Madhuri, Deepika, Gauhar — How everyone in Bollywood is getting the same PR tip






Usually, Instagram stars and YouTube influencers show up in movies or Netflix series. In Bollywood, the trend is going the opposite way.

Madhuri Dixit is showing you what’s in her bag, Deepika Padukone is belting out Instagram reels faster than fans can keep up, and TV actor Gauhar Khan is showing us her wedding story on YouTube. Not to be left behind, Shah Rukh Khan has trended on Twitter yet again this week with his AMA — Ask Me Anything — round.

From YouTube channels, Instagram reels to Twitter, Bollywood celebrities seem to have finally realised the power of social media. It’s bigger than any brand endorsement — it’s the Holy Grail of fame.

It’s a universally acknowledged truth that you need to have your social media game ‘on fleek’ if you are a public personality. Weirdly, though, Bollywood has always played catch-up in this regard. But 2020 — the year the world locked down — reminded most of the harsh reality of fame: Out of sight, out of mind.

Essentially, the celebrity cultural revolution that swept the West around 2015, when social media was the be-all and end-all to being relevant, seems to have finally hit Bollywood. And it’s not just the movie stars, TV actors too have realised the potential of this medium. Actors and spouses Dipika Kakkar Ibrahim and Shoaib Ibrahim both have separate YouTube channels with 1 million subscribers each.

Gone are the days when being a celebrity meant that you had to stay on a pedestal and away from the regular folks. Stardust and Femina are gone. Now, it’s all about sharing as much of one’s life as possible — revealing the person outside the movie screen.

There is a reason Kim Kardashian is arguably the most popular celebrity in the world.

Like American entrepreneur Scott D. Cook once said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”

Bollywood and social media

The video platform YouTube seems to be a favourite for Bollywood and it also doesn’t hurt that it is monetised. Prominent Bollywood celebrities like Madhuri Dixit, Alia Bhatt, Kartik Aaryan, Jacqueline Fernandes, Neha Kakkar, Shilpa Rao all have channels with a fairly large following.

And despite the fairly basic rehashed content, compared to those who make videos on YouTube for a living, their celebrity manages to garner millions of views. It looks like most stars get the same PR advice these days.

While one may not need Madhuri Dixit’s recipe for sabudana khichdi or modak — with her husband Shriram Madhav Nene making a guest appearance — the name of the actor is enough for her to score over 8,00,000 subscribers. Her videos also routinely get millions of views. And she has been one consistent vlogger with videos on popular topics like skincare, haircare, and everyday makeup. By the looks of it, Madhuri Dixit’s career as a YouTuber may just be more successful than her comeback in Bollywood.

Some celebrities even started afresh to get on this bandwagon. Look at the curious case of Deepika Padukone. She deleted all her old posts on 1 January this year. What used to be mostly formal content that looked like it was being put out by her team, has now got a complete makeover. Deepika Padukone routinely puts out colourful, head-bopping reels, all branded with her name. It’s about what’s on her playlist (Justin Bieber), this-or-that videos (she picks filter coffee over cold coffee), and the Buss-It challenge (featuring Ranveer Singh).

Similarly, Alia Bhatt’s YouTube channel with 1.5 million subscribers, replete with fitness and healthy food videos, is also extremely popular. While she has not posted in a while, the fact that a top-billed actor like her ventured to create her own channel before most others speaks about the influence that YouTube has.

Jacqueline Fernandes and Kartik Aaryan are also fairly dedicated YouTubers with 6,57,000 and 5,20,000 subscribers respectively. The latter has a range of videos on his channel including an interview series ‘Koki poochega’, where he has interviewed the likes of Barkha Dutt, Anupama Chopra, and Farah Khan.

Priyanka Chopra has always been very social media savvy but her Instagram, with a staggering 61.7 million followers, is quite on point. Ever since her no-return trip to the West, she routinely posts about her book, series, production ventures and has even started posting reels with her husband Nick Jonas. Her two dogs have their own public Instagram pages.

Even Shah Rukh Khan, unlike the other Khans, conducts fairly regular AMAs through Twitter, which let’s be honest we all secretly wait for. And I suppose if you’re SRK, you don’t really need to do more than that.

Every follower matters

The people who have actually capitalised on Indians’ belated love for YouTube video-bingeing are television actors. Indian TV, by all accounts, is a rather unstable industry and when the lockdown was imposed in March 2020, hordes of actors flocked to YouTube.

TV actors like Gauhar KhanRubina DilaikErica Fernandes, and Suyyash Rai have popular channels. Most with millions of followers. Ask any regular YouTuber, getting to that million-mark is no easy feat.

Instagram is the other platform where it has become important to ace one’s game. You don’t need to be an A-lister actor to be popular on Instagram. The platform has proved to be quite a venture for relatively lesser-known celebs as well and that is where social media truly shines. Now a Bollywood actor is not just known by the sum total of their career, there are many other avenues where they can make a living.

Malaika Arora Khan, with 12.6 million Instagram followers, is a great example of this. Her account is religiously followed by several people interested in fitness. Similarly, Mira Rajput, Shahid Kapoor’s wife, may not strictly be a Bollywood celebrity but is quite active with her account. Her haircare and skincare IGTV videos have been watched by millions. Now she endorses big brands through Instagram.

From big screen to social presence

Social media created a new crop of celebrities altogether, with the rise of the influencer culture. And the flow was usually from social media to the big screen. But now, interestingly, the flow is more from the big screen onto social media, especially in India. Not many are interested in ‘holier than thou’ celebrities who wish to remain aloof from their fans.

How many people even recall someone like Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise now. Gen Z doesn’t remember Cruise jumping on Oprah’s sofa. Those days are gone.

Social media has changed the definition of celebrity. And Bollywood is just catching up.

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