Shootout at Wadala: A Creative PR Stunt Gone Wrong

The team behind Shootout at Wadala

While it is undoubtedly true that creativity is a must for planning any public relations stunt – and that a creative approach can help you stand out in a crowded media environment – one should also be careful not to unnecessarily attract controversy through creativity.

In March, Balaji Motion Pictures and White Feather Films, the producers of the upcoming Bollywood movie Shootout at Wadala, decided to attract the press by issuing unique press invites. Instead of the generic invite, they issued a mock letter from the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s Office inviting the press to an event regarding the “dangerous rise of organized crime in the city.” This, coupled with the two fake hawaldars they hired to hand-deliver these to media persons, was intended to generate substantial buzz for the movie.

That seemed like a great idea – sure, the press were glad to be invited in such a manner and early reviews noted the invite’s creativity, appropriateness, and attention to detail.

But before Balaji and White Feather were able to celebrate the success of their invites, things took a turn for the worse. The Mumbai Police registered cases of cheating and forgery against the film’s producer, Sanjay Gupta. By slapping sections 417 (cheating), 465 (forgery), 467 Forgery of valuable security, will, etc), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 474 (Having possession of document described in Section 466 or 467, knowing it to be forged and intending to use it as genuine) of the IPC and 68 of the IT Act, the Mumbai Police did not rule out arrests in the case.

Gupta and Balaji dismissed the whole affair as a misunderstanding – saying the 1981 date on the invite, the name of “Bombay Police,” and the mention of the film name on the invite clearly indicated to the press that this was fictional and promotional. The Police were clearly not impressed by the forgery and it just goes to show that, no matter how creative the approach, one should make sure not to court unwelcome controversy.

Intensified Police scrutiny on the film will probably not serve the film’s producers who thought a catchy invite might get good media play. However, with the controversy that this move has generated – and the numerous press inches that will be devoted to this latest encounter with the Mumbai Police – the question remains whether this publicity might just be a blessing in disguise for the film that will release on May 3rd.

Regardless, before planning any PR campaign, it is essential to gain proper permission and evaluate the positive and negative impact on all stakeholders. Closely considering the positive and negative tradeoffs of any campaign is key.

One thought on “Shootout at Wadala: A Creative PR Stunt Gone Wrong

  1. You have to be stupid to not see this kind of a legal action coming from the authorities. Not impressed even with the “creative” idea.

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