Recently,in order to promote his latest,Khatta Meetha,Akshay Kumar went to a Mumbai hospital to meet the ailing R K Laxman. Since Akshay plays a common man in the Priyadarshan comedy,meeting the legendary creator of the “common man” had the makings of a swell publicity gimmick.
But the gimmick fell flat — pictures of a grinning Akshay next to the frail cartoonist unleashed a flood of debates and discussions on social networking sites. A prominent film reviewer called Akshay a “jackass”. Amitabh Bachchan took up for his colleague and reprimanded the journalist for his choice of words. A Twitter battle ensued between the two,and Akshay put in an explanatory tweet himself.
While the use of the word jackass might have been a bit harsh,Akshays stunt does mark a new low in film promotion.
A section of the opinion in Bollywood agrees that this was an unpleasant gimmick. There are certain sacred areas that are best left untouched when it comes to selling a movie,and hospitals are one of them. More so if the person is so unwell that he doesnt even recognise the actor (as reported in the newspaper article accompanying the picture). Of course,there are some who feel it’s the paper — and not Akshay — that is really to blame.
In his tweet to Bachchan,Akshay said: “As usual people are so quick to judge situations. I was invited by the cartoonists family and press to visit him in the hospital,as they thought it would be nice to meet the man that is bringing to life his legendary comic. And anyone who see’s my smile by his bedside in any other way other than love has a cold judgmental heart and I can only pity them.”
Akshay is right when he says that its all about judgement. But even he will know that if anybodys image has taken a beating in this entire jackass-gate then it is his. Since hes also the producer of the film,he cant blame anyone but himself.
Granted that in Bollywood today,its all about grabbing eyeballs. Publicity and marketing budgets are increasing day by day. Everybody is thinking of new and innovative ideas to create awareness about their movie. Aamir Khan even gave haircuts to his fans before Ghajini. The marketing of Ghajini incidentally,is now being taught at IIM-A.
As a communication tool,film promotion is powerful. But like they say,with great power comes great responsibility,and a little caution is indeed recommended. For sometimes,some strategies boomerang and they leave a khatta taste.