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Operation Karaoke
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Operation Karaoke

Asit Dixit and Umesh Patil |
February 19, 2019

An investigation by Cobrapost exposes three dozen Bollywood celebrities, including famous singers, comedians and actors, willing to post messages, as their personal opinion, on social media on behalf of political parties, all for money


New Delhi (Tuesday: 19 February 2019): In an investigation, Cobrapost exposes three dozen Bollywood celebrities who are ready to promote a political party by posting favourable messages on their social media accounts to help create a buzz in the run-up to 2019 elections, all for money. Among these celebs are directors, actors, singers, stand-up comedians and dancers: Noted playback singers, Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal; actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Surendra Pal, Pankaj Dheer and his son Nikitin Dheer, Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani and spouse Gauri Pradhan, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra, Poonam Pandey, Sunny Leonne; comedians Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar; and choreographer Ganesh Acharya and dancer Sambhavana Seth. This is almost who’s who of the entertainment industry, both film and TV.

While we saw all these celebs succumbing to the lure of money and agreeing to indulge in this unethical and unlawful practice, there were some notable exceptions, though. When we approached Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and Saumya Tandon with our proposition, these celebs chose to go by their conscience and straightaway refused to play ball.

Representing a fictitious PR agency and taking on aliases, Cobrapost reporters approached these celebrities with a simple question: Would you be willing to promote a political party discreetly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Almost all of the above celebs concurred to do it for a fee.

Our interactions with these celebs can be summed up as follows:

  • Celebs agreed to promote the party in question to create a favourable environment before 2019 general elections. Some of them even tweeted without having been paid any money to show their eagerness to our reporters.
  • Most of them were willing to accept the bulk of their fee in cash, which in other words means black money.
  • Celebs would tweak the content on various issues to be provided to them before posting the same on their social media profiles to make it look as their own.
  • They would defend the government even on controversial issues such as rapes and fatal accidents such as a bridge collapse here and there.
  • They were willing to sign a dummy contract for endorsement of products to disguise the real nature of the proxy political campaigning.
  • They agreed to send us their PAN and banking details, and many actually did so.
  • They swore to keep the entire exercise a secret, and the agenda hidden.
  • Some actors even proposed that they would proxy promote the political party in their press briefings during the promotion of a film or an event.
  • Some even proposed to post videos on social media and make them go viral with the help of their followers.

The party in question was, in most of the cases, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress Party in some cases. The names of political parties were used, in good faith and public interest, for narrative purpose only, and this is not an insinuation of their actual involvement in the practice. The investigation was made to expose the celebs willing to endorse a political agenda in return for monetary gains. 

As was their wont, these celebrities without blinking an eye said “Aye” to the proposition, asking for a fee which ranged from Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 50 lakh per message. Some even quoted a fee of Rs. 20 crore for an eight-month contract, and almost none of them said no to black money when we told them a bulk of their fee would be paid in cash.

To recall, in 2012 Cobrapost had investigated the rampant use of black money in the Indian film industry. The Dirty Picture had famous Bollywood biggies like producers Vashu Bhagnani and Anees Bazmi and director Anubhav Sinha shown ready to accept huge investments of black money in their prospective film projects. Operation Karaoke again reminds us nothing has changed in the entertainment industry with all these celebs willing to accept a big component of their fee in cash, even some wondering if they could be paid all in cash. Minissha Lamba, for example, wanted her fee to be paid entirely in cash. She was disappointed when she came to know at least 20 percent of her fee would be paid in white. “Lekin aapne mujhe bola tha ki saara cash hoga (But you had told me payment will be made entirely in cash),” she wondered. Like her, Aman Verma also wanted only cash. “I would love all in cash,” he said. Bollywood bad guy Shakti Kapoor, who went to town praising demonetization, an avowed aim of which was to curtail black money, had the gumption to blurt, “Number one mein daalo mat (Don’t pay in number one).” Pankaj Dheer, anther BJP acolyte, had this to say on cash, “I am very comfortable because in cheque I am burdened till here.”

We met these celebs, in majority of instances, through some agents. These agents spoke to the celebs after getting a brief from our team. It was these agents who facilitated our meeting with celebs after duly apprising them of our agenda. One such agent was Sameer Matai, for instance, who got the Cobrapost team in touch with Evelyn Sharma and Minissha Lamba. Sameer was so crafty in this trade that he instructed us money matters, that is, fee to be paid to a celeb and mode of payment, should be discussed only with him, none else. After the team had shot a couple of celebs, he began doubting if we were conducting a sting operation and began insisting to visit our Delhi office which never existed. Although our team tried to mollify him, there was no point pursuing the investigation further with him for obvious reasons. However, before this unsavoury development took place, Sameer had emailed us giving details of the celebrities who would work on our assignment and the fees they would charge. He even gave names of some more celebrities who he could prospect for us. His mail does not leave anything to imagination. 

In some cases, a particular celeb would help our team reach out to others. Surendra Pal, for instance, got us in touch with Puneet Issar and Upasana Singh. Interestingly, some of these celebrities brought their family members on board. Hiten Tejwani, for instance, roped in his spouse Gauri Pradhan. Similarly, actor Pankaj Dheer suggested us to take along both his son Nikitin and his daughter-in-law Kratika. We obliged when Nikitin incidentally entered the room where we were interviewing his father. While Mika Singh proposed to bring on board some of his friends, Rohit Roy messaged to inform us that his brother, Ronit Roy, is on board.

While in some cases, managers took the onus of dealing with money matters on behalf of their bosses, in most of the cases, the celebrities were present when negotiations for money went on. A majority of these celebs negotiated for a fee much higher than initially proposed or they could command in the market. Although almost out of job in Bollywood, Mahima Chaudhary, for instance, demanded Rs. 1 crore for a single message. “BJP toh kuchh bhi de sakti hai. They can give one crore a month (The BJP can give you anything. They can give 1 crore a month),” she said. Sonu Sood, on the other hand, quoted a price of Rs. 20 crore to undertake the assignment. Not satisfied with the fee we would put on his table, Sood demanded Rs. 2.50 crore a month, saying, “Main aapko bataoon directly since agar main aapse aise baat kar raha hoon dekho mera aisa maanana hai ki hum na main seriously karoonga paanch bhi ho sakte hain saat bhi ho sakte hain my messages will be very very strong and nice main usmein koshish karenge ki paanch nahi bole aaj chaar hee karein hain ek kisi aur ne kiya maine repeat karke uska jawaab de diya, for example, theek hai. Toh wo sab karenge main ek aadh ka but I feel ki jo apan 1.5 crore soch rahe hain it should be at least 2.5 (Let me tell you directly … Since if I am talking to you … you see I think I shall work seriously. There can be five or seven [posts/tweets]. My messages will be very, very strong and nice. If I say I will do only four not five on a given day … I will repeat something written by somebody else, for example, and I will add my answer to it. Is that okay? I will do all that … but I feel that the price 1.5 crore you have quoted, it should be at least 2.5).”

Many of these celebs suggested they would improvise on the content they would be provided for this proxy promotion, while some suggested their own bit to do it in a more convincing and effective way. Bhattacharya, for instance, suggested he would use his mobile phone to make videos for the promotion of the BJP in situations which look natural. He said, “Hoon, natural lage na kahin khade traffic mein gaadi ke andar baith ke bol diya chaay pee rahe hain coffee shop pe bol diya toh wo … haan natural (It should look natural. Suppose, I am at a traffic signal and I say something while sitting in my car or sipping tea at a coffee shop … yes [that would look] natural).” Here too, the singer did not lose a chance to spew venom against Muslims. Referring to a controversial statement made by one of the BJP legislators from Hyderabad, Bhattacharya observed, “Ye isne bahut accha kiya tha Raja Singh bhi mere paas aate hain Hyderabad se BJP ke MLA Raja Singh bilkul wahan ke Yogi hain. Usne bola tha na Rohingya ko itna kyon de rahe ho seedha goli maar do. Baahar jaate hain toh theek hai warna goli maar do. Toh wo attitude hona chahiye … nahi main boloonga Rohingya ko goli maar do jo support karte hain unko goli maar do pehle unko maaro baad mein unko maaro (This fellow did the right thing. Raja Singh, the BJP MLA from Hyderabad, visits me. He is Yogi [Adityanath] of Hyderabad. He had said why give Rohingyas any shelter, why not shoot them. This should be the attitude … No, I will say shoot the Rohingyas and shoot those who support them. First kill their supporters and then them).” If you may recall, Bhattacharya in September 2016 created a flutter when he lashed out at Karan Johar and Mahesh Bhat for “breeding” and “feeding” Pakistani artistes. Bhattacharya was arrested by the Mumbai Police for abusing a woman journalist on Twitter. In April last year, the singer again kicked a storm when he called a decorated senior army officer Pak supporter after the officer criticized Major Gogoi using an alleged stone pelter as human shield tying him to the bonnet of his jeep. Two months later his account was suspended after he abused student leader Shehla Rashid and other women Twitter users.

Kailash Kher, who has given his voice to the title song of Swach Bharat Abhiyan, to our surprise cosied up to our team and accepted our proposition, even showing his willingness to accept black money. Assuring us, he says, “Wo saara wo hee batayenge … wo saara ho jayega aap unse baat kijiye (They [his agency] will tell you about it … that will be done. You talk to them).” Choreographer Ganesh Acharya offered, “Dekho kya hai na mera jo hai na … baat karni hai na dance ke liye tweet maroonga na toh lakhon tak pahunchati hai, karodon tak pahunchati hai … toh aap mujhe content bhejenge usko thoda sa dance form mein aisa normal baat karoonga toh do teen lakh tak pahunchata hai (You see what happens … if I have to talk about dance and tweet about it, it reaches millions of people … so if I say something in a dance form on the content you will send me, it will reach two-three lakh people).”

Stand-up comedian Sunil Pal while agreeing to lampoon Rahul Gandhi gave us a live demo of how he would go about doing it. He said, “Ye kya tha Rahul Gandhi bolta hai ki humari party ne 60 saal se kya kiya kya nahi, meri daadi ne iss desh ko aage barhaya, papa ne dupat kiya, mujhe bana do main chaupat kar doonga wo ye kahna chahte hain ki chaar guna bada hoga … aur Soniaji ke baare mein mat poocho wo ek sanaki kee maa hain wo ek sanaki kee maa hai … main video banake YouTube pe daloonga aapko bhejoonga (What is this? Rahul Gandhi says our party did this and that in the past 60 years. ‘He says his grandmother worked to develop the country, his father worked to double it up and he says let him be the prime minister he would bring everything down … and Sonia is the mother of a cynic ’… I would make such videos, post on YouTube and share the same with you).” Enthused by prospects of making a good fortune out of this proposition, Pal did so in one of his public programmes a few weeks after the interview, much to the chagrin of the organizers, leading to much rancour among the audience as he was asked to leave the venue by the organizers. In his eagerness to undertake the assignment, Pal even made some tweets, with one taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi. 

Although a freak one, events such as this show how dangerous this kind of conduct on part of a celebrity can be particularly at time when social media such as WhatsApp is being used to spread rumours and hatred which has led to lynching of many innocent people by murderous mobs in recent past. Of late, social media has become a potent tool to spread rumours and plain untruths, which carry away not only commoners but also celebs. We were shocked to listen to what Upasana Singh told us, a piece of disinformation that is polluting minds across the country and across classes. As if coming straight from the WhatsApp University, she said this on Rahul Gandhi, “Toh ye bacche Musalman hain toh wo Muslim hai toh wo poora itna maine kiya hai lekin mere ko real lagti hain ye cheejein bahut (So, her children are Muslim, so he is a Muslim. I try to control myself, but such things really hurt me).”     

One fact that makes the use of social media for mercenary purposes more dangerous is the “ripple effect”, to quote Vivek Oberoi, it can produce with huge following these celebrities command on social media. Some of the celebs we interviewed during the course of this investigation enjoy a following which goes into millions. Oberoi alone has about 3 million followers, for instance, Bhattacharya has more than 2 million followers, Amisha Patel has about 6 million and Mika Singh has 10 million, just to give an idea. Outshining all these celebs, however, Sunny Leonne, the new sex symbol on the block, alone has more than 20 million followers. Obviously, these celebs can reach millions of people with a click of their mouse or press of a key on their smart phone to create havoc by proxy-shaping an opinion in favour or against a political party, thus weakening our democracy.

The celebs who refused to play ball had a choice to swim along the tide. But they chose to go by their conscience, rather than going by the vice called avarice. When we tried to brief Saumya Tandon over phone, the Bhabi Ji Ghar Par Hain star outright rejected the idea saying, “Main kisi bhi party se koi bhi affiliation personal ke liye nahi karna chahti kyonki sir mere sidhanton ke khilaaf hai. Bahut saare actors aapko paise ke liye bahut kuch karte nazar aayenge lekin agar main kuch decide karoongi toh wo tabhi karoongi jab main genuinely believe karti hoon usmein (I don’t want to have an affiliation with any political party for personal gain, because it is against my principles. You will find actors who do anything you want for money. But if I decide [to work for any party] I will do so only when I genuinely believe in it).”

No amount of persuasion would work on veteran actor Raza Murad, either. When he tells us he does not have a Twitter account, we promptly advise him to open one. Rejecting the idea of promoting a political party on social media, Murad says, “Nahi mujhe nahi kholna yahan pe mujhe nahi kholna Twitter pe (No, I don’t want to open an account on Twitter).”

Reply of Bollywood Celebrities     

We spoke to the manager of Arshad Warsi after we had apprised her of our proposition a day before. We expected her boss to fall in line. But it did not happen, as the manager informed us, “Sandeep ji unfortunately maine actually kal sir se baat kee. Political campaign toh hum nahi kar payenge sir ko kuch aur laga pehle toh (Sandeep ji, I spoke to Sir [Arshad Warsi] yesterday. Unfortunately, we will not be able to do political campaign. Sir had thought it was something else).” No, it is not direct political campaigning, we tried to argue to make our case. But she would not listen. “Haan ji main maanti hoon par ye sab chakkar mein hum padte hee nahi hain. Humein bahut saare elections mein bhi bulaya gayaa hum kabhi karte nahi hain kyonki sir political campaign se door rahte hain (Yes, I understand that. But we never get into this. We were invited to many elections [for campaigning], but we never do that because Sir always keeps himself off from political campaigning).”

We had e-mailed a questionnaire to all these celebs to know what they would like to say on what we have revealed in our story. Click here to read the answers.  

Here, we reproduce some excerpts of the interactions our team had with these celebs, who would do anything and everything for money.

Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Bollywood Playback Singer

One of the most controversial celebrities, Abhijeet Bhattacharya has sung hundreds of songs in many languages other than Hindi, including Bengali, Odia, Bhojpuri, Marathi and Gujarati. But the Kanpur-born playback singer loves wooing controversies as much as he does singing. Only recently, the singer has been accused by an air hostess of molesting her in a Kolkata hotel dance floor some 20 years ago. He is known for spewing venom on social media against Pakistan and noted personalities who he thinks are not as much patriotic. In September 2016, Bhattacharya created a flutter when he lashed out at Karan Johar and Mahesh Bhat for “breeding” and “feeding” Pakistani artistes and called for them to be kicked out, using filthy language against the artistes from across the borders. Only two months earlier in July that year he was arrested by the Mumbai Police for calling a woman journalist names on Twitter. The singer again kicked a storm in April last year when he called a decorated senior army officer a Pak supporter after the officer criticized Major Gogoi using an alleged stone pelter as human shield tying him to the bonnet of his jeep. Two months later, his account was suspended after he abused student leader Shehla Rashid and other women Twitter users. His attempt to use Twitter again since then has failed. The singer has
around 21.27 lakh followers on Facebook, though, and his Instagram account shows about 30000 followers. When Cobrapost team met the singer at his residence and apprised him of their objective, the Yash Bharti awardee admitted to have no account on Twitter while bragging there are 20 Twitter accounts running in his name.

