issued.

Careful what you wish for: If a request is flagged as profanity and rejected, on some sites you won’t get a refund. In some cases, you might even be blacklisted.

Speak now… There are no do-overs. Changed your mind about what you want the celeb to say? Desperately need fresh details added? This isn’t Amazon. In most cases, no changes to an existing order will be made.

Messages are delivered via WhatsApp and email. You’re free to save and share, but only for personal, non-commercial use. All copyright remains with the artist and / or the agency.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021