Leading brands have turned cautious about their association with Deepika Padukone, the highest-paid actress for advertisements and films in the country. This follows Padukone’s visit to the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus as a mark of solidarity with its left-wing students who were crying foul over an attack by some masked people wielding iron rods, chains and sticks, some of whom turned out to be affiliates of communist unions.
The ‘guest appearance’ propelled nationalists to call for a boycott of the actress’s new film Chhapaak. Now brands are cautious about projecting her as the face of their products in view of the controversy.
Some brands said they had reduced the frequency at which they were playing advertisements featuring Padukone. Managers who deal with endorsements of celebrities said such clauses could be added to the advertising agreements in the coming years where it would be stated that a political stance of the celebrity could damage her/his contract with the advertiser. Shashi Sinha, chief executive at IPG MediBrands, representing Coca-Cola and Amazon, said, “In general, brands run safe bets. They want to avoid any controversy.”
Padukone went to the JNU campus on 7 January, three days before the release of her film Chhapaak. Photos of the actress standing near JNU Students Union President Aishe Ghosh allegedly injured in an attack went viral. While leftists hailed the actress’s ‘courage’ for standing for their cause, several ministers, BJP supporters, right-wing social media users targeted her film.
In the midst of appeals for boycotting the film, Chhapaak earned Rs 11.67 crore in the first two days. Its collection on Friday was Rs 4.77 crore. It increased to Rs 6.90 crore on Saturday. According to preliminary estimates, it reached Rs 9 crore on Sunday. The total cost of this film is reportedly about Rs 40 crore. In contrast, Ajay Devgn’s Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, released on the same day as Chhapaak, did four times the business. Many displeased with Padukone’s politics had appealed for a bumper opening of Devgn’s film.
An executive of a media buying agency said, “A medium-sized brand has asked us to stop its ads with Deepika for about two weeks. Hopefully, the dispute will cool down by then.”
Deepika advertises for 23 brands including Britannia’s Good Day, L’Oréal, Tanishq, Vistara Airlines and Axis Bank. Deepika’s net worth is Rs 103 crore. She has 2.68 crore followers on Twitter. She is said to charge Rs 10 crore for a film and Rs 8 crore for an advertisement.
Vinita Bangard, MD of Crossover Entertainment, who has worked on the brand deals of Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra, said, “I don’t think the brands will back off due to the current controversy. Deepika stood up for what she is confident about. Brands want to avoid political perspective, but thinking celebrities should have the freedom to say what they want.”
The head of another top celebrity management company said on the condition of anonymity, “We are telling our celebrity clients the disadvantage of speaking in political matters. They have to decide, but in sensitive cases, a celebrity stand can aggravate the issue rather than settle the dispute.”