As we tell him all what he has to do is praise all the good works or schemes the BJP government in the past four years or so has done or launched, for instance, Ujjwala Yojna and the famed surgical strike on Pakistan. Demonstrating one-upmanship, Bhattacharya says, “Wo mera video lijiye aap statement live … ye poster toh sab chhapte hain banaake photo leke, lekin paanch-paanch minute teen-teen chaar minute ke khoon khaulane wala video lijiye (You can take a video of my live statement … they print posters with a photograph on them. But take from me three, four, five minute long videos which will boil your blood with anger).” Why not send us some of your ideas, we tell him. “Nahi, jo mudda chalega na uss time inke against uss mudde ko hum log pakdenge (No, we would take up an issue that is raised against them at a given point of time),” he suggests.

Giving him the “Surgical Strike” as an example, we ask him to write on such issues on a given day. But for him surgical strike is passé. There are more pressing issues such as the triple talaq. He says, “Abhi jaise ye teen talaq wala hai na teen talaq wala toh usko positive karna hai ki Muslim mard toh mard hee hote hain unka kaam hee hai Muslim mard kee tareh in auraton ko … auraton ko izzat dijiye wo aapki maa hai wo aapki bahen hai wo aapki beti hai theek hai wo aapki saas hai toh Modiji ne auraton par zyada dhyan diya hai (Right now there is this issue of triple talaq. I will write positive things about it saying that Muslim men are typical men who … give these women respect. They are after all your mother, your sister, your daughter or even your mother-in-law. Modiji is paying attention to their good).” He even suggests to link the talaq issue to the Beti Bachao Beti Parhao campaign. “Toh Beti Bachao Beti Parhao maybe teen talaq mein se hee aata hai beti kisi na kisi kee toh beti hai toh iss tareh jahan par jo garam mudda hai na usko open kijiye log chunenge baaki toh wo fir aisa lagega ki chal raha hai (Maybe Beti Bachao Beti Parhao arises out of this triple talaq. A woman is a daughter of someone. Take up such a hot issue to open debate. People would jump at it. Otherwise, it will look something like routine).”

We tell the singer to send us such ideas. We would discuss the idea and take approval. After that he could make a video. He would be duly paid for it. Nah, he says. He would use his mobile phone to make videos in situations which look natural. He says, “Hoon, natural lage na kahin khade traffic mein gaadi ke andar baith ke bol diya chaay pee rahe hain coffee shop pe bol diyaa toh wo … haan natural (It should look natural. Suppose, I am at a traffic signal and I say something while sitting in my car or sipping tea at a coffee shop … yes [that would look] natural).” We tell him at this point that we would provide him the required content, so that if his tweets or posts raise any heat and dust, he would have all the facts and figures before him to counter that. But he is not the man to be cowered down by storms, as he says boastfully, “Nahi nahi main toh boloonga haan humne kiya hai kuchh nahi hum usmein padte nahi kyon bolein haan maine aisa bola hai aapne aurat ke baare mein aisa bola hai (No, no. I will say yes I have done this. Why should I get into it? Yes I said this about women).”

As our discussion moves on, the ultranationalist in the singer takes over. What he tells us next gives us a peek into his mind. “Ye jo [Swati] Chaturvedi hai kya Financial Bainjal karke aur rashtriyata ye kya Shehla Rashid inko toh matlab TV pe bola kaash apka thoda sa sex aapka different hota na abhi tak aake main aapko peet diya hota aap toh antinational ho, aap aurat nahi ho, aap aurat mard kee shreni mein aate hee nahi ho, aap logon kee ek jaat hai antinational dushman toh aapka toh koi jaati hee nahi toh aapko kaise main aurat samajh loon aap aurat hain hee nahi (There is this [Swati] Chaturvedi from this Financial Bainjal … and what nationalism this Shehla Rashid is talking about. I told her in a TV debate that had you have different sex I would have had beaten you up. You are an anti-national. You are neither a woman nor a man, your only creed is anti-national; you are an enemy. When you have no creed then how could I treat you as a woman),” he spews. Sensing that the man is capable of doing anything in the name of nationalism, we give him another offer. Why not corner opposition parties in your own way, we say, even using epithets. We will pay you extra. He is as much prompt to reply, “Haan, haan beep baja ke … haan bilkul karoonga aur koi hai hee nahi karne wala main hee karoonga (Yes, yes, by using a beep … yes, I will sure do it. There is nobody else who would do it. I will sure do it).” Continuing his tirade, he adds, “Wo log karenge jinke paas kuch nahi hai humare paas sab kuch hai fir bhi inko maine khaderna hai matlab inko khaderna hai (You think those people who have nothing would do this? I have everything. I want to throw them out).”

You can target the Congress Party, and then there is the TMC which you can corner on the issue of NRC. You can tweet on the issue or even write posts on Facebook, we egg him on. “Usmein naam kyon loon (Why should I name them),” he asks a logical question. No, you have to play it indirectly, we tell him. “Done karta hoon (Then it is a done deal),” he announces. He then makes it clear why he would not talk against TMC and West Bengal, “Nahi nahi, wo nahi kar sakta sirf Bengal aur TMC chhod ke sab karoonga … humara rozi-roti maximum wahan se hai (No, no. I can’t do that. I will do everything except Bengal and TMC … I earn my bread and butter maximum from there only).” The singer even tells us how he would work. “Facebook pe acchi-acchi cheejein karoonga, gaali nahi doonga thoda musical gaa ke you know guitar leke wo sab bahut viral hoga Modiji kee tareef mein ek gaana ki ‘Ye hee hai aur kaun hai’ toh Facebook pe is tareh ka wo sab kaam kar sakta hoon, Instagram pe kar sakta hoon … Twitter pe gaali doonga (I will write good posts on Facebook. I will not abuse anybody. I will play a musical, holding a guitar, you know, and sing a paean in praise of Modiji like ‘Ye hee hai aur kaun hai’. It will go viral. I can do this kind of job on Facebook and Instagram … I will abuse on Twitter),” he says.

But there are two specifics, we explain. One, you have to appreciate the good work done by the government. Two, you will have to defend the government on certain issues. You have to do it in an indirect way. Telling us that he does not like going to TV debates these days, he promises to create such content as would force people debate it. Listen to what the singer says, “Maine debate chhod diya debate mein jaana kyonki debate mein mere saamne koi aisa koi waisa figure rahe toh main debate karoon ye tucche-mucche pachees partiyan aa gai hain pachees partiyon ka ek-ek aadmi banta hua hai toh main kiske saath baat karoon debate mein main kabhi nahi jaata main aisa create karoonga log uspe debate karenge (I have left going to [TV] debates. When there are petty figures before me, how can I debate with them? There are about 25 petty parties and each has its spokesperson. Whom should I talk to? So, I don’t join debates at all. But I would create such content as would draw people to debate).”

His hatred towards Muslims comes out when he talks of Rohingyas. Referring to a BJP legislator who made a highly controversial statement on Rohingyas, the singer says, “Ye isne bahut accha kiya tha Raja Singh bhi mere paas aate hain Hyderabad se BJP ke MLA Raja Singh bilkul wahan ke Yogi hain. Usne bola tha na Rohingya ko itna kyon de rahe ho seedha goli maar do. Baahar jaate hain toh theek hai warna goli maar do. Toh wo attitude hona chahiye … nahi main boloonga Rohingya ko goli maar do jo support karte hain unko goli maar do pehle unko maaro baad mein unko maaro (This fellow did the right thing. Raja Singh, the BJP MLA from Hyderabad, visits me. He is Yogi [Adityanath] of Hyderabad. He had said why give Rohingyas any shelter, why not shoot them. This should be the attitude … No, I will say shoot the Rohingyas and shoot those who support them. First kill their supporters and then them).” Yes, we would need these kinds of statements from you, we tell him, and when elections come, such issues would become topics of intense debate. Suppose black money and GST may become an issue. “Nahi GST ko main ek accha gana bana doonga na ek accha gana bana doonga (No, I will compose a good song on GST),” promises Bhattacharya.

The singer thus on board, we tell him this will be a nine-month contract, which would start from September, and ask him for his fee. “Theek hai Nitin baat karega aapse (Fine, Nitin will discuss it with you),” he tells us. His manager Nitin was present there throughout the proceedings. Before we wrap up our interview with the singer, we advise caution saying that ours is a hidden agenda. So the party we represent should not be named in his tweets or posts and then there should be no negative comments on the party. Agreeing, he says it comes natural to him. “Mera toh natural hai bhai main toh aisa hee karta rehta hoon (This is natural to me. I keep doing like this only),” he says. He then also seeks help in case there is trouble on account of this activity, saying, “Haan lekin kuch wo hoga toh party ke log saath mein khade hain na (Yes, but if something happens I hope the party leadership would back me).” We assure him on that count.

As the singer left it for his manager to discuss his fee with us, it is now Nitin who takes over the negotiations. When we ask him what the singer would charge to promote our party on social media platforms, the manager has this to say, “Dekho aisa hai Dada se maine ek idea liya hai unka kehna ye hai ki 10 per post hona chahiye aur minimum 60 per month hona chahiye. Matlab six post maan ke chaliye. Uske oopar hua toh uske baad koi problem nahi but minimum 60 hona chahiye (You see I have taken an idea from Dada [the singer]. He says that the fee should be Rs. 10 lakh per post and it should be minimum Rs. 60 lakh a month. I mean there would be at least six posts and if they go beyond that number there is no problem as such, but it should be Rs. 60 lakh minimum).” We freeze the deal at Rs. 60 lakh a month. We tell him that of this fee, the singer would get Rs. 6 lakh in white. The rest will be paid in cash in advance every month. “Okay,” returns the manager.

Jackie Shroff, Bollywood Actor

Our next port of call was Hotel Taj Lands End in Bandra where we met Jackie Shroff, born Jai Kishan Kakubhai, who does not need any introduction. In his almost four-decade-long career, the model-turned actor has acted in more than 200 films in 10 languages, apart from Hindi, and has many awards to his credit. Although he is seldom seen on silver screen these days, the 60-year-old actor has lost none of his charm and populatirty which is quite visible on social media. He has more than 2.25 lakh followers on Twitter, about 3.50 lakh on Facebook and about 3.27 lakh on Instagram. Present in this meeting also was his manager Shetty.

After the pleasantries are over, we get down to brass tacks. We tell the actor we want him to do digital promotion of the BJP in the run-up to elections in 2019, through his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Jackie does not take much time to understand what we expect from him. He says, “Social messages samajh gayaa main (Social messages, I got it).” What you have to do is promote all good works done by the BJP government at the centre, for example, schemes such as Ujjwala. “Samajh gayaa main aapki baat … toh unki baatein Instagram pe baat, YouTube pe baat (I got it what you say … so I will have talk about them on Instagram, on YouTube),” he says. But you have to do it in a discreet manner, we tell him, as it is a “hidden agenda”.  He understands such nuances of the assignment as to say, “Wo game hota hai apna-apna yaar … apne ko kya hai apna kaam hai hum acchi baatein hum faila rahe hain saath mein dhan bhi de rahe hain toh oopar waale se faqir kya maangta hai (That is the rule of the game, friend … I have no problem. What I am supposed to do is spread good words and you would be paying me money in return ... What more a faqir can ask for from the God).”

But it is also important to defend the BJP government on certain issues from time to time, we tell him. When we explain him how he can do that, he asks, “Meri taraf aise humaare paanch-chhe bacche hain aur jo baat karte hain Twitter pe, YouTube pe aise baat karne waale aur koi liye hain ki nahi … jaise Akshay hai mera Akshay toh saath hee mein hai (I have five-six kids who are active on Twitter, YouTube. Have you roped them in? For example, there is Akshay [Kumar], Akshay is with me).” While appreciating his proposal, we tell him that roping in celebrities like Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher and Paresh Rawal, who are already associated with the BJP, would rather boomerang on us. Since you have no political affiliation, what you would say would carry a lot of value for the general public. Agreeing, he seeks to know, “Poora bataa de ye kab se kab tak hai ye (Tell me when it is going to be started and how long it will go).”

It will start from September and would last nine months, till 2019 elections, we inform him. “Nau mahine mein toh humara baccha paida ho jaata hai ek, theek hai (We humans produce a child in nine months … it is okay),” he says jocularly. Yes, you have to create a congenial atmosphere for the BJP during these nine months, we say. Replies Shroff, “Theek hai (It is okay).” It is understood that we would provide him the content on various issues. “Piyush bahut sambhal ke karnaa padega (Piyush this needs to be handled carefully),” he tells us.

Agreeing, we tell him he will have to maintain secrecy of this deal. Shroff understands it well. He says, “Secrecy toh hai hee, wo toh main samajhataa hoon (Secrecy is essential, I understand that).” This is what would be the main clause of our agreement with you, we say. In the moment of bonhomie that has already set in between us, Shroff reveals “Mere yara hain ye mere Olympian shooter … he is my buddies yaar (That Olympian shooter is my friend … he is [one of] my buddies).” He is talking of a BJP minister at the Centre. When we ask him if everything with regard to the assignment is clear to him, striking a note of caution Shroff says, “Mere ko samajh mein aa gaya lekin aapko mere liye ye kya scene aisa hai ki main ek non-communal aadmi hoon mere ko lafda nahi chahiye … mere ko zindagi mein lafda main toh chahta hoon ki aise matlab paise kee vajeh se toh main lafde karoonch hee nahi … kyon bhai … too mujhe sattu laake dede main khush hoon (I got it. But you will have to … the scene is I am a non-communal man, so I don’t want any controversy … I don’t want to get into any controversy in life for money … you can just entertain me with sattu only, I will be happy).”

As he explains us how he would write messages on Swach Bharat Abhiyan, we tell him he does not need to post messages every day. He will have to make only three-four messages a month. Shroff assures us, saying, “Main samajh gayaa dada main samajh gayaa jab aisa kuch aisa mudda ayaa aur aisa laga ki uske baare mein bolna hai kis tareh se boli jaayegi … chaudah bacche humaare hain in chaudah bacchon mein se kaun kya bol sakta hai waisa mujheich handle karna hai (I got it Dada, I got it. When there is an issue and I think I have to speak on it, but how should we talk about it… you have 14 kids doing that. Now of these 14 kids who can talk what, it is you who will have to handle this).” Assuring him, we say we will provide the content for the messages and he will have to do it in his own style. Now, tell us if the whole funda is clear to you, we ask. “I understand whole thing, wo mere bheje meni baith gayaa hai aur mujhe ye fiqar nahi hai ki chaudah jan aur hain toh agar ye nahi toh too sahi too nahi toh koi aur sahi khel rahe hain … koi na koi toh khel raha hai uss baat ko (I understand [the] whole thing. I got it and now I don’t have any worries when there are 14 people working on this promotion. If one is not able to raise the issue, the other would do so … somebody or the other would be playing out on that issue),” Shroff assures us.

We now ask him what his expectation is. He tells us he never quotes his price upfront. His manager suggests us he would discuss it with the agent. Then, talking in hints, Shroff says, “Kya Piyush aisi baat karte hoaur tizori ka darwaza kolo yaar … main mere dil ka darwaaza khol rahaa hoon too tizori ka darwaza kholne ke liye pooch raha hai mere ko (Come on Piyush don’t talk like this … buddy, open the door of your safe … I am opening the door of my heart and you are asking me to open the door of your safe).” Yes, this is exactly we will do for you, we assure him. The actor in the same breath puts it philosophically, “Too samajh raha hai ye Jaggu hai mera bas khatm karo na kyaa le jaoonga khali haath … ye jo beech mein khel rahe hain khel rahe hain (You think this man is Jaggu [Dada], so finish it. What will I take after all [in my last journey] … my hands will be empty … I am playing the game in between).”

So, we decide to take it up with his manager. Agreeing, he again puts it philosophically, “Aur mujhe sambhaal kar khelna meri umr ko sambhal ke khelna (And play the game carefully, play the game considering my age).” Leaving him behind, we come out of the hotel to discuss the fee with Shetty. We agreed to pay the fee that Shetty said he was asked to quote by Jaggu Dada. We finally ask Shetty in which mode would be better for them to accept the payment. Well, they are comfortable accepting as much as 80 percent in cash. Listen to what Shetty is suggesting, “Kum se kum 20 percent account mein show karnaa padega 20 percent … haan 20 percent aana padega … kyonki kal agar kuch hua … 20 percent aapko account mein show karna padega GST ke saath (At least 20 percent of the payment will have to show in his account … 20 per cent … yes 20 per cent should be received [through account] because if tomorrow something happens … you have to show 20 per cent in the account along with GST).” Agreeing, we ask if his boss would accept 80 per cent of his fee in cash, Shetty replies, “Eighty percent cash chal jayega (Eighty percent cash will do).” With this agreement, the deal is sealed.

Shakti Kapoor, Actor

Born Sunil Sikanderlal Kapoor, the Bollywood Bad Guy is known as much for playing villain as assaying comic roles with finesse in hundreds of movies. In a career spanning almost four decades, Kapoor has acted in about 700 movies. Kapoor gained notoriety in 2005 when he was caught in a casting couch controversy. The actor is working as an RJ with Radio Nasha 107.2 FM. He has 1200 followers on Twitter and about 1300 on Facebook. He is followed by about 62000 people on Instagram.

We met the actor at his Juhu residence. The actor has already been briefed about our purpose, so we soon get down to talking business. This time around, the BJP is focusing more on digital promotion for elections in 2019. Before we could finish, the actor interjects in his eagerness, “Mere haath mein toh saare radio stations bhi hain (I have control of all radio stations).” But our focus is on digital promotion, we suggest. “Haan usmein batao (Yes, tell me about it),” he says, prompting us to tell him in detail all the finer points of the assignment. Apart from saying good things on various schemes and good works of the BJP government on social media, the actor would have to defend the party on issues like NRC. If a celebrity like him tweets saying this is happening the first time in India when Bangladeshi settlers, who are staying in the country as citizens, would be thrown out, it would make a lasting impression on the minds of the people. It will force to think. “Samajh gaya samajh gaya poori kahaani samajh gaya (I got it. I got the whole story),” he says agreeing.

After explaining him all what is required of him, we ask him if he has any confusion only to be reassured by the actor in these words, “Koi confusion nahi hai. Main toh waise bhi jab ye election mein Modi sahib khade huye thei … haan abhi ek hee baari toh khade huye … haan haan toh main inka star pracharak tha Uttarakhand ka … toh main aur Modiji ne ek hee manch pe bhashan bhi diye (There is no confusion. Anyway when Modi sahib had fought elections … yes [in 2014] he had stood once … yes, yes [as a PM candidate], I was their star campaigner for Uttarakhand … then I shared the dais with Modiji while giving a speech).”

Finding him to have agreed to play the ball, we tell the actor that since the funds are political it would be difficult to pay him all in white.  He would be paid about 10 percent in white and the rest in cash. “Number one mein daalo mat (Don’t pay in number one),” blurts the actor.

It may be recalled that Kapoor was among those few Bollywood celebrities who had gone to town claiming Modi’s demonetization move was intended to take on the scourge of black money. As we discover, such an act was for public consumption only.

We tell him we will have to pay at least 10 percent in white as there would be formal contract. “Toh ye kab tak karna hai (How long it will go on),” the actor asks. For nine months, we inform him. “Arre yaar ye toh paisa bhi fir nau karod hai (Oh, then friend, I will charge [Rs.] 9 crore),” the actor is prompt to quote his fee accordingly. We find it on a higher side of our budget and try to negotiate. Trying to get the best of the bargain, Kapoor says, “Aapko pata nahi Shakti Kapoor ne inke prachaar mein keh diya matlab mera TV pe bolna indirectly radio pe bolna sab mere haath mein hee hai mere do radio show chal rahe hain jab mein boloonga toh do mein teen mein boloonga na (You don’t know. Shakti Kapoor will promote them. Speaking on TV, promoting them on radio indirectly is in my hand. I run two shows on radio. So, when I talk on one show, I can talk the same thing on the second and the third show as well).” But you would not be paid for all nine months in advance, we say. You will be paid every month in advance. “Arre bhai chahiye iqatthe mere yaarhaan, per month per month baandh lo na kitna baandhna hai (Yes, then fix it per month. Tell me how much you want to fix per month),” the actor seeks to know.

We would rather have him fix it. But the actor would like us to fix it as he says, “Aap batao na maine toh bola nau karod, ek karod per mahina, nahi, nahi aap bolo na saamne se aapne Twitter ka baat kiya, Facebook ka baat kiya aur Instagram ka (You tell me. I have quoted Rs. 9 crore, 1 crore per month, no, no. You tell me upfront. I talked about Twitter, about Facebook and Instagram).” So, we tell him he would have to write messages on five contents that we would provide him every month on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. At the rate of Rs. 3 lakh per message we would pay him Rs. 75 lakh a month. You don’t want promotion on radio, he asks us. No sir, we say. But he still offers, “Aap boss ko bolo Shakti Kapoor bol rahe hain radio unke haath mein hai accha mujhe radio ka kuch nahi chahiye main boss ke liye dil se kar doonga (Tell your boss that Shakti Kapoor wants to do it free for him on radio).” But you want Rs. 1 crore a month for your fee, we say. Yes, he says. Sir, let us do like this, we tell him. Right now let us assume that we would pay you Rs. 75 lakh a month for your services, while we seek our boss’s approval for Rs. 1 crore. Of this Rs. 75 lakh, 10 percent will be paid by cheque, including GST. The rest will be paid in cash. Tell us if you have any issues with this arrangement, we ask. “Koi issue nahi (There is no issue),” he assures us.

But you will have to maintain secrecy about this deal, we tell him. Assuring us, Kapoor says in his inimitable style, spilling some beans, “Sir mere ko aap samajh rahe hain … Sir iske andar meri bhi maut ho sakti hai sir aap nahi samajh rahe hain. Main politics ke bahut nazdeek rah chuka hoon. Mere ko ek zamaane mein aapko pata nahi hai ki jab Sonia Gandhi down thee toh mujhe Sunil Dutt sahib ne Soniaji ke paas bheja tha, toh main uss time Soniaji ko Delhi mein kaafi seaton mein help kiya tha wo koi baat aaj tak kisi se nahi ki kaise kiya kya. Main aadhe actor yahaan se lekar jaata tha sab karta tha Sonia Gandhi jeeti lagataar duss saal waise hee meri abhi genuinely Modi sahib ke liye ye hai meri family ko bahut pyaar hai jab maine BJP ka prachar khud kiya hai same manch se kiya hai mera toh waise hee genuine lagega (Sir, don’t try to tell me. Sir, I can even die. Sir you don’t understand what I mean. I have seen politics from close quarters. Once upon a time, you don’t know, when Sonia Gandhi was down, Sunil Dutt sahib sent me to Soniaji. I helped Soniaji in many seats (constituencies) in Delhi. I took along many actors from here. I never told anything to anybody about what I did and how I did. I took along half of the fellow actors out there. Sonia Gandhi won for 10 years [two terms]. Now, we are genuinely in awe of Modi sahib. My family also loves him. When I have campaigned for the BJP from the same dais, people would take it genuine whatever I would tell them).”

These confessions make it clear that for the actor, like many other celebs, money is the only consideration for which they would switch their allegiance as easily as they would assay a character in a movie.

Sunny Leonne, Model and Bollywood Actor

Before making Mumbai her home, Sunny Leonne was a porn star. Born Karenjit Kaur Vohra to Sikh parents in Canada, Leonne worked as a red carpet reporter for the MTV Video Music Awards on MTV India in 2005. In 2011, she participated in Bigg Boss, which was followed by her hosting the Indian reality show Splitsvilla. Her big Bollywood break came a year later with Jism 2. The most googled celebrity in India, Leonne has a fan following which pales even the best and most famous of Bollywood celebrities. She has more than 39 lakh followers on Twitter, while about 23.48 lakh follow her on Facebook. Her Instagram account throws up a staggering stat with about 1.80 crore people following her.

When we met Leonne in her Mumbai office, present there were her husband Daniel Weber and her manager Sunny, her namesake. They all knew the purpose of our visit, as the manager had already been briefed by us over phone before this brief meeting took place.

Logically, we come straight to talking business. In fact, we had already given their manager a list of topics to be covered. It is Daniel who leads the parleys. When we say it is a hidden agenda and it has to be kept a secret, Daniel says, “Yeah … it is influencing that I know… that’s fine … you can have an opinion. It’s okay.” It is obvious that Daniel knows the proposition is about influencing the public opinion in favour of the BJP.

We tell him we would provide five contents every month which his wife would have to post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in her own words, in all 15 messages. What is you expectation, we ask. At this point, Daniel tells us he does not want anything controversial. “Let me ask you something … [turning to his manager] … the list came … the list stuff … Okay, okay, in this list if there is … there might be one or two things they are just too controversial offer. So on this list only one it’s little too controversial … it is surgical strike. It will be little strange for Sunny to be talking about… other one is okay… electricity this then is good,” he says. Understanding their dilemma, we assure him that his wife can write only on those topics which she finds comfortable. We also don’t want anything controversial. “Yeah, because people will also think, okay that’s weird … doesn’t make sense why she is saying it,” Daniel again raises concern. Well, we say, she can take up women-centric schemes such as Ujjwala Yojna for her messages. But his only concern is the stuff that should make sense, as he says again, “Okay … good. It can be this, it can be regarding, you know… which is good ….”

When it comes to discuss the money part of the deal, Daniel asks his manager to take charge, saying, “On commercials, you guys discuss.” His manager says, “Commercial I told … ji … Usually we take 15 lakh for all three platforms… not 5 lakh … [this is] we do [charge] for a consolidated post… I told … 15 lakhs we usually charge for that.” We got what he told us and promptly approved the fee. Accordingly, we would pay you Rs. 75 lakh every month, we tell him. How much they would be comfortable in cash, we ask. “The more the better,” says Daniel. We tell them we would pay them at least 10 percent of her fee by cheque or RTGS and a contract will be executed between the parties. 

After swearing them to secrecy, we turn to Leonne. It was pleasant watching Leonne speak Hindi. Hope you know we are here for the BJP with regard to the coming 2019 elections. “Haan Daniel ne bataya tha (Yes, Daniel had told me),” says Leonne. You also know it is a political party. “Haan ji haan ji (Yes, yes),” replies Leonne in affirmative.

It is obvious for us that Leonne knows who we are and why we are there. As you know, you simply have to post messages on your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts praising the good works done by the BJP government, we tell her, without naming the party or any leader. You can write on Beti Bachao Beti Parhao campaign, for instance, girls’ safety and other women-centric issues. Talking of their own girl child they have adopted, Leonne says, “Obviously hum wo cheej se maante hain kyonki humari beti hai (Obviously, we also appreciate that because we have a daughter).” Giving her an idea how to do it, we suggest she can say her maid is the beneficiary of the Ujjwala Yojna. “Okay that is nice,” she says approvingly. We tell her that we would provide her five topics every month supported by facts and figures on which she would have to write messages on all three social media platforms. Have you ever written on social topics on social media, we ask, to have an idea if the actor has an understanding of such issues? She does, indeed. “Jo main believe karti hoon wo main bolti hoon. We do whatever … we have done this no-smoking, girl child,” Leonne tells us, while her hubby Daniel helps her recount all those topics she covers on social media. So, why not become active on social media, we suggest. But don’t fire on all your cylinders at once. People would take it otherwise. You can make a start right away picking up a social issue here and there. But don’t post messages everyday. Understanding the nuances of such a delicate assignment, Leonne says, “Wo logon ko accha nahi lagta (People don’t like that).” Yes, what you say is true as doing so would send a wrong message to them. Then, you know, we are working on a hidden agenda. “Haan (Yes),” she says, agreeing.

Before wrapping up the interview, we ask Leonne if everything is clear to her. If there is any confusion, she can tell us, we say. “Nahi (No) … clear,” she tells us in turn, giggling. To seek confirmation from her about the whole deal, we tell her all financial aspects have already been discussed with her husband Daniel. Leonne leaves us in no doubt when she says, “Mujhe sirf accha kaam karna hai … accha message pahunchana hai … then wo mere liye bahut accha hai (I have to do something good only … I have to send across good messages … then it is good also for me).” This is what we are looking forward to, we say, and you know our motive is to help the BJP come to power again. “Modi Sir ne Daniel ko overseas citizen banaya toh hum zaroor support karenge (We will definitely support provided Modi Sir [the BJP government] grant Daniel overseas citizen status),” says Leonne.

Our interview ends with this parting shot by her.

Kailash Kher, Bollywood Sufi Singer      

The Padma Shri awardee singer needs no introduction. Beginning his career in 2001 with jingles, Kher graduated into a playback singer giving singing a new dimension with his unique, high-pitched, sonorous voice. His rendition of Allha ke bande and Teri diwani is a class apart in Sufi music tradition. In an almost two-decade long career, Kher has sung about 700 songs in about 20 Hindi and regional languages. Not a mean feat by any means. Like many his peers, Kher is active on social media and has an impressive following. He has more than 5 lakh followers on Twitter, more than 42 lakh on Facebook and about 2.90 lakh on Instagram. We met the singer at his Seven Bunglow office in Andheri West.

Although our meeting with the singer-composer was brief, it nonetheless was as much revealing.

Since he was quite busy, we did not lose any time to brief him about our agenda: You have to promote all the good work done by the Modi government on social media to create a congenial atmosphere for the BJP in the run-up to 2019 elections. You have to post three-four messages every month on various schemes like Swach Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bachao Beti Parhao and others, praising them. “Iska kya commercial rahega (What will be its commercial aspect),” Kher seeks to know.

It all depends on how many followers a celebrity has on social media, we tell him. But you can quote your fee per message as you have millions of followers. “Ye humari wo team agency batayegi aapko (This our team, agency will tell you),” Kher says. When we tell him it is actually a hidden agenda, Kher says, “Haan, hidden mein bhi wo batayenge commercial hum nahi batayenge. Hum bas haan ya na kar sakte hain ki ye kaam hum kar payenge ya nahi kar payenge (Yes, a hidden agenda. It is only they who will tell you about the commercial [aspects of this deal]. I will not tell you that. I can only tell in ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if I would be able to do this job or not).” It is fine, we say when we hear him declare, “Hum ye kaam kar payenge (I will be able to do this job).” That is what we wanted to know, we say. It is fine with us if the agency quotes your price. “Correct, commercial part agency karegi baaki hum jo hain acceptance de denge (Correct, the commercial part will be handled by my agency. I will give acceptance),” he informs us.

Hope, you have no problem, we say. “Nahi, nahi, zindagi mein nahi (No, never in my life),” Kher assures us, thus. But then it has to be kept between you and us only, we tell him. The singer is rather gung-ho about the deal to say, “Bilkul, bilkul aur jo bhi matter hoga … content aap denge lekin hum log usse filter kar sakte hain uske right humare paas hain (Sure, sure and whatever the matter is … you will provide me the content. But I will have the right to filter it).” Yes, we tell him. Kher has understood how this has to be done by him. So he says, “Nahi hum usko filter kar denge mould kar denge … baat wahi hogi … saar lekin bigadne nahi denge jo uska bhawarth hai wo wahi ka wahi rahega (No, I will filter the content and mould it … the nature of the content would remain the same … I will not distort the gist. Its meaning will remain as it is).” This is exactly what we expect from you, we tell him. This is why we had sought this meeting. The content will consist in promoting the BJP. But it has to be done in a way that it doesn’t look like you have become a brand ambassador for the party. Agreeing, he says, “Na wo sab nahi … isiliye hum mould karenge … isiliye hum usko filter karenge (No, not all that … That is why I will mould the content … That is why I will filter it).”

Appreciating his approach, we say this is how the general public would take it as a message coming from you as an individual. “Bilkul … hundred percent … tahbi hota hai asar hee tabhi hota hai … humein neutral rehna hoga (Correct, hundred percent … it is effective only then. I will have to act neutral),” says Kher, agreeing.

As usual after bringing him on board, we ask Kher in which mode he would like to receive his fee. It is, you know, political money. “Wo saara wo hee batayenge … wo saara ho jayega jo bhi aap unse baat kijiye (They [his agency] will tell you about it … all that will be done. You talk to them),” he advises us. Before wrapping up the interview, we tell him it is political money. Therefore, we will have to pay him a good part in cash maybe in ratio 50–50, 60–40. “Wo aap unse baat kijiye (You can discuss it with them),” Kher tells us. With this our interaction with the singer ends.

Mika Singh, Bollywood Playback Singer and Performer

The younger brother of Daler Mehndi has carved a niche for himself as a singer both in Bollywood and in regional filmdoms, singing more than 100 songs in various languages. His range of singing includes not only regular Hindi film songs but also pop, Bhangra and rap genres. In his two-decade-long career, Mika Singh has cut about 20 albums many of which have been chart-busters, apart from acting in a couple of Punjabi films. With more than 40 lakh followers on Twitter, more than 50 lakh on Facebook and 10.70 lakh on Instagram, he has quite a staggering presence on social media.

In fact, it was his manager Kanwaljeet who facilitated our meeting with his boss Mika after we had discussed our objective with him in detail. We had also agreed to pay his boss Rs. 5 lakh per message per month, as demanded by him. We met the singer on the sidelines of reality show India Ke Mast Kalander, where Mika is one of the judges, at Cine Classic Studio at Bhayandar in Mumbai. Kanwaljeet has apparently briefed his boss on this assignment. So, what do you understand about the assignment, we ask the singer. Is there any confusion? “Nahi matlab BJP humein campaigning karni hai (No, what you mean is I have to do campaigning for the BJP),” the singer says. No, don’t use the word campaigning, we advise him. The singer promptly corrects himself to say, “Nahi acchi waali karni hai rapo rapo banaani hai (No, I have to promote it, make a good rapport).”

You see, you are not working as a BJP brand ambassador for this assignment, for if you act as one, people will not take you seriously. So, it has to be done in a discreet manner. You simply have to praise the BJP government for all its good work. Taking a cue, Mika begins to recount those schemes, “Jaise Beti Bachao ho gayaa …  ek inka yoga day ho gayaa … Swach Bharat ho gayaa (There is this Beti Bachao [Beti Parhao] scheme … they have a Yoda Day … there is Swach Bharat).” Looks like the singer keeps a tab on what the BJP government is doing or, maybe, has done a crash course on it after his manager has apprised him of what he is expected to do. We also add some more schemes to enhance his knowledge.

Apart from all these schemes, there is this issue of NRC in Assam on which opposition parties are cornering the BJP government. Why not make a small tweet on this issue, we tell him, in which you can say the government has taken the first step in right direction. Replies Mika, “Sahi baat … Main chahta hoon ki aap mujhe uska content bhej do main usko halka-fulka edit kar doonga (Correct … Send me the content which I will edit slightly).” That is right, we tell him. Yes, of course, we will provide you the content. You can repackage it in your own way. But you don’t have to work overtime all of a sudden. You can just make three-five posts a month. The number of messages can be anything between four and six a month. “Chaar best hain (Four is the best [number]),” suggests the singer.

But at the same time you have to bear it in mind that the general public should not perceive you as working for the BJP. “Nahi, nahi unko main waise bhi na jab bhi koi accha kaam hota hai main humesha kartaa hoon … wo jo  bhi karte hain. Zyadatar inki sarkaar chal rahi hai toh saare inke hee chalenge … maine tab bhi tweet kiya tha jab inhone Hindi boli thi USA jaake (No, no. Anyway whenever some good work is done there I always appreciate that … It is their government in most of the states, so naturally I will talk about what they do … I had tweeted when he spoke in Hindi while visiting the USA),” Mika informs us.

Hope it is now clear you have to promote the BJP using your social media account, we say. The singer responds with an emphatic “Done”. Now, giving an example we explain how he could be innovative while doing the job. Whenever you go for an outdoor shooting in countryside, we tell him, you can say the village did not have light for so many years. But you can see there is electricity thanks to the BJP government. You can also use a photograph for the purpose. “Samajh gaya main (I got it),” says Mika.

When you feel you can do better than the content we have provided you, you are always welcome. “Ji bilkul, bilkul (Yes, sure),” assures the singer. This activity will continue till the 2019 elections, we inform him. The singer asks, “Haan … ab ye shuru kab se karna hai humein (Yes … when I will have to start it).” From 15th of this month, we say. But before that you will receive an official mail from our company informing you about this meeting and seeking your confirmation. In your reply you have to simply say the meeting had taken place and you agree to do what was discussed. That is all. “Bilkul (Sure),” the singer says. After that you will be sent the contract to complete the formality, we tell him. Offering help, Mika says, “Humne kuch bola tha Kanwaljeet ko bhi ki iske alawa kisi aur ko bhi chahiye toh main do-chaar logon se baat kar loonga … lekin pehle ek baar apna ho jaaye (I had told Kanwaljeet that if you need help I can rope in some more people … but first let me start it).”

Coming to money matters, an essential part of negotiations, we tell the singer that his manager had quoted a rate for his fee. We have spoken to our higher officials and they are okay with it, we say. Hope it has come to your knowledge. “Haan, haan (Yes, yes),” Mika tells us. He even tells us with a gesture of his hand that we have agreed to pay him Rs. 5 lakh per message a month. “Almost itna (this much) per tweet,” he says.  We hope that issue of the cash part is also clear to you, we say. “Haan (Yes),” informs the singer. Since our company has to do some accounting, 10 percent of your fee will be paid in white, we say. The singer assures us, “Okay … ji ji ji … koi tension nahi hai baaki saara Kanwal kar lega aapke saath (Okay … yes, yes, yes … there is no tension … the rest Kanwal will discuss with you).” When we tell him this agenda has to be kept a secret, Mika assures us, “Don’t worry … bilkul (sure) … done.”

With this assurance, we wrap up our interview with the singer. Some weeks later, Kanwaljeet sent us two messages. In one message, he sought update on the proposed assignment and in the second he forwarded a tweet that his master had made condoling the demise of former Prime Minister and BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee. Both the tweet and the message are self-explanatory.

Vivek Oberoi, Bollywood Actor

Born to Bollywood actor Suresh Oberoi, Vivek began his acting career with Ram Gopal Verma’s super-hit crime drama Company in 2002. In a one-and-half-decade long career, Vivek has acted in about 20 Bollywood and regional language films which have brought him both accolades and recognition. But more than an actor, he is known for his philanthropic work. No wonder if 20 lakh people follow him on Twitter, 99,000 on Facebook and about 4 lakh on Instagram. Vivek spoke to the Cobrapost team on the sidelines of a film shooting at Madh in Mumbai.

Vivek already knows why we are there as he has been briefed by the agent. So, when we meet him, he tells us, “Unhone bataaya mujhe maine kaha bilkul theek toh koi diqqat toh hai nahi aap formalities conclude kar lo uske baad jaise aap batayenge waisa karenge (He had told me about it. I said all right, there is no problem. You may first conclude formalities after which I will do what you suggest).” This sets the tone of our interaction with the actor.

We would like to make the concept clear to you, we say. “Haan, haan sure … clear kar dijiye (Yes, yes, sure. … make it clear to me),” says the actor, encouragingly. We quickly give him a brief: our company has been tasked by the BJP to enroll celebrities to help promote it on social media in the run-up to 2019 elections. You see many a time opposition parties rake up issues to corner the government. But if a celebrity posts a message defending the government, it helps create a positive image of the government among the general public. This is why we want to employ celebrities like you for the job. What you have to do is praise the good works done by the BJP government in the past four years or so, such as Beti Bachao Beti Parhao. Vivek begins to name all those schemes that the BJP government has launched all these years to finally ask, “Aap data wagaireh bhi denge na (You will provide me the data)?” Yes, we will provide the content with all the data, we assure him. “Fir data ke hissab se hum likh sakte hain … aisa lagna nahi chahiye ki humein bola gaya hai likhne ke liye … lagna aisa chahiye ki hum khud hee likh rahe hain … lagna aisa chahiye ki hum genuinely bol rahe hain … aur real kaam kiya toh jo real kaam kiya hai wahi hum likhenge baaki toh hum kuch likhenge nahi … jhooth toh hum likhenge nahi (So, I can write according to the available data … it should not look like that I have been asked to write that … rather, it should look like that I am writing it on my own … it should look like I am writing it genuinely … and then I will be writing on real work that has been done. I will not write about anything else other than the real work done. I will not write anything false),” the actor says. Vivek does not need any tutoring, apparently.

We again tell him that we would provide him the content along with facts and figures. But he has to keep it discreet, without naming any politician or political party. There is no need to criticize any opposition leader, either. You have to appreciate only good works of the government. You also have to defend the government on issues on which the opposition corners the government, such as surgical strike, demonetization and GST. “Saare platform milaakar apne kareeb 25–30 lakh direct followers hain aur unka jo retweet aur ripple effect aata hai wo kareeban do-dhai karod ke kareeban aata hai ten times aata hai … toh hum kar sakte hain … iski frequency kya hogi (I have 25–30 lakh direct followers in all platforms and their retweets make a ripple effect that goes to about 2–2.50 crore, about 10 times … so I can do that … what is its frequency),” Vivek informs us while agreeing to do what we ask him. You have to make hardly five Tweets a month, we tell him. “Ye kab se shuru hoga (When will it start),” he asks. It will start from the first week of September, we tell him.

Telling us that he would leave Mumbai in a few days, he asks us to expedite the formalities. Now, listen to what Vivek tells us to do next, “Toh main ye bol raha tha ki jaane se pehle aap ye formalities kar do taaki fir hum 1st September se karein kyonki iske baad hum jayenge Kerala, Kerala se hum jayenge Azerbaijan. Tweet toh hum kahin se bhi karenge but agar ye formalities close ho jaati hain toh humko bhi ek understanding bhi ho jaati hai. Ek aap baat kar lena saari aur baaki humko ek wo bhi de dein ki ye mudde hain … toh ye mudde ye facts ye figures toh ek docket bana ke de dein toh fir main, aap aur social media team humari milke iska phase out plan karenge ki bhai aaj ye topic kar rahe hain, ye topic kar rahe hain, ye topic kar rahe hain aur har hufte ka topic mahine ka mail kar denge chunk bhai ye mahine mein week 1, 2, 3, 4 mein in muddon ko uthayenge aur hum ye baat karenge (So, I would like to tell you to close the formalities before I leave so that I can start it from 1st September, because after that I would go to Kerala and from there to Azerbaijan. I can tweet from anywhere, but if you close these formalities, I would arrive at an understanding. [Turning to his manager]You can discuss it all with them and also give me a list of issues with facts and figures in the form of a docket. After that, I, you and my social media team will make a phase out [sic] plan; for instance, today we will cover this topic, and the topic to be covered every week, month you will mail me in a chunk, telling me we will be covering these issues in 1, 2, 3 and 4 week, we will talk about this issue).”

Finding him fully on board, we now move to discuss his fee and mode of payment. Here Vivek asks us, “Ye window kya rahega … kitne mahine ke liye karna hai (What will be this window … how many months I will have to do it).” There will be a contract, we tell him. Since it is a hidden agenda, we cannot put all these things in black and white. We will mention that you are endorsing a certain company product. “Toh fir endorsement fee toh hum monthly lete nahi hain toh aap monthly kaise doge aapko toh humko chunks mein manage karna padega (I don’t take endorsement fee on monthly basis. How will you pay me monthly, then? We will have to manage it in chunks),” he wonders. Offering him a solution to his quandary, we tell him we will pay up to 20 percent of his fee in white and we will pay him this part in advance for nine months together. The rest will be paid to him advance in cash every month. “Accha theek hai (Okay, that is fine),” says Vivek, assured.

When we ask him what would be his fee, Vivek says, “Nahi wo Kedar bhai batayenge aapko (No, that only Kedar bhai will tell you).”

So, to discuss his fee we turn to his manager Kedar. After some bargaining, we agree to pay Rs. 80 lakh a month and tell him that only 15 percent of this fee, that is Rs. 12 lakh, will be shown in agreement. Your boss will be paid the white component of Rs. 1.08 crore in advance for all nine months in once chunk. The cash component of Rs. 68 lakh would be paid every month in advance. “Theek hai (That if fine),” says Kedar. This settled, our interview comes to an end.

Sonu Sood, Actor

In a career spanning two decades, he has mostly played a villain in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi movies, such as Dabang, Jodha Akbar, Singh Is King and Arundhati, to name a few. But the Moga-born model-cum-actor is no less popular than any Bollywood star. With more than 11 lakh followers on Twitter, about 25 lakh on Facebook and more than 20 lakh on Instagram, Sonu Sood enjoys an iconic status among his fans, if popularity on social media is any measure. The FitIndia campaign ambassador also commands a high fee which villainy seldom fetches to actors. We met Sood at his residence in Oshiwara in Andheri West, Mumbai.

As we apprise him of our objective, we tell him our PR agency is tasked with the promotion of BJP on social media in the run-up to 2019 elections. The party can hire you as their brand ambassador, but it will hit your credibility as an independent stake holder, we say. Appreciating this nuanced approach to the image building exercise for the BJP, Sood says, “[Yes, they would say] That’s why he is talking. He is not [a] neutral person that we are talking about, yeah.” What you have to do is appreciate the good work done so far by the BJP government on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Since you are a celebrity what you would say would carry credibility among the people. Sood cannot agree more on this point as he says, “Toh ismein kuch haqeeqat hai ([Yes, they think] There is some truth in it).”

Picking up Swach Bharat Abhiyan as an example, we tell him he can write about how the trash has given way to cleanliness all around since the government launched the programme. So, you can observe the positive changes it has brought about when you visit some places and write about them. Agreeing, Sood says, “Yahan par roads ban gai hain saari saaf suthri jageh dikhne lagi (Here roads have been built and spaces are looking spic and span).” But it is not necessary for you to visit a place for this purpose, we say, to observe such changes. “Nahi main obviously samajh gayaa that is what you know that is how we promote things main nahi bhi jaata toh main bolta ki yaar (No, obviously I understand it. That is what, you know, that is how we promote things. I don’t visit a place but still say [something about it]),” observes the actor. Giving an example of himself being the FitIndia Ambassador, Sood says, “Basically the thing… now I am just giving an example. For example, I am the FitIndia Ambassador toh main agar boloonga ki ye khao fit raho aur exercise karo toh log kahenge ki haan yaar fit rehna zaroori hai kyonki ye sahi bol raha hai. Ek do log hain jo mujhe pata hai kuch-kuch Congress ke liye karte hain. Meri pehchaan waale log hain wo bahut under the belt hain, bahut under the belt hain … Mujhe lagta hai ki yaar thoda sa lagta hai ki ye plug in kiye huye log hain aur they try to talk against BJP or some party or some… and if you smartly tell … good about or good work that is done somewhere (Basically the thing… now I am just giving an example. For example, I am the FitIndia Ambassador. So if I say eat this or that to stay fit, people would sure think that staying fit is essential because this fellow is telling us. I know some people who do something on similar lines for Congress. They do it under the belt… I think they are plugged in and they try to talk against BJP or some party or some… and if you smartly tell … good about or good work that is done somewhere).” But cautioning him we tell him to not mention the BJP or NDA and never speak of schemes which have failed. Talk about only those schemes or good works which have been a success. “Right,” says Sood.

It is essential to maintain secrecy to maintain your credibility, we reiterate. Swearing to secrecy, Sood observes, “Hundred percent wo hee tabhi credibility rahegi jise secrecy pata chal gai through your tweets through your actions or through your voice then the job is waste tab toh khatm ho gaya fir expose ho gaya wo ussi ka ho gaya (Hundred percent. Only then does credibility remain. If secrecy is blown through your tweets, through your actions or through your voice, then the job is [a] waste. Then it is over, you are exposed).”

Hope the agenda is clear to you and if you have any doubt you may please ask us to clarify, we say. “Nahi, nahi, bilkul nahi. I got the point (No, no, not at all. I got the point),” Sood returns categorically.

Now, coming to his fee, we tell him he would be provided five topics every month on which he will have to write on his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts, in all 15 messages. There will be an eight-month contract. Give us an idea about your fee, we say. He gives us a circuitous answer before quoting the price he charges for his services, “It’s a contractual thing not something ... so we get minimum five and half lakhs for a single tweet… toh basically sab kuch contractual wo corporate ka rehta hai depending on jo jiska genre hai (so basically everything is contractual from those corporate depending on their genre), which is the minimum thing but that has nothing to do with any party, that has nothing to do with any controversy.” This is what he claims he gets from his corporate clients.

You see you will have to post 15 messages every month and we will pay you Rs. 1.5 crore at the rate of Rs. 10 lakh per message. But Sood is not happy at the offer. Claiming that his posts will be best, he says, “Main aapko bataoon directly … since agar main aapse aise baat kar raha hoon dekho mera aisa maanana hai ki hum na main seriously karoonga paanch bhi ho sakte hain saat bhi ho sakte hain my messages will be very very strong and nice main usmein koshish karenge ki paanch nahi bole aaj chaar hee karein hain ek kisi aur ne kiya maine repeat karke uska jawaab de diya for example theek hai toh wo sab karenge main ek aadh ka but I feel ki jo apan 1.5 crore soch rahe hain it should be at least 2.5 (Let me tell you directly … Since if I am talking to you … you see I think I shall work seriously. There can be five or seven [posts/tweets]. My messages will be very, very strong and nice. If I say I will do only four not five on a given day … I will repeat something written by somebody else, for example, and I will add my answer to it. Is that okay? I will do all that … but I feel that the price 1.5 crore you have quoted, it should be at least 2.5).” The reason for him to charge us such an exorbitant fee is, in his words, “Yeah because I want counted.”

We get into bargaining mode with the actor, now. Let us keep it Rs. 2 crore a month, we say, for first three months, after which we will increase depending upon the response we get on your messages. Digging his heels in, Sood says, “Nahi aapko response kee koi tension hee nahi hai mujhe pataa hai na mera sikka bahut … main bahut alag hoon bhai (No, you don’t have to take any tension with regard to response. I know how big a currency I am … I am made of a different stuff brother).” So, we agree to pay him Rs. 2.50 crore a month.

After his fee is settled, we ask him how much cash he can adjust. Surprisingly, Sood has no problem in accepting cash as he says, “Main kar sakta hoon maximum … 10–12 (I can accept maximum … 10–12).” So, out of Rs. 20 crore to be paid to him in a span of coming eight months, the actor would take Rs. 10–12 crore in cash. This cash component comes to 60 percent of the payment. We ask him if he could accept 80 percent of his fee in cash. He has no problem with that, either, as he says, “Aap mujhe ek din dijiye main eighty ke andar poochhata hoon kal raat main aapko bata doonga (Give me a day’s time to check if 80 [percent] can be accepted [in cash]. I will get back to you by tomorrow evening).” He further adds to make a revelation about his film trade, “Ye hum log karte hain na bhai hum log karte na bahut. Hum South kee picturein karte hain. Main abhi picture karke aaya hoon wo usmein pahunch jaata hai humari mutual ek understanding hai (We people do this. I work in South Indian movies. I have done a picture recently. That [cash] reaches us. We have a mutual understanding).”

Before wrapping up the interview, with both parties arriving at an understanding, we ask the actor if our agenda is clear to him. We also ask him if he has any problem accepting 80 percent of his fee in cash. “Right,” he nods in agreement.

Like some of his tribe, Sood was so much eager to smell the scent of money that barely a fortnight after the interview he would message our reporter on WhatsApp to ask on the status of the deal. After three messages, as we apparently chose to not reply, his desperation came out. To quote his one such message verbatim, “Bro. Why I have a feeling that what we all discussed was all talks.”

But we were able to assuage him giving him some credible alibis for not showing up. The actor even made three tweets to show us he is serious about the job. In one such tweet he praises Prime Minister Narendra Modi for starting the FitIndia campaign.

In yet another Tweet, the actor retweeted a tweet of Union Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore throwing a challenge at actor Hritik Roshan.

All these chats and tweets are self-evident.

Amisha Patel, Model and Actor

An economic analyst by training, Amisha Patel worked as a model while acting in theatre before her Bollywood break happened with Kaho Na … Pyar Hai in 2000, followed a year later by Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, one of the largest grossers ever on box-office. However, her acting career nose-dived after 2007. She is staging a comeback with upcoming Sunny Deol starrer Bhaiyaji Superhit. Although she is no longer seen in movies, her popularity is far from diminished, for she has more than 30 lakh followers on Twitter, more than 48,000 on Facebook and more than 10 lakh on Instagram. 

It was her manager Kunal who spoke to us on her behalf in her Juhu office, for Amisha was not there at that time. Kunal already knew why we were there. So, we did not waste time on niceties. Look, we tell him, we are hiring celebrities to promote the BJP on social media in the run-up to elections in 2019. You know when celebrities like Amisha speak on issues it sends a message to their followers and through them to the general public. What she has to do is appreciate the good work and schemes of the government. This will help create a positive image among the general public who will brush aside the issues the opposition raises. We will provide you the content for this purpose.

After briefing him thus, we come to fee and ask him what their expectation is. We also ask in which mode they would like to receive the fee. Telling us to keep in mind the repercussion his boss may have to face on account of undertaking this political assignment, Kunal asks us what our offer is. After some haggling, we agree to pay Amisha a fee of Rs. 5 lakh per message, which comes to Rs. 45 lakh a month. But Kunal is adamant on seeking a security for his boss and asks us to pay Rs. 90 lakh as security. We promptly agree. Suggesting that she should be paid two months’ fee in advance as security, he tells us, “Main do mahine ka ginunga kyonki wo do mahine kee security chahengi … aur ye mode of payment … mode of payment  nahi .. aur ye terms aur payment ka ek toh aap dekh lena first month ka toh aap advance doge hee … aur doosre month ka bhi aapko jaise hee wo ek bhi karenge ya do karengi maximum aapko doosre mahine ka dena padegakyonki logically main do mahine ka bol raha hoon (I will count two months as she would like to have security for two months … and then this mode of payment … not mode of payment but see terms of payment. You will be paying the first month fee in advance … and you will have to pay fee for the second month as soon as she has made a Tweet or two … logically I am talking of two months’ payment).” We have no issue with that either, we assure him again, while agreeing to pay Rs. 90 lakh in security deposit.

In the meanwhile, his boss and business partner Amisha enters the room. Turning to her Kunal says, “So, Ma’am I have understood what they want … I’ll explain that you araam se later, so basically like I told you, three news per month so three mediums Twitter, Insta, Facebook.” Understanding it well what is expected of her, Amisha says “Yeah.” Yes, you can explain it to her, we tell Kunal. Assures Kunal, “Haan wo aaram se inko main samajha doonga (Yes, I will explain to her later).” This is necessary so she has no confusion about this, we say. “Nahi, wo bata denge, no tension (No, he will tell me about it, no tension),” Amisha also assures us.

Brushing aside all assurances, we turn to Amisha to brief her. Madam, you just have to appreciate all the good work done by the BJP government, we say. Amisha instead laments, “Kaafi fans hain jo un good works ko appreciate nahi karte toh wo ye backlash mujhe sahna padega bas aur kuch nahi (There are many fans who don’t appreciate those good works. So, I will have to bear with that backlash).” But you can always say good things about schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Parhao, we insist. Kunal also convinces Amisha.

We say it would be quite advisable if she starts writing on social media on social issues as soon as possible. Doing it all of a sudden may send a wrong message, otherwise.

But they would like to have money first and work later. “Ek baar hum log MOU sign karke kuch ho jayega (Let us sign the MOU first and some payment materialises),” Amisha tells us. Chips in Kunal, “Ek baat bataata hoon aapka ek baar MOU sign ho gayaa … nahi, nahi, ek baat aapke tweet ke pehle bhi pehle aapke tweet ke teen din pehle kareingi (Let me make it clear. After the MOU is signed … no, no, three days before your tweets are to be made she will make the general tweet).” Assures Amisha, “Haan, haan wo ho jayega you don’t worry (Yes, yes. I will sure do that. You don’t worry).” Amisha then tells how her company has already done some projects related to the BJP and Narendra Modi. “Main active hoon in sab causes pe toh aapko (I am already active on such causes, so you [don’t have to worry]),” she avers. Kunal adds, “Aur aapka ek baari wo pehla cost jab aayega usase pehle hee wo aise kar dengi (And when we receive the first cost [payment], she will do it before that).” “Pehle hee kar doongi, toh aap nishchint rahiye (Yes, I will do it before that, you don’t worry),” assures Amisha.

Talking like a typical businessman, Kunal tells again what it would require, “Agar aap keh rahe hain ye mahine ke pehle aap lock kar dein right to definitely first week do din abhi nahi aur ek hufte baad hoga toh jaise aap lock karenge wo transaction ho jayenge do din baad wo ek general tweet kar dengi (As you told me if you lock the deal before this month, right, then first week, not in two days but after a week as soon as you lock it and transaction takes place, she will make a general tweet after two days).” As we have told we would get back to them on August 28 bringing along the promised advance payment, Amisha also tells us, “Samajho aap 28 ko aa rahe ho transaction ho jaata hai 28 kee sham ko main kar doongi taaki first week of September mein jab aapka pehla aa jaye toh wo paanch din ka gap rahega toh wo (Suppose, you say you are coming on 28. If transaction takes place on 28, I will post the tweet that very evening. So, when I receive the first advance in the first week of September, there will be a gap of five days).” Says Kunal, “Aur wo bhi general tweet aap apne aap bata do aisa kuch kar do na (And that general tweet you can suggest).” We will certainly do that, we say. “Taaki aap bhi khush rahein (Yes, so that you are happy),” Amisha says with a smile.

We couldn’t agree more.

Shreyas Talpade, Film Actor and Director

The Mumbai-born actor began his career in 1997 with TV series Woh aired by Zee and the character Tejas he played in the soap became an instant hit with Marathi-speaking audiences. Shreyas arrived in Bollywood with his debut Iqbal, directed by Nagesh Kukoonar, in 2005. In the past two decades or so, he has acted in scores of notable Hindi and Marathi films, while he wore the director’s hat for Poster Boys in 2017, a Hindi remake of Marathi film of the same name, starring the Deol brothers, Sunny and Bobby.

He has more than 2 lakh followers on Twitter and 1.16 lakh on Instagram, while about 56000 people follow him on Facebook. We met Shreyas in Greater Noida on the sidelines of a movie shoot. Here, we tell him our PR agency has been tasked to promote AAP in the run-up to 2019 elections. What he can do is appreciate the kind of work the AAP government in Delhi has done. You can just draw a comparison between what you see in Mumbai and Delhi. When it comes to inflation, you can compare the electricity bills residents of both megapolises pay to send your message. You have to do all this in a different way. Understanding it well, Shreyas says promptly, “Indirect way mein (In an indirect way).” You don’t have to fire on all your cylinders at once. It may otherwise create a negative perception about you. You have to make three–four tweets a month. Here, Shreyas tells us that whatever he does on social media does independently and has never been associated with any party. You see, you don’t have to associate with the AAP. You can simply praise the good work done by its government in Delhi. Agreeing to do what we have suggested, Shreyas asks, “Haan aur ye aapko kitne duration mein tweet lenge (Yes, and what will be the duration of these tweets).” We will provide you content on some three–four current issues every month and you will tweet accordingly, we tell him again. “Main toh keh raha tha in fact do se teen toh hee hone chahiye (What I suggest is, in fact, there should be two to three tweets only),” he opines. We fully agree with the actor.

He can visit a Delhi government school and then write about it with a photograph to make it more authentic, we tell him. Shreyas agrees to the idea. “Haan waise agar kuchh ho toh zyada matlab sense bhi banta hai ki main gaya haan maine dekha aur fir uske baare mein koi khuleaam bol raha hoon (Yes, it makes more sense that I personally visited and observed it and then I am talking about it openly),” he says. But it has to be done without naming the party. We offer him Rs. 1 lakh per message. Poring over the offer for a moment, Shreyas says, “Accha give me some time to think.” We will provide you the content every month, we say, which you can post on all three platforms, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, in your own words. This way you will be paid Rs. 3 lakh per message. When we ask him what mode of payment he would be comfortable with, Shreyas replies, “Cash.” We tell him that he would be paid in advance the contract money and only then he would have to start promoting AAP on his social media pages. He then asks, “Kitne mahine ka karna chahte ho (How many months you want me to work)?” he asks. For eight months only, we tell him. But we can extend the contract provided we see results. 

But Shreyas is not happy with the remuneration we offer him. When we ask him how much he expects from us, he demands, “I was thinking of around 3 lakhs per tweet.” Negotiation hard with him we offer him Rs 6 lakh per content, Rs. 3 lakh for Twitter and Rs. 1.5 lakh each for Facebook and Instagram. This way you would be able to rake in Rs. 30 lakh a month, we say. Shreyas returns with a crisp “Okay.” The actor then asks, “You expect around five tweets in a month?” Yes, this is maximum number of messages, we tell him. We tell him that out of this sum he would get Rs. 27 lakh in cash and the rest in cheque. Tell us if you have any issue with cash, we ask him. “Nahi cash mein koi issue nahi hai (No, there is no issue with cash).” He even wonders if cash could be delivered in Mumbai itself when we ask him how he would like cash to be delivered to him. It can be delivered to his man or at his residence. There is no issue with it, we assure him. “Nahi waisa kuch nahi hai. Mere bande ko Mumbai mein agar kara sakte hain aap toh theek hai (There is nothing like that. See if you can deliver it to my man in Mumbai, then it will be fine),” he says. We promptly agree to do the needful. Out of the slip of tongue one of our reporters tells him that a big name in the industry is demanding Rs. 2.5 crore a month for the job. Shreyas seeks more money saying, “Toh humein kyon 30 de rahe ho yaar humein bhi thoda better do (So why are you giving me Rs. 30 lakh, friend. Give me some more better remuneration).”

After the remuneration and mode of payment is finalized, we ask him if he has any confusion with regard to the assignment. No, he has no confusion at all. “Nahi thing is jahan aisa lagega main comfortable nahi hoon main aapko bol doonga (No. There is one thing. When I don’t feel comfortable I will tell you),” he informs us. With this broader agreement, our interaction with the actor ends.

Ganesh Acharya, Film Choreographer, Actor and Director

Born to a dancer father, Ganesh Acharya became a choreographer at the age of 19 after his father died. He has now graduated into one of the most sought-after choreographers in the film industry, with more than 100 films behind him, while acting in and directing films himself. He won the National Film Award for choreographing the song “Hawan Kund” in Milkha Singh’s biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag in 2013. The dances he has choreographed have brought him recognition far and wide. Although he has three accounts on Twitter by different names, he has 2,000 followers in all accounts put together and about 7000 on Facebook. Instagram tells us Ganesh has about 57000 followers on it.

You see this image building exercise is targeted at 2019 elections, we tell Ganesh. As you know, opposition parties rake up issues to corner the BJP government. So, we would to rope in celebrities like you to help promote the BJP on social media as it will create a positive impact on general public through your followers. Ganesh does not take long what the assignment entails as he informs us, “Main Swach Bharat Amitabh Bachchan ka daily show karta hoon … ek din baithta hain na Amitji (I do a show of Amitabh Bachchan on Swach Bharat … he comes on the sets of the show on one day).” True, Amitabh Bachchan is brand ambassador of the Banega Swach India campaign in which the actor plays various roles to convey the message of a Clean India. But we interject to tell Ganesh that our job is part of a “hidden agenda” and if we make you brand ambassador, the general public will never take it seriously whatever you say to them. The point is not lost on Ganesh as he says, “Nahi main samajh gayaa aapki baat … hidden hai (No, I got what you are telling me … it is hidden).”

We will provide you the content on various issues from time to time and you have to put your thoughts on them across your followers on social media. “Content denge wo maine Facebook, Twitter, Insta pe daalna hoga (You will provide me the content and I will have to post that on Facebook, Twitter, Insta),” he asks. Yes, you will have to do it in your own style, we say. “Dekho kya hai na mera jo hai na … baat karni hai na dance ke through daloonga na toh lakhon tak pahunchati hai, karodon tak pahunchati hai … toh aap mujhe content bhejenge usko thoda sa dance form mein aise-aise karoonga kar loonga aise hee normal baat karoonga toh do teen lakh tak pahunchata hai (You see, what is my attribute … if I have to talk about something and if I do it thought dance it reaches millions of people … so I will say something in a dance form on the content you will send me. If I talk on something, it normally reaches two-three lakh people),” offers Ganesh. This is exactly we expect from you, we tell him.

As our discussion moves on, Ganesh seeks to know, “Agreement kaisa banega aapki company se banega (How the agreement will be made, will your company make it)?” Yes, our company will make the contract which will be for a period of nine months. Next, we explain him how he would get only 10 percent of his fee in white through RTGS and the rest in cash. “Okay,” says the choreographer in agreement. There will be maximum five contents per month, we tell him, on which he will have to post messages on all three social media platforms. In all, he will have to post 15 messages a month. Now coming to his fee, we ask him what his expectation is. “Waise 25–30 ke beech mein hona chahiye … 25 se 30 ke beech mien (By the way it should be between 25–30 … between 25–30),” he says, after some hesitation. We promptly agree and fix his fee at Rs. 30 lakh per month, at the rate of Rs. 2 lakh per message. Tell us if there is any issue, we ask. “Koi issue nahi hai (There is no issue),” assures the choreographer.

We again tell him that since we receive funds mostly in cash we will be able to pay him only 10 percent of his fee in white. “White ka thoda zyada nahi ho sakta (Can you pay some more in white),” he asks. Sorry, we cannot help it, we say. “White ka matlab har month aap log white ka bhi denge (White means, you will pay in white every month separately).” Yes, certainly we will. Ganesh asks, “Usmein kuch aisa chaar-paanch mahine ka nahi ho payega (Wouldn’t it be possible for you to pay that way for some four-five months together)?” The reason is the choreographer wants some surety, as he explains when we tell him we would pay the white component every month, “Kya hai matlab jaise ye nau mahine ka hai … chaar-paanch mahine ka ek aapka white ka RTGS ho jaata na toh hum log confirm ho jaate ki kaam karna hai (I mean, this contract is for nine months … see if you can arrange RTGS of the white component of four-five months together, it would confirm that I have to work for you).”

We promptly accept what the choreographer proposes. “Badi payment nahi chahiye … bas white ka jo hai na (I don’t want a big payment … only the white component),” he further says. Assuring him we say we could even extend him six months advance of the white component. The cash component will be paid every month. Agreeing he says, “Wo chalega (That will do).”

This is how we close the deal with Ganesh Acharya.

Rakhi Sawant, Actor, Dancer, TV Show Host and Judge

She does not need any introduction. Born Neeru Bheda, Rakhi Sawant has acted in many Hindi and regional films, has done scores of item numbers and participated in many TV shows as a host and a judge. But more than her work, Sawant is known for controversies. She chose a life partner, a Canadian NRI, in a TV reality show on lines of mythical swayamvar. Only recently, she went to town accusing fellow actor Tanushri Dutta of raping her multiple times. Perhaps, it is this uncanny ability of hers to create controversy that she remains in news. Well, she is quite popular on social media, with about 2.94 lakh followers on Facebook and about 5.98 lakh on Instagram.

Our interview with Sawant, who we met at an Oshiwara restaurant, turned out to be quite revealing. As we go on to explain it to her how she would have to both appreciate the good work done by the BJP government and defend it on certain issues that the opposition raises from time to time, Sawant is smart enough to understand what is expected of her. “Haan, lekin wo mudda aapko dena chahiye (Yes, but you will have to inform me about the issue),” she asks, while apparently agreeing to do our bidding. Of course, we will provide you the content, we assure her.

She also knows how she would have to play out the content, as she says, “Content ke saath apna mix karke wo aisa lage nahi ki aapne mujhe diya hua hai ye mera style hai bebaak (I will mix my own words in the content you will provide me. This is my style … straightforward).” Yes, this is what we want. People should know that Rakhi Sawant is doing it on her own. Buoyed at her praise, Sawant makes a revelation, “Last time bhi aise hua tha mujhe hire kiya tha Rajnath ji ne pata hai (Last time around the same had happened. I was hired by Rajnath ji, you know).” Now, no guessing who this Rajnath is she is spilling the beans about. We don’t know that, we tell her. Sawant adds further, “Main gai thi na toh na toh har channelon ne mujhe accha amount diya tha maine bataya tha toh main gai thi last time jab PM bane nahi thei usase pehle main saare channelon mein gai thi kisi ke through gai thi (I went to talk on every channel. They all paid me a tidy amount. I had told you … I went last time when [Narendra Modi] was not a PM yet. I had gone to all channels before that, through someone).”

In the same breath, she tells us she was hired by a company for the job. She also knows the illegality of such contracts, as she says, “Haan wo bolna allowed nahi hota main aap logon ko bataa rahi hoon waise kyonki ye sab illegal hai toh hum matlab bol hee nahi sakte artist bol hee nahi sakte (Yes. Although it is not allowed to tell about it, I am still telling you because this all is illegal as artists cannot talk like this).” We cannot agree more. One has to maintain secrecy about such undertakings. Agreeing, she says, “Secrecy rakhni hai … ye toh isliye maine aapko bola ([Yes] There has to be secrecy about it … I told you to keep you informed).”

You see, this has to go for coming nine months till 2019 elections, we explain, and what you have to do is praise the good work done by the BJP government in your own style. Now, Sawant makes a revealing comment, as she says. “Jo mudde hain unhone kya kaam kiya hai basically jantaa ke dimaag mein na wo daalna hai hammer karna hai unhone kaam kya kiya hai … kaam kya kiya hai … arre mujhe pata hai main kar chuki hoon pehle mujhe batayaa gayaa tha. Pehle mujhe poochha gayaa tha Bollywood kee ladki se Modi kyon PM bane aur Rahul Gandhi kyon nahi … maine bola Rahul Gandhi abhi time hai abhi Modi ko chance dena chahiye. Poori duniya agar nahi diya toh pachhtayenge (I will have to talk about those issues what [good] work they have done. I have to hammer into the minds of the larger public the work they have done … the work they have done … I know it. I have already done that. I was briefed beforehand. I the Bollywood girl was asked why Modi should become PM and why not Rahul Gandhi … I said Rahul Gandhi has time. Modi should be given a chance at this time. If he does not get that the whole world will have to repent).”

If Sawant is to be believed this is how TV news channels conducted prime time debates on a predesigned agenda in order to create a perception in favour of Narendra Modi, then BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, in 2014 general elections.

As our negotiation with her moves on, She says, “Content aapko dena hai content jo banda bolega ki aap ye bol do (You will have to provide me the content on what the fellow wants me to talk).” Yes, we will provide you the content which you will have to post in your own style. Agreeing, she tell us, “Kyonki mere Insta se sab log uthaate hain Times of India se leke sab log (All sorts of people pick up [what I say on] Insta, including the Times of India).”

We tell her we would provide her five contents every month which she will have to rewrite in her own words to post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. She agrees but informs us that she is not active on Twitter any more. However, she says she would see to it how she can activate her old account or open a new one on Twitter. Now, we suggest she can create controversy as well, but not in a crude way she is known for. Rakhi is prompt to say, “Lekin aap mujhe denge fir ussi hisaab se bawaal hoga na aap mujhe negative denge bolne ko main negative boloongi. Darati mein kisi ke baap se bhi nahi. Jab Modi PM hain toh darna kyon hai, positive bolenge denge toh main positive boloongi (But I will raise a controversy according to the content. If you give me negative, I will talk negative. I am not afraid of anybody when Modi is PM there. If you give me positive, I will talk positive).”

Apart from these regular social media messages, we say, she can also use press conferences held on the sidelines of a film shoot or TV series to promote the BJP. Agreeing, she says she is already doing it, “Haan, main aapko bataati hoon agar mujhe media ne sawal poochha toh toh main definitely boloongi jaise abhi main Banaras gai thi toh wahan mere Sapna Chaudhry aur Arshi Khan ka performance tha lekin main wahan jaakar bolkar aai hoon ki iss baar bhi Banaras se Varanasi se Modi ji hee jeetenge kyonki Ganga saaf karaane wale Modi hee hain aur agar tumne apni maa ka doodh piya hai toh fir se unko jita ke laaoge Banaras ko jitana hoga agar saaf rakhna hai. Mere shabd thode kataksh hote hain (Yes, let me tell you if the media asks a question, I will definitely say good things. I had recently gone to Banaras, for instance. There I, Sapna Chaudhry and Arshi Khan had to give a performance, but I told people there to make Modi a winner again from Banaras as it is only Modiji who has made the Ganga clean. I challenged them if they have drunk their mother’s milk they should make him a winner from Banaras. I use words which are sarcastic).” Yes, this is what your quality is, we say in appreciation. This kind of hammering is effective, she tells us, while saying, “Toh thoda thoda unko dil pe lagegaa yaar bola hai jitaanaa toh padega sau sunenge pachaas toh maanenge wo pachaas bahut effective hote hain (So, it will somewhat strike a chord with their hearts. They will think they should vote him to victory. If 100 listen to what I say, at least 50 will follow what I say … those 50 will be very effective).”

Why not write something positive about demonetization, we suggest. But here Rakhi criticizes the decision while telling us the government should have rather gone after the black money hoarders at home, rather than gunning for black money stashed away abroad.     

Coming to her fee, we agree to pay Sawant Rs. 75 lakh a month and tell her that there will be a formal contract. We also tell her that she would be paid only 10 percent of her fee in white, the rest Rs. 67.50 lakh would be paid in cash. She has no problem, as she says “Theek hai (It is fine).” In the meanwhile, Sawant sent us a video showing her eagerness to work on our agenda. In this video extolling the virtues of CM Yogi Adityanath, she says like a propagandist, “Jab se CM bane hain Yogi ji tab se UP ka bhavishya change ho chuka hai jab se CM bane hain Yogi ji tab se ek bhi balatakar nahi hua hai rape nahi hua hai (The future of UP is changing for better after Yogi ji became CM. There has been no rape since Yogi ji became CM).”

Pankaj Dheer and Nikitin Dheer, Actors

Known for assaying powerful characters like the valorous Karna in TV series Mahabharat and the villainous maniac King Shivdutt in Chandrakanta, Pankaj Dheer has acted in many TV series and Bollywood films. The son of film director C.L. Dheer, the actor is also credited with making the first ever Indian adult movie Bombay Fantasy. Although he might not have made a cut as a director, Dheer has certainly made a mark as an actor. Stepping into his father’s shoes, Nikitin has gained immense popularity as an actor, with blockbusters like Jodha Akabar, Ready, Dabbang 2, and Chinnai Express. While his father is not a social media buff, Nikitin has more than 1.13 lakh followers on Twitter and about 1.53 lakh followers on Instagram. He does not enjoy a big following on Facebook, though, where about 4000 people follow him.

Cobrapost reporters met the senior Dheer at their Goregaon residence. As we apprise him of the purpose of our visit, Pankaj wants to know what is in store for him in the deal. “What do I stand to gain? Mera gain kya hai ismein (What is there for me to gain in this deal)?” asks Pankaj with as much eagerness, smelling an opportunity to make some fast bucks while twiddling his thumbs. Asking him to quote his fee, we tell him he will have to make about four tweets a month. We also tell him why we are asking celebrities like him to do us the favour and how we would pay them: There are two grounds for determining the remuneration. One is credibility and the other is following on social media. Celebrities are a brand in themselves and if a celeb tweets or posts on an issue, it has an altogether different impact on the larger public. Accordingly, we pay them anything between Rs. 2 lakh and 5 lakh per tweet or post. But you are not required to tweet or post every day, for if all the celebrities who have agreed to come on board would do so every day people may smell a rat. Agreeing to our viewpoint, Pankaj says, “Wo toh circus ban jayega. Tweet aana chahiye bahut soch samajh ke aur bahut qayde se aur bahut time pe jiska weight bhi ho aur jiska aur jiska It should be appreciated also (Then, it would become a circus. A tweet should come in a considerate and timely manner and should carry some weight and which I mean … it should be appreciated also).”

The veteran actor is good at understanding the dos and don’ts of such business. Telling us he has never indulged in such kind of activity, Pankaj asks, “How do you pay?” We would prefer cash provided you are comfortable, we tell him. Pankaj is all gaga about getting paid in cash as he says, “I am very comfortable because in cheque I am burdened till here.” Appreciating his problem, we tell him only 10 percent of the payment would be made in cheque showing him as doing some product promotion. At this point, Pankaj asks, “And when do you pay?” We pay in advance every month, he is told. “Advance, for example, suppose you doing four tweets a month, roughly like you say … three-four whatever, so you said four tweets you fix a price then you pay me the money in advance and then in that month jo bhi mudde hain jo bhi baat hogi but usmein ek baat hogi (whatever the issues, whatever the topic we talk about but there will be one thing) I should have the liberty to say no to you on certain things,” states Pankaj, making his stance clear. We have no problem with it, we tell him. After some deliberations, his fee is settled at Rs. 15 lakh for four messages a month. “But usmein maximum cash (But maximum cash therein),” he says. Yes, we say, as we explain how he would be paid. Of this, we tell him, he will be paid Rs. 1.50 lakh in white and the rest in cash. “And we should be paid when?” he is eager to know. The celebrity digital promotion of the BJP would begin sometime around July and he will be paid in advance when his visitors would come again to get the contract signed by him, he is told. As you know, political funding is mostly received in cash, so we prefer to keep it that way. Here Pankaj explains why he prefers cash for his fee. “Because it’s better that way kyonki ye kaam ka jo paisa hai na kharche dikhana ya explain karna bahut mushqil hai (Because it’s better that way since it is very difficult to show or explain the expenses against the money we receive for this kind of work),” he says.   

Convinced that he is about to earn millions, Pankaj suggested us to rope in his son Nikitin and daughter-in-law and TV actor Kratika. We were about to wrap up the interview when by coincidence Nikitin entered the room. Senior Dheer did not lose time to brief his son about the opportunity that had come knocking at their door. “It’s a very interesting thing what they doing. So they want you also to join. I don’t know what you think about it but I said yes to them,” Papa Dheer tells his son. “You have to make four tweets a month,” he tells his son and then turning to us adds, “and I don’t know how much you will pay him.”

Now, we turn our attention on Nikitin. You will have to promote the BJP digitally, we tell him. The whole exercise has to be kept a well-guarded secret. “Haan, haan (Yes, yes),” says Nikitin. We will provide you the content which you will have to tweak in your own words. You will be paid in advance and in cash, we explain. “Okay,” says Nikitin. “You will conduct four tweets on jaise (for example) Jammu Kashmir, whatever bridge is fallen something like that. You are pro-BJP here,” chips in the Senior Dheer, to enlighten is son further. “Haan wo toh hum waise bhi pro-BJP hain (Yes, in any case we are pro-BJP),” informs Nikitin of their political leanings. Basically, it is all an exercise in image building in the run-up to 2019 elections, we tell him. “Zaroor, zaroor (Sure, sure). Even my wife she has five hundred thousand followers on Instagram,” says Nikitin, suggesting his wife’s services are available. “You know, hum sab aap agar aisa kuch chahein toh hum teenon kee taraf se bhi ek kuch kar sakte hain aisa (You know, we all three can do this if you wish).” We politely refuse saying we have to play it discreet and Nikitin understands why as he says, “Haan, main samajh gaya discreet rakhna chahte hain aap matlab baat pakad mein aa jayegi (Yes, I got it you want to keep it discreet. The secret will be out, otherwise).” You are bang on, we appreciate Nikitin.

We further tell him that content will be provided by us upon which he would have to build his tweets. It has to be done in such way as would not look like directly promoting the BJP. Dad Dheer interjects to enlighten his son, “It should look like it’s come from you. Sahi baat hai (It is fine).” Nikitin seconds his dad, “Sahi baat hai (It is fine).”

What you have to do is promote all the good work done or schemes launched by the BJP government in the past four years of its rule, we tell Nikitin. At times, you have to defend the government when an accident or an unpleasant happening comes to light. We will tell you how you would do that. Nikitin is smart enough to understand the delicate nature of the assignment, as he says, “Neutral rahte hue halka sa (While keeping it neutral slightly).”

Keeping his popularity on social media in mind, when we offer Nikitin Rs. 24 lakh for four tweets a month, Dad Dheer wants more for his son. “Give him a good package,” he says like a doting father. Duly respecting a father’s wish, we raise the fee to Rs. 40 lakh a month. “I will do Twitter, Insta for you,” says Nikitin, gratified. After explaining him the same payment mode, we ask him if he has any problem accepting cash. “Koi diqqat nahi hai (There is no problem),” assures Nikitin. Before closing the meeting, we tell Nikitin in no way should a word go out. “Nahi bilkul bhi nahi aap bilkul chinta mat kijiye  (No, never. You don’t worry),” Nikitin assures us again. Our interview with father-son duo ended on this note.

When we met Pankaj, he did not have a Twitter account but within days he had begun tweeting. His son was equally eager to grab the deal smelling the heady scent of money. When he saw there was no communication from his prospective clients, Nikitin shot off the following message to us.

 

Akhilendra Mishra, Theatre, TV and Film Actor

He became a household name for portraying Kroor Singh, a wicked and scheming Aiyyar in TV series Chandrakanta broadcast on Doordarshan way back in 1994–96. Akhilendra Mishra has since worked in over 50 TV serials and Bollywood movies, assaying many memorable roles such as the one of the freedom fighter Chandra Shekhar Azad in The Legend of Bhagat Singh. He received a critic award for Billu Ustaad at Jharkhand International Film Festival held in May this year at the state capital. We met the actor at Chai Coffie at Versova Beach.

From the outset, the actor looked keen to work on our agenda. As we tell him he would have to promote the BJP by appreciating all the good work that its government at the centre has done in the past four years, Mishra opines, “Nahi, wo uplabdhiyan kya-kya hain wo dekhni padengi (No, I will have take a look at what are its achievements).” No worries, we assure him. We would provide you all information with facts and figures. Mishra in turn gives us an idea of his leanings saying, “Nahi, dekhiye kya hai main aapko bataata hoon maine kisi party ko join nahi kiya hai lekin BJP se mera aise bhi soft corner hai kyonki maine Narendra Modi ka role kiya hua hai film mein 2007 mein jab election thei aur uske baad unhone election jeeta tha. Film ka naam hai Gujarat No Nath (No, you see I have not joined any political party, but I have a soft corner for the BJP, because I played Narendra Modi in a film in 2007. After that he won the elections. The title of the film was Gujarat No Nath).”

Quick to understand the finer points of the assignment, ideas begin to float in his creative mind. “Usmein kisi ka naam lene kee zaroorat nahi hai. Dekhiye kya hoga aapka kaam bhi ho jaye lathi bhi na toote samajh gaye … matlab bhaat bhi khaiye jaat bhi na ganwaiye humare yahan ek kahawat hai. Naam lene kee zaroorat nahi hai usmein aisa toh nahi ki 19 mein runway ban raha hai baat nahi samajh rahe hain aap? 19 BJP 2019 ka flight ka take off ka ranway ban raha hai flight number daal do BJP 2019, toh kehne ka matlab ye hai ki flight number daal dijiye toh unko pata hee nahi yaar koi tweet kiya kyon kiski taraf kiya ya kya kiya kya dimaag mein ayaa. Toh waisa hee ho (There is no need to name anyone therein. This way your purpose would be served without any problems … I mean there is a saying, ‘you don’t have to lose your caste when you take a rice repast.’ So, there is no need to drop names. ‘There is this runway being built in 2019.’ I see you don’t get it. ‘There the runway for BJP 2019 flight take-off is being built, just put in flight number BJP 2019.’ I mean, this is how you can do it, put in the flight number. This way nobody will understand who made this kind of tweet in whose favour. It should done only like that),” he suggests. In the next breath, the actor says, “Dekhiye kya hai aap jo chahte hain uss mudde par toh humne kabhi socha hee nahi iss mudde par bahut kuch ho sakta hai baat samajhiye iss mudde pe itna kuch ho sakta hai ho sakta hai ki main hee aapko idea doon (You see, I have never thought on the issue [you have discussed with me]. We can do much more on this issue. Try to understand, we can do much more on this issue so that even I can give you ideas).” We will certainly welcome that, we say.

As the actor is more than willing to come on board, we now move on to discussing his fee. Demanding Rs. 50 lakh a month, Mishra explains why he should get this much fee. “Yaar main toh soch ke kuchh aur aaya tha. Paise kee baat hui thi. Main soch raha tha ki aap log kum se kum 50 lakh rupaye mahina doge. Baat samajh rahe hain usmein kya hai main aapko bataoon ismein do hee cheejein hain. Ek toh hai main seedha logon kee nazaron mein aaooonga seedhe seedhe film industry kee nazar mein (Friends, I was thinking something else. After all it is all about money. The money part was discussed. I was thinking you should pay me at least Rs. 50 lakh a month. Hope you understand it. The problem is two things will happen. First, people will come to know about it … yes the entire film industry will come to know),” says Mishra. Telling us he has worked with all bigwigs of the Tinsel Town, the actor suggests that the film industry is divided along party lines. Some are overtly in support of the BJP, while others sympathise with the Congress Party. Is that so, we ask. “Haan, abhi tak pata nahi hai Akhilendra Mishra kis taraf hai samajh rahe hain na aap main aapko baat khul ke bataa raha hoon (Yes. But nobody knows on whose side Akhilendra Mishra is. Hope you understand. That is why I am telling you it openly),” says Mishra.

Mishra also knows that he would not get the entire fee in white. So, he asks to know, “Lagbhag black kitna chah rahe hain, 10 percent, 15 percent hoga (How much you want to pay in black, 10–15 percent)?” We tell him we would pay only about 30–40 percent in white. With this agreement concludes our interview.

A few weeks after the interview, the actor sent us a message seeking to know the status of the project. We are reproducing the message here which shows the actor sharing with us a YouTube link supposedly his tribute to the late Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Obviously, the actor is eager to work for us.

Surendra Pal, TV and Film Actor

The Lucknow born-actor started his career as an actor in 1984 with film Grahsthi, a family drama. But his moment arrived truly after he assayed the role of Dronacharya in Doordarshan TV serial Mahabharat.  Since then, Surendra Pal has acted in about 40 films and more than 30 TV serials. He also produced and directed a Bhojpuri film Bhauji Ke Sister under his own banner in 2009. 

We met Pal at the Lokhandwala Love & Latte coffee shop. After we have briefed the actor about our agenda, he asks, “It’s a promotion to BJP.” Yes by celebs, we say. In order to give us an idea of how important a celeb can be for such promotions, he shares with us his experience of those days when he was allowed to speak even when Prime Minister Atal Behari would arrive to address an election rally. What gave him importance in the BJP’s scheme of things during electioneering was his popularity as Dronacharya. Telling us that he is known among the fraternity as pro-BJP, Pal says he has been instrumental in inducting actors like Gajendra Chauhan, Mukesh Khanna, Pankaj Dheer, Suresh Oberoi and Jitendra into the BJP.

Actually, we are targeting this digital promotion for 2019 elections, we tell him. So, we have to start it immediately. There will be an eight-month contract and we will provide you the content which you will have to post on social media. Hope, you are okay with it. Assures Pal, “Mujhe samajh mein poora aa gayaa hai, poora graph sab aage ka peeche ka side ka left ka (I have understood the graph in its entirety, including its front, back and side, left).” After our agenda is clear to him and the actor has agreed to come on board, we tell him again our team will provide him the content. “Facebook ko kaise karoge (How will you do it on Facebook)?” he inquires. The same content will be posted on Twitter and Facebook, and Instagram can carry video messages, we explain it to him how the same content will be repacked on all three social media platforms.

Pal gives us a live demo of how he promotes the BJP by invoking Lord Krishna and likening him to Narendra Modi.

Finally, coming to his fee we ask him to quote a budget. “Do lakh per tweet (Rs. 2 lakh per tweet),” he promptly says. Accordingly, we tell him he would be paid Rs. 30 lakh per month, for 15 messages on all three platforms. There will be a contract for eight months between us and him.

The actor is so desperate he not only begs us to honour this contract but also seeks to extend it, as he says, “Bas aap ye dhyan rakhiyega ki aath mahine continue rakhein ye nahi ki beech mein chhod dein aap mujhe … aur agar ho sake toh fir aath mahine ke baad bhi fir continue rakhein usko aage bhi zaroorat padegi (Please see to it that you honour the contract for eight months. Don’t leave me half way through it … and if it is possible continue it after eight months. You may need it further).”

Finding him completely at our disposal, we now discuss the mode of payment. We ask him how he will prefer it, cash or by cheque. Since it is political money, so we would prefer to pay him largely in cash, we tell him. “Cash hee de do (Pay in cash only),” says the actor. Before we could make the issue clear to him, he interjects to ask, “Cash kaise hoga (How will you pay this much of cash)?” Don’t worry, we will manage it, we assure him. Pal pitches again for cash payment only, “Cash kar dijiye (Pay in cash).” But some part of the payment will be made by cheque, we tell him, about 10–15 percent. The rest would be paid in cash. Agreeing, he says, “Haan 10 percent kar dijiye 10–15 percent kar dijiye … cash (Yes, pay 10 percent, 10–15 percent [by cheque] … [and the rest in] cash.”

Telling us that all political parties pay in cash for their campaigning, he reveals, “BJP bhi cash hee deti hai … BJP direct nahi degi, Amit Shah nahi dete, unka aadmi aayega doosra aadmi jaise aapne mujhe hire kiya na Sandeep ne toh Sandeep ke through aayega aur kisi ke through nahi aayega Sandeep ke through aayega (BJP also pays in cash … what BJP does is it does not pay direct. Amit Shah will not do that. His point man will come, some other person. Say, for example, you, Sandeep, have hired me. The money will come to me through Sandeep only, not somebody else).” In the same breath, he tells us he does not promote even the BJP free. Listen to what the mercenary in this modern-day Dronacharya says, “Free main kisi ke liye bhi nahi kiya BJP ke liye bhi nahi … haan main BJP ka supporter zaroor hoon but free mein koi kaam nahi kiya ye bhi bata doon main aapko paise nahi aayenge toh nahi karoonga (I don’t work free for anybody, even if it is the BJP … yes, I am a BJP supporter but I must tell you I have never worked free. If I don’t get money, I simply don’t work).”

Pal did five tweets for us even before we entered into that imagined contract and even before he got a single penny. The less said the better.

 

It was Pal who facilitated our meeting with Puneet Issar.

Puneet Issar, Actor and Director

His punch that landed Amitabh Bachchan straightaway in Breech Candy Hospital, fighting for life, made Puneet Issar, what he could not have dreamt ever to become, famous overnight, although for wrong reasons. That was in 1983 many years before his assaying the role of chivalrous Duryodhana in TV serial Mahabharat, made him a household name. Born to film director Sudesh Issar, Puneet worked as assistant director in many films, including Amithabh Bachchan–Vindo Khanna starrer Khoon Pasina, before he took to playing villainy in Hindi films. Trained in martial arts, Puneet has acted in several films, both Hindi and regional, and TV serials, while directing some, such as the Salman Khan starrer, Garv. His twitter account shows about 1500 followers on Twitter and about 6000 followers on Instagram. Facebook has about 35,000 people.

We met Issar at Lokhandwala coffee shop Love & Latte. His friend Surendra Pal was also present in this meeting. It does not take much time for Issar to understand our agenda. While listening to our proposition, Issar reveals, “Aap manoge meri baat. Ye jo aap bol rahe ho na ki nobody know, I know Congress people are doing same thing … wo kar rahe hain aapko main bata raha hoon. They are also doing. Kaise mujhe pata chala … ek director hai mere saare production mein meri filmein aayi jo bhi Garv aai toh uska art director tha. Wo maine dekha ek din suddenly aise hee koi tweet aaya bade dinon baad. Maine dekha, it was anti-BJP and pro-Congress. Maine kaha … tere ko kya problem aayee hai too toh … production wala hai too kyon pad raha hai ismein. Ab kya hai mere ko pata hai wo Javed Akhtar aur Shabana ke camp ka hai … I know that Ashish Sachdev wo log kya karte hain inke through karte hain. They are also doing it (Believe me. What you are telling nobody [should] know, I know Congress people are doing same thing … There is one art director in my production, there was this film Garv in which he was art director. He made a tweet suddenly after many days. I saw it was anti-BJP and pro-Congress. I said, ‘What is your problem. You belong to the film production line. Why are you getting into all this?’ I know he belongs to Javed Akhtar and Shabana camp. I know that they do such things through people like Ashish Sachdev. They are also doing it).”

Saying that he should begin to post messages on social issues, we tell him his contract will begin with the first week of June. He will have to post three-five messages every month on his Tweeter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Now we say he will have to target the rival parties a few months before elections in 2019 using satire. You don’t have to use abusive language while doing so. Agreeing, Issar says, “Nahi … arre tareeqe sehaan (No … in an appriapriate manner … yes).” Then, talking like a seasoned hand in this game, Issar informs us, “Aapko bataoon aap jo bol rahe ye sab samajhata hoon (Let me tell you, what you are saying I understand all that).”

Some moments later, he further adds using a swear word, “Aap jo bol rahe hain samajhata hoon main, but I believe we … them in a big way (I understand what you are telling me, but I believe we … them in a big way).” As we advise him to start posting messages on social issues immediately, he promptly agrees, “Haan kar denge (Yes, I will start doing it).” You can always target the opposition leaders in a humorous way without naming any leader, we suggest. For example, we say, you can write Pappu has failed. Now, everybody knows who this Pappu is. “Pappu fail ho gaya Karnataka mein (Pappu has failed in Karnataka),” exclaims his friend Pal. Pal had sent us a message on WhatsApp and we appreciate him for that.

While discussing other finer points of the contract between us, we tell Issar he will be shown endorsing some products as it is being a secret agenda we cannot put in black and white what we have mutually agreed upon. We will not mention anything therein what we are discussing with you. “Obviously ye kaise mention hogi (Obviously, how can it be mentioned),” he says, agreeing. We now move on to discuss the money part of the deal. Pal had told us that his friend charges Rs. 1 lakh for a tweet, which we had promptly agreed to pay. So, we tell Issar he will be paid a sum of Rs. 3 lakh per content for all three social media platforms. We will show him as endorsing some products in our contract. “Theek hai, so what will be there usmein kya mentioning hogi (Okay, so what will be there. What will be mentioning in that contract),” he asks.

But you will have to bear in mind the meaning of the content should not change, we say, while you do it in your own language. Agreeing, Issar says, “Arre wo toh alag hoga na tabhi nahi toh wo same lagega copy paste lagega wo nahi hona chahiye aisa yahee main jaanana chahta tha mahine mein kitne tweets aapko chahiye (Oh, those will be different. Otherwise they will look the same, like a copy-paste job. That’s it. I want to know how many tweets you want me to make).” Four to five messages a month on all three platforms, we tell him. Content will be provided to you with proper timing. “Haan, haan samajh gayaa main (Yes, yes. I got it).”

We finally come to the mode of payment. Since it is political money, how much percentage of your fee you would like to be paid in cash, we ask. Issar is quite comfortable with cash, as he suggests, “60–40 kariye, 60 cash kariye 40 wo ho gaya, 70–30 kariye (Do it in 60–40 ratio, where you can pay 60 percent in cash, the rest in that mode [white]. Or you can do it in 70–30 ratio).” What if we pay only 20 percent of your fee in white, we ask. “Haan … better hai (Yes … it is better),” says Issar. Hearing his aye, we clearly tell him we will pay 80 percent of his fee in black. “Haan theek hai (Yes, it is fine),” says Issar in agreement. There will be a contract only for the 20 percent white component, we tell him further. Tell us if you have any doubt, we ask. “Nahi (No),” says Issar, emphatically.

Puneet also agrees to post controversial messages on social media for some extra bucks. “What about those agar mujhe kahin pe controversial tweet karna hai uska kya … we will talk (What about those. If I have to make controversial tweet somewhere what about that … we will talk),” asks Issar. But you will have to tell us before making any controversial tweets, we say. “Aise nahi karenge yaar aapse pooch ke hum haani thodi na karenge agar wo agar wo aap bhi idea de sakte hain Puneet ji aap karna chahenge yes or no (No, I will not do it without your permission. I am not here to harm your interest. You can also give me ideas saying Puneet ji if you can do it, yes or no),” he says. We will also give you ideas along with content, we say. It will depend on you only. Suppose, if you have an idea you can discuss with us. Agreeing, Issar says, “Main aapse discuss kar loonga … sir ye main inki maar sakta hoon destroy kar sakta hoon kya hai wo wo we will talk the money then (I will disuses the idea then … I will tell I can screw them up, I can destroy them. So, we will talk the money [part] then).” 

Getting a bit more demanding, we tell the actor he will have to defend the BJP when its leaders make controversial statements. While agreeing, Issar makes a revelation, “Bilkul karenge … bachav kaise karenge ye bahut zaroori hai. Arre humne Salman Khan ko bachaya tha. Gaadi se aadmi ko uda diya. I was the only one jisne bachaya haan aur aise tareeqe se tark diye (I will sure defend … but how I will defend them is very essential. Arre, I saved Salman Khan. He had killed some men by his car. I was the only one who saved him. Yes, I did by putting proper arguments).”

Tisca Chopra, Actor, Author and Film Producer

A kin of late Khushwant Singh, noted journalist and author, Tisca Chopra shot to fame after portraying a tormented mother to a dyslexia child in Aamir Khan-starrer Taare Zameen Par. Her talent, however, goes beyond acting in theatre, TV serials and films. She has penned Acting Smart: Your Ticket To Showbiz, a best seller in its genre, while writing and producing Chutney, a short film which bagged her two Filmfare Awards. Born Priya Arora, Tisca has trodden a path people seldom tread, and it has brought her fame and encomiums in equal measure. As it happens, fame brings in popularity which Tisca enjoys on social media. Tisca has about 4 lakh followers on Facebook, more than 3 lakh on Twitter and more than 6 lakh on Instagram.

We met Tisca in a Delhi five star hotel. But before that we had already apprised her of our objective. Here, our objective is to seek celebrity support for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) instead, not the BJP. We tell her she would have to praise the AAP government for its good work, especially in education. “Aur Delhi mein kaafi accha kaam kiya in logon ne humne suna hai (I have heard they have done really good work),” Tisca tells us. Getting a fair sense of what she is expected of, Tisca asks, “Kab tak karna ye (How long am I supposed to do it).” There would be contract for coming eight months and you will be required to post three to four messages each on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram every month. “Three to four per month,” she reiterates the number of messages to be posted. Yes, this is exactly what we are looking forward to, messages focusing on achievements and social issues, withoust naming the government or its ministers. At times, you will also have to defend the government on certain issues that would arise from time to time. “Highlight karein … kabhi defend karein ([You mean] Highlight [good work] …  sometime defend them),” she says understanding perfectly the requirements. Giving an example of how cheap electricity is in Delhi compared to Mumbai, we ask her she could write on that as well. Tisca proves to be a good learner, as she says, “Haan aap bataate rahein, hum log karte rahenge usko (Yes, tell me such things I will keep promoting them accordingly).” Yes, we would provide the content, we tell her.

You can ask us if you have any confusion, we tell her. “Nahi confusion nahi (No, there is no confusion),” she assures us in turn. When we ask her in what mode, cash or by cheque, she would like to accept her fee, she is prompt to say, “Pehle amount toh decide kar lein (First, let us decide on the amount [of fee]).” Okay, let us do that first. Tell us what your expectation is, we ask. “Humare toh rates hain fixed jo hum charge karte hain because hum karte hee rahte hain ye alag-alag brands aur alag-alag cheejon ke liye toh ab aap bataiye aapke mind mein kya hai (Our rates are fixed whatever we charge, because we keep promoting different brands and different events. So tell me what is in your mind),” she asks us.

We forgot she also works as a model and promotes some big brands. The ball is now in our court. Telling her to not hesitate while quoting her expectations, we ask her how many followers she has on Twitter. “Twitter pe kaafi hain … teen lakh … Instagram pe 4 lakh, Facebook pe dus lakh (There many [followers] on Twitter … 3 lakh, 4 lakh on Instagram, 10 lakh on Facebook),” she claims. Here, Tisca gets her numbers wrong, in order to shore up her fee, perhaps, for she has less than 5 lakh followers on Facebook. Anyway who is bothered about such statistics?

To give her an idea, we tell her there would be three contents a month, which comes to nine messages. “Toh per month kitna ho jayega (So, how much it will be per month),” she asks. Accordingly, she would be paid Rs. 3 lakh per message, we tell her. But when we are unable to arrive at an exact figure, she chips in, “Nine three ja twenty-seven.” But she is not satisfied with the offer and is quick to convey it, “Teen thoda kum hain. We charge five normally. That is my normal rate (Three [lakh rupees] is somewhat on lower side. We charge five normally. That is my normal rate).” We promptly approve the fee she has quoted but with a rider. Since she is a celebrity and when she says something on an issue, it has a great impact on people’s mind. So, in situations when there is need to defend the AAP government, she would have to be more proactive. “Kar paoongi (I will be able to do that),” she assures us.

The deal thus sealed, we come to the mode of payment. We would pay you up to 20 percent of the fee in white and the contract would include only this much of the deal, we tell her. The rest would be paid in cash. “Theek hai, theek hai, wo theek hai (It’s okay, it’s okay. That is okay),” she utters in agreement. Before wrapping up the interview, we again tell her that her objective would be to work in the interest of the AAP by writing positively on good work that its government has done in Delhi. Assuring us she says, “Theek hai, theek hai aur Mohalla Clinic wagaireh ke baare mein mujhe thoda saa writeup de dena … toh fir jaake main apne hissab se usko (It’s fine. Give me a write-up on Mohalla Clinics … so after getting back I will write about that in my own [words]).”

Sure, we would provide you content backed up with research, we tell her. You see, the party in power would rake up issues which would lead to polarization during Lok Sabha elections. So, you would have to criticise the government at the centre for lack of its will on the issue of black money that is hoarded in Swiss banks. “Matlab basically jo ruling party jo ghalat kaam kar rahi hai un cheejon ko point out karna hai (You mean, basically I will have to point out those bad things that the ruling party is doing),” she says. Yes, this is what we are looking forward to. In addition, you have to appreciate the AAP. “Haan jo beneficial kaam hai wo saara (Yes, all that beneficial work [done by it]),” replies Tisca. Finally, you have to defend the AAP on issues it finds itself cornered, we tell her. We hear a crisp “Okay” in return from her.

Deepshikha Nagpal, TV and Film Actor and Director

Her portrayal of a tormented wife and daughter of Kilvish, the king of darkness, in one of the longest running TV series Shaktiman on Doordarshan brought her nationwide recognition. In a more than two-decade-long career, Deepshikha has acted in many films, including regional, and TV serials. She has more than 25,000 followers on Twitter, more than 68,000 on Facebook and more than 2.60 lakh on Instagram, which shows her popularity on social media as a celebrity. We met Deepshikha in her friend’s office at Oshiwara, Mumbai.

Here our client is not the BJP but the AAP. You will have to appreciate the good work done by the AAP government in the past four years in Delhi, we tell her. Deepshikha says, “Aap mujhe ek cheej bhejoge … content. Usko content ko apne hissab se appreciate karoongi that is (You will have to send me one thing … [yes] content. I will appreciate it in my own way. That is …).” Yes, we tell her. We will provide you the content, we say, which you will have to post on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram redoing it in your own words. You need to post three-four messages every month. She understands that doing so every day would be counterproductive, as she opines. “Haan toh wo roz karo to lagata hai … Wo ek random karo toh lagta bhi hai ki iski tareef kar rahe hain (If you do that daily, people will not take it seriously … when you do it in a random manner, it is taken as real appreciation).”

Agreeing, we say, that is why we are roping in as many celebs as possible, so that such random messages become a regular feature. Deepshikha says, “Haan main samajh gai (Yes, I got it).” You have to do it in a subtle way so that it does not become obvious that you have been hired by AAP for this promotion. “Unko meri cheej wo nahi hogi … haan fir kya hota hai main kuch aur bhi boloongi they will not believe mepoora wo humara trust level khatam ho jaygea (They will not … yes [believe in] what I would say. Then what happens is if I say something else, they will not believe me … our trust level with them [followers] will be lost),” she says in agreement.

What is your expectation, we ask her. “Aap log kya chahte hain ki main kitna tweet karoon (How many tweets you want me to do),” she seeks to know, in turn. Maximum five, we say. Quick on numbers, she tells us, “On Twitter, on Insta and on Facebook everywhereteenon jageh 15 ho gaye na (it is 15 for all three platforms).” Yes, we say. Now, telling her this promotion will begin from the first week of July we ask what her expectation is for all 15 messages. “I am thinking of 5 lakh a month,” she says. You mean Rs. 5 lakh per message, we ask. She corrects us while saying, “Five, five, five.” We get it correct now. She is quoting Rs. 5 lakh for each platform. So, it comes to Rs. 15 lakh for all three platforms, we ask. “Haan (Yes),” says the actor.

Coming to the payment of her fee, we ask her in what mode she would prefer her fee to be paid.  “I am okay with cash, I am okay with cheque. Cheque aata hai toh wahi fir saare jhanjhat (But if I am paid by cheque then there are all those hassles),” she says. Understanding the problems related to payments in white, we ask her if she is comfortable with cash. “Yeah, yeah,” replies Deepshikha promptly. We then explain it to her that we will pay 90 percent of her fee in cash and the rest 10 percent in white. “Chalega (That will do),” she tells us with glee.

Some moments later Deepshikha talks of her reach on social media when we tell her in a way we would be using her personal identity to further a political agenda. “I know I understand log dekhte hain mera roz check karte hain agar pachaas hazaar-lakh ke oopar hain toh pachaas hazaar log toh karte hee karte hain. Aaj main ek post daalti hoon dus hazaar like ek second mein aa jaate hain inside of 30–40 toh at least ek reach ho jaati hai toh I know (I know, I understand it well. People check my status every day. If there number is about a lakh, at least 50,000 people do that. Suppose, I post something today, there are 10,000 likes in a second, which goes inside of some 30,000–40,000. So, there is a reach, and I know that).” Though she is exaggerating the numbers, we have no doubt about the reach a celeb can have on social media.

Hope everything is clear to you, we ask her now. “Humm,” says the actor nodding. After swearing her to secrecy, we advise her to write against opppositon parties picking up genuine topics. Replies Deepshikha nodding, “Humm.” Is there any problem if we pay you in cash, we again ask. “Nahi mujhe koi diqqat nahi hai (No, I have no problem),” she assures us.

Some moments after the interview was over, Deepshikha messaged us to seek her fee to be enhanced from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 2.50 lakh. Barely a few moments later, we receive a WhatsApp call from the actor. She was not satisfied with the remuneration she herself had quoted. So, when we tell her we have hiked her fee to Rs. 3 lakh per message, Deepshikha demands Rs. 5 lakh per message. Getting into some bargaining mode, we say we will pay her Rs. 3 lakh per message. Is it fine with you, we ask. “But I mean why not on my side,” the actor asks, apparently not satisfied. Do you want Rs. 5 lakh, we ask. “Haan (Yes),” she says. So, we agree to pay her Rs. 5 lakh per message. How much it was decided to pay in white, we ask. “Ten percent khali white kee baat kee thi (He had told me only 10 percent will be paid in white),” she informs us. You mean 90 percent will be paid in cash, we say. Replies Deepshikha, “Yeah.” How will that cash be delivered to you? We ask. Telling us cash could be delivered at Bombay itself, she explains how it could be delivered. “Nahi jaise agar jaise koi mujhe payment karni hai samajho cash kee toh main bol doongi unko ki wahan pe usko pahuncha de wo pick up kar lenge jo bhi kar lenge baaki mere paas aa jayega koi issue nahi hai (No, suppose you have to deliver the cash to me, I will tell the person concerned whom to deliver it. The fellow will collect it from him and it will reach me … there is no issue),” says Deepshikha. What if we pay you cash in foreign denominations of dollars, pounds or euro, we ask. “But poora ab nahi le sakti na (But, I cannot accept the whole cash payment [in those denominations]),” she says. Then, how much can you take, we ask again. The actor says, “Kabhi-kabhar kyonki main toh travel karti rehti hoon (Sometime, I keep on traveling [abroad]).” Then you can use the money there if we pay you in foreign currency, we say. Hope you understand it is really problematic for us to move so much cash while travelling, we say. It would be of great help if you have an account abroad. That will be safer for us. “Nahi account kee baat nahi hai … nahi main wo manage kar loongi jab Sandeep