While basking in the success of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, Kartik was also reported to have replaced Akshay Kumar in the Housefull franchise. The actor wasted no time and rubbished the reports as merely rumours. “Koi mujhse bhi poochega meri agli picture kaunsi hai? Baseless. (Will anyone even bother to ask me what my next film is),” he tweeted.
Another big one that surfaced last week was about Abhishek Bachchan joining the YRF’s spy universe, comprising of Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan, as Dhoom’s Jai Dixit. The reports turned out to be nothing more than a speculation as sources confirmed Aditya Chopra will never merge the two because he intends to grow them separately. Evidently, the spy universe is a world of super spies, while Dhoom is a world of anti-establishment anti-heroes. Highly unlikely for the two worlds to come together.
Not long ago, a picture posted by Urvashi Rautela gave rise to rumours of her joining the cast of Rishab Shetty’s Kantara 2, only to be dismissed soon by a source close to production who clarified that the rumours are baseless. Well, in this case it was Urvashi’s caption to be blamed – “#KANTARA 2 @rishabshettyofficial @hombalefilms loading #RS.” Turned out the actress just happened to be on the same premises as Rishab Shetty, where she requested to meet him and clicked the picture.
Kartik seems to be controversy’s favourite child. Another time when he made headlines thanks to baseless rumours was right after the success of Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2. Reports suggested after ending the dry spell at the Hindi box office after the pandemic, Kartik has hiked his fees. It was only after he tweeted a clarification and producer Bhushan Kumar refuted the allegations that the rumours died down. Kartik is a very grounded actor who does not run after money, claimed Kumar who also backed his next film Shehzada.
Also prey to a similar rumour was Tiger Shroff for his collaboration with Karan Johar for his much-talked about project Screw Dheela. Rumours were rife that the film has been shelved as KJo was unable to agree with Tiger on his Rs 30 crore fee for the film. A source close to the project had revealed to ETimes that this rumour, like all previous versions, is not true.
Karan Johar’s another film Takht has been in the limbo for the longest time making room for numerous speculations around the project. Reports suggested KJo was in talks with LYCA Productions “but the two could not reach a common ground and the deal was called off.” KJo dismissed the rumour with a sternly worded tweet. “News articles and speculations making the rounds about the acquisition of Takht are baseless and untrue! I would request media houses to focus on more relevant and critical issues that plague our country and refrain from incorrect reportage,” he wrote.
Impressed by the chemistry between Kriti Sanon and Prabhas at the teaser launch of Adipurush, fans started shipping the duo as a couple. Social media has been abuzz with rumours of romance between the two and going so far as to speculate the two are planning to tie the knot. Kriti cleared the air and said that these reports are baseless. She issued a statement brushing the rumours aside on Instagram, “Its neither Pyaar, nor PR. Our Bhediya just went a little too wild on a reality show. And his fun banter led to some Howl-arious rumours. Before some portal announces my wedding date-let me burst your bubble. The rumours are ABSOLUTELY baseless!”
In today’s #BigStory, we explore the origin of these rumours, the tendency of rumour mongers, the concept of planting the rumours for publicity, its impact on the project and how makers deal with such baseless speculations. Read on.
Rumours and gossips have been around in the tinsel town since the beginning. The earliest can possibly be dated back to 1981 when Jeetendra, Hema Malini and Parveen Babi starrer action thriller Meri Awaaz Suno was said to be banned by the censor board. The film got extra shows because of these rumours, the shows began as early as 9 am. Goes without saying these were just rumours and the film never got banned. Another popular one in the yesteryear was that Amitabh Bachchan would come back alive from being dead in Sholay.
As film historian Pavan Jha tells us, this kind of change happened in Rajendra Kumar’s Aan Baan. “They showed the actor dying, but then it was revived with a happy ending. Similarly, Rajesh Khanna’s death in Bahaaron Ke Sapne was also revived with a happy ending. The film clicked because of that. Although films in which Rajesh Khanna dies were often successful, Bahaaron Ke Sapne was an exception.”
Senior entertainment journalist Dilip Thakur recalls, “The biggest rumour of the time was that Rajesh Khanna was going to retire. Nobody knew how that rumour spread because Khanna was at the peak of his career. The rumour created a sympathy wave about Rajesh Khanna. But unfortunately, the superstar’s films started flopping at the box office. Then those same people said that Khanna should definitely retire. That was a bad rumour.”
“Today, there’s no difference between news and rumours,” he remarks. “Earlier, people used to take these things seriously. Even I went to watch a 9 am show of Meri Awaaz Suno for the first time in my life. Back in time, audiences used to take Hindi cinema seriously and used to be very emotional about it. Today, it has become a topic for time-pass. People don’t believe that it might be true no matter what comes out in the news. Today’s generation doesn’t find these news items thrilling.”
Times have changed for the entertainment industry. Media interactions of stars are controlled by publicity managers. More often than not, rumours are strategically planted around the release of a film so as to attract more eyeballs and generate curiosity.
Dr Anusha Srinivasan Iyer, Founder of Naarad PR & Image Strategists says, “Well, stars teaming with their publicists, are as responsible in dishing out media masala. Sets were said to be worth crores and the media and masses lapped it up. Same goes for ‘lust good friends’ to ‘just good friends’ stories. Earlier fanzines used to cook up stories to spice up headlines. Now every individual with a social media handle proclaims himself an influencer. We wrote stories on nobodies wearing no clothes and then paid ‘influencers’ to make them ‘somebodies’. Actresses walk to the airport and return home claiming to walk with clothes worth 42 lakh! Or 25 kg, three crore worth ghagra on sets, that are ridiculously viralled! When there is demand for fiction, stories will only be penned. There is also a trend to spread baseless rumours to malign stars. These should be nipped in the bud.”
Pawan Jha adds, “It used to happen earlier as well. A film is a product and one can do anything to sell a product. Back in the day there was this film Criminal for which they printed an ad that the heroine had been arrested. People assumed it was true and later it was revealed that it was just a promotional gimmick. In times of social media, information catches fire very quickly. Everyone can comment and add to engagement on social media. Earlier there used to be a nexus between the stars and the media. Now they can directly reach their audience.”
“Maximum masala is PR generated,” says Anusha. “And it works! Nobody questions why someone can claim to be the World’s Youngest Superstar or keep talking of love, marriage, getting beaten up, engineer rifts and makeups, and fool the masses with stories!”
“Earlier the rumours wouldn’t affect the business of a film that much, but now in times of social media, it takes no time for information to travel. The audience gets instant feedback about the film and its box office business. Social media has indeed been a game changer. Gimmicks definitely give publicity to a film. When so much is at stake, one will go the extra mile and even create rumours if it helps the film,” adds Pavan.
Impact of baseless rumours
Planted rumours may generate buzz around a film, but the audience today is smart enough to see through a gimmick. The result can thus be both positive and negative.
Filmmaker Aanand L Rai has seen and dealt with several rumours surfacing around his films like Shah Rukh Khan starrer Zero, Akshay Kumar starrer Raksha Bandhan among others. “In the last 5 years, we have seen people are reacting and it is going overboard,” he says. “We have lost the sync that used to be there between the makers and the media. In a bid to file stories, even the media is on the lookout for controversial angles. There is so much competition in everybody’s head that we are actually thriving on negativity. It is not healthy and complicates things for everybody. It’s not that we can survive without the media or the media can survive without us. We have to go hand in hand. But at that very moment it is about survival that becomes a problem for us.”
“A lot of things were said before the release of Zero. A week before the release when nobody had seen the film, there was a lot of negativity. A bit around Raksha Bandhan also. It does not majorly impact a film’s business, but it impacts the atmosphere with so much negativity. It is not healthy for any creative process. It becomes depressing. If Kartik is seen exiting my office, it does not necessarily mean that he is doing my film, no? If I am meeting an actor, it is not necessarily about a film,” he adds.
Dealing with rumours
Director Anees Bazmee is a hot topic of discussion for Hera Pheri. Several other of his films like No Entry Mein Entry, Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 have fallen prey to baseless, uncorroborated speculations. “I don’t get affected by these rumours as my focus is on finishing the work,” he says. “I don’t pay heed to rumours. As long as we are famous, we will be spoken of. There is little that we can do about it. There were so many rumours around Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2 that Tabu has quit the film, among so many other things. Why should we go around giving explanations?”
Anusha recalls the couple of times when she received disturbing requests from the media for her client. “It is painful when one of your clients is hospitalised, and everyone calls everyday to follow up on death!” she says. “It is very hurtful and insensitive and inhuman to say the least! 2 am calls on death to get the first story out is crazy! I even got a call from someone who asked if the sister if the celeb hospitalised can speak that evening in case the celeb dies by night! These are things I find very hurtful personally. Everyone should be given the space when they need it. But in the case of films, don’t fuel the fire. The less you retort, the earlier the rumour is doused.”
Aanand L Rai adds, “Yeh rumours humpe bhari padte hain because we are insecure. Somebody says something about us and we get flabbergasted and we start doing a lot of things around it. So I feel many a times it is better to let things be. It is not a big deal. If there are rumours, you deny it and be quiet. But then you put a lot of machinery to negate it. That backfires. We over emphasise and over do on clarifying things.”
Anusha perfectly sums it up and says, “Laugh and move on. If you want to know if it is raining, don’t check your mobile. Look out of the window instead!”