Bollywood PR guru Dale Bhagwagar rips through the TRP myth of Bigg Boss
Bollywood’s only PR guru Dale Bhagwagar is an authority on Bigg Boss, simply because he has handled PR for not one, two, or ten — but for a full 20 contestants who have been on the show since its inception. We ask the Bigg Boss PR specialist some tough questions.
Indian audience, specially the youth, is changing fast. People are largely watching shows and movies on OTT (Over The Top) platforms? Do you think this is the reason behind low TRPs (Total Rating Points) for Bigg Boss?
Dale Bhagwagar: My feeling is that Bigg Boss TRPs fluctuate for many reasons. The first among them is the show’s deviation from the core format. Please understand, Bigg Boss began as a hardcore reality show. Then over a period of time, probably to heighten the drama quotient, many tasks and entertainment props were introduced. That makes it look like any other game show now. The ‘reality’ element has gone down, and the viewer understands that.
There is no control on Twitter, just people playing with emotions and mostly wasting their energies and time. But for a manipulative PR like me, Twitter feels like my circus, with me as its ringmaster.
The other aspect is that Bigg Boss is not available on the most popular web platform YouTube. Then, some journalists say they do not receive the regular updates like daily synopsis and pictures. So they have to resort to lifting content. This may be hampering the hype.
All these and many more, could be the reasons ultimately responsible for the TRP fluctuations. But TRP is a game of numbers and Bigg Boss can play it better. Remember Bob Dylan’s song “The Times Are A Changin”? The world is changing fast and I feel BB needs to keep pace. I may be wrong, but this is what I have come to understand over a period of time.
Most of the top contenders and past Bigg Boss winners are out of the entertainment industry by now. No one talks about them. Why do they fade away?
Dale Bhagwagar: That’s a good question and many have tried to answer it before, but missed the mark. I believe that the biggest reason is that most of the Bigg Boss participants do not understand PR.
So they either go into the show without hiring a publicist, or think they can rely on their Twitter fans to do the job. Both methods are PR disasters. One needs a professional to spin and maneuver through the ups and downs that Bigg Boss Housemates face almost on a daily basis inside the show.
A solid crisis management exercise in mainstream media, coupled with hype, can help contestants sail through with ease. My Bigg Boss PR clients including Aarya Babbar, Aman Verma, Amar Upadhyay, Kashmera Shah, Mandana Karimi, Pooja Misrra, Rahul Mahajan, Rakhi Sawant, Sambhavna Seth and Sonali Raut have all benefitted with a strong PR presence. But then, many BB contestants completely fail to understand the need for PR. Some even become arrogant by the time they come out of the show.
Many BB contestants face depression. Some come out of it. Others destroy their careers due to it. It's sad. But it's the ugly truth.
They think that by being on national television for three months and sharing screen space with megastar host Salman Khan has made them a star. So they start behaving like one. Then they don’t get work and the media hype starts dying after the show ends. In a few months they are back to square one and start fading into oblivion.
That is the time they think of being proactive and about hiring a good PR to publicize themselves. But by then, it’s too late. No media is interested to speak about them. Many BB contestants face depression in this phase. Some come out of it. Others destroy their careers due to it. It’s sad. But it’s the ugly truth.
According to you, who have been the highest paid contestants on Bigg Boss?
Dale Bhagwagar: In my opinion, Navjot Singh Sidhu was the highest paid. I think other highly paid contestants could include Anup Jalota, Pamela Anderson, The Great Khali, Hina Khan, Tanisha Mukherjee, Rahul Dev and Shweta Tiwari. Contrary to general public opinion, I don’t believe Shilpa Shinde was among the highest paid. That news could have been a PR plug.
Do you think the Twitterati does justice to Bigg Boss?
Dale Bhagwagar: No, but Twitter plays an important role in forming and maneuvering public opinion, which is essential for PR. There are fan clubs formed for most top contestants and the best part is that they tag themselves and fight with each other like cats and dogs.
This activity happens not only throughout the season, but a lot of Twitterati even defends their favourite contestants for years after they have won or lost on Bigg Boss. From a PR point of view, the interesting part is that people’s emotions can be swayed very easily through Twitter.
Like for example, there is this Twitter handle called @HerdHUSH which notoriously tries to deviate attention of many gullible Bigg Boss fans throughout the seasons. Some people even think it’s me in disguise. LoL.
Sometimes the ID sounds reasonable, sometimes intellectual and sometimes like a duffer talking from the hat. At times, this handle sounds like a PR person trying to manipulate public opinion from behind the curtain. There are many such dubious nameless handles on Twitter, relentlessly working day and night to fulfill ‘agendas’… or should I say hidden agendas.
With such people on Twitter, it’s hard to think of any journalistic or PR ethics. There is no control on Twitter, just people playing with emotions and mostly wasting their energies and time. But for a manipulative PR like me, Twitter feels like my circus, with me as its ringmaster.
Must say, that’s a very interesting observation. And it’s surprising that you so coolly admit the fact that you are a media manipulator. Can you name 12 contestants from previous seasons who can be put together once again in a season to set the TRP charts on fire?
Dale Bhagwagar: Ha ha! As far as I know, Bigg Boss does not repeat contestants and even if they do, those are either special guests or don’t really make it to the end of the show. However, since you’ve asked me the question, I will name my choice of 12. Here we go: Aksahdeep Saigal, Amar Upadhyay, Armaan Kohli, Diandra Soares, Gautam Gulati, Imam Siddiqui, Mandana Karimi, Mandeep Bevli, Pooja Bedi, Rahul Mahajan, Raja Choudhary and Shweta Tiwari, with Dolly Bindra, Kamal Rashid Khan, Sapna Bhavnani as Wild card entries.
Who do you think have the best chances for winning Bigg Boss 13 and why?
Dale Bhagwagar: Shenaz Gill is quite a character and that makes for good entertainment. Whether she can convert that into votes, remains to be seen. Paras Chhabra has been playing well too. His friendship with Mahira Sharma has given her a stable footing. Talking about Mahira, she’s a now-on now-off contestant and only provides drama in installments. But somehow I feel, she can be a dark horse if she really wants to. Asim Riaz has been a good friend to Siddharth Shukla and has played the dosti part well, but there’s not much to him unless he decides to come completely on his own. Rashmi Desai is a strong contender for being a cool package of drama and decent entertainment. But she should immediately come out of her Siddharth-fascination and get brownie points for her own personality. Now coming to Siddharth, he seems to attract the wrong kind of attention all the time, which makes him a perfect TRP-hogger. If he wins Bigg Boss, the Boss will be the loser.