Meet Prabhat Choudhary. The 39-year-old is the man behind Baahubali’s phenomenal success, unconventional launch of Sara Ali Khan, the DeepVeer wedding, and is someone whose job is to manage the media interests of India’s biggest stars.
In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, Prabhat, the founder of Spice PR and digital marketing agency Entropy, opens up on being one of the most sought-after brand strategists in Bollywood and explains how he juggles between brand Shah Rukh Khan and brand Radhika Apte.
You have to deal with both the public and stars. How do you manage their expectations simultaneously?
What is our job? What do we actually do? Generating a certain kind of coverage and a conversation about an influencer is the basic demand of my profession. We are basically what you call ‘intangible wealth managers.’ Not trying to sound too fancy here. But the brand and the idea of who you are – that is what we manage. Deepika Padukone’s idea is intangible. What comes to your mind when you think of her or an Aamir Khan? It also primarily depends on what they do and how do they conduct themselves. What is the narrative around them? Our interference is in that narrative and working closely with it. Connecting them with people like yourself who will take and publish their interview forms the tiniest bit of the whole. How does the brand articulate itself? How Deepika is also traditional while being an extremely contemporary woman, that is what her audience should know and be interested in. For instance, last year she took her mother to Haridwar, so a middle-class daughter narrative is absolutely present in her case. So the expectation is whether that intangible wealth has grown or not with time.
What does a day in your life look like?
Every day is unique and a challenge. The day basically begins with a lot of phone conversations to deal with the agenda of the day. My job profile is extremely fluid. It’s all about reacting to the day’s development, much like yours in that sense.
You and your team helped strategise the PR of Baahubali films. Tell us something about the experience.
I was called to handle this one summer day of 2013. I realised on that day itself that it was going to be a very special project. For a lot of people the film was a miracle, but that miracle was created. It was a two-part story, where we knew that the origin story would connect, but with the second movie, we had an inkling that it might just create history. We had a meeting with SS Rajamouli in Hyderabad and we came to the conclusion that we wanted to unify India cinematically. A Telugu movie being the highest grossing film in Punjab in the history of that state is a huge thing. Now what’s the first thing you remember hearing about Baahubali? That it’s one of the most expensive films being made in the country. So, that’s how you break barriers and get everybody involved. People will be invested if you talk about anything inclusively.
We did other things as well to advertise the film. These were small but significant steps. We had a dosa named after Baahubali. We had a thaali named after the film in Gujarat. Then our sole target was to focus on festivals. We even endorsed a Baahubali cracker. So, the approach to the project was very ‘Indian.’ The point was to eventually get everybody involved in that discussion so that the film is recognised as an Indian film, and not just a south Indian film. Nothing happens by accident.
In a sea of growing stars, how do you decide who you want to represent?
We have been accused of being elitist, but that’s not the case at all. The whole point is about collaborating with people who have performed well. A very good example would be Radhika Apte. We started working with her three years ago and we have worked extremely hard on her. She has backed it up with an enviable body of work she has produced over time.
India has started to exist in compartments and these compartments need to be catered to very specifically. So managing the interests of SRK and Radhika Apte is different owing to obvious reasons. Understanding what makes them unique is a part of our job. At the end of the day, we just want to be versatile. You also have to be conversant with the digital market and the niche publications as well to know what’s going on where.
Managing films and stars is fine. But how do you make sense of an event like Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s wedding?
Our job has become very social in nature, whether it is a MeToo case or a wedding. The thing to realise is that as public figures, the stars have become accountable to people. Whether you want it or not is not the point. So in case of Deepika and Ranveer’s wedding, there was a certain kind of expectation that they had to live up to as stars and we were quite conscious of that. Getting married is a social obligation and a social event, so we wanted to be very correct in our approach to it.
What is it like dealing with a potential star? How does a star launch work?
Handling a potential star like Sara Ali Khan is a different ball game altogether. We had a different kind of launch planned for her, but it worked because it complimented her personality. She has energy. She has confidence and her own perspective on things. So we decided things accordingly, to bring the best part out of her and let her make her own connections so that things remain honest. We wanted her to meet as many people as possible because ‘experiencing’ her in person is another thing. It’s all about understanding the celebrity and their persona.
Tell us about one person you are really eager to work with.
I would really love to collaborate with Ranbir Kapoor. He is not on social media, but there is just so much potential there. He is already a hit with the crowd but there is always so much that can be done and developed, especially in case of a young star like Ranbir.