Where does one draw the line between journalism and public relations (pr) in the film industry? I am really confused after having spent a good 30 years as a film journalist. I experienced this schizophrenia among several Mumbai journalists many summers ago. But it was not as brazen as it is in Kolkata. You really wouldn’t know which way to look to find our a hard-core film journalist who never jumps on to the pr bandwagon. The result is that there are very few hardcore public relations people in the film industry here because the film journalists are already doing their job for them.
A very big publishing house kicked out around seven correspondents some years ago for doubling up as pr people. One of them even ran a well-known pr firm while holding on to his cushy job as senior film journalist and editor. But today, the same newspaper group currently has a famous sports journalist who, in his professional capacity, is very close to our former cricket captain which is perfectly normal. What is NOT normal is that though he is not a film journalist, he holds enough clout in the house to dictate which film personality should feature on the cover of the colour supplement and which actor/actress should be splashed across the pages of the daily tabloid every other day. The result? If one celebrity ‘lends’ him a car, another books a holiday for him and his family in a hill station in summer. “Please look after them well,” I heard one celebrity tell the customer relations manager of a five-star resort while I was actually interviewing this celebrity. The best part is the brazenness of it all. No one is embarassed. No one is hiding anything. It is all right up there for everyone to see and experience. A press photographer blasts every film critic who dares to write bad reviews of films that feature his top actress client who is his only client anyway. Is he a rich man? Not at all, if his skeletal frame, the puckered eyebrows, the perennial frown are anything to go by. He does not realise that he is no longer a freelance photographer but is exclusively contracted to the star without a ‘contract’ to show it!
Jealous, am I? Maybe, a bit but on second thoughts, not at all. Yes, because I earn a pittance from honest, hard-core journalism though I am one of the most prolific freelancers around. No, because not being in the good books of stinking rich film and other celebrities helps me look into the mirror every morning without blinkng my eyes or wanting to look away. It helps me face everyone with a clear conscience though it also earns me enemies among stars who hate to see a bad review and block future interviews if I am the person interviewing the given person.
Thirty years and still counting. Sorry no pr for me. Freelance is just fine.
Responses from other cities are welcome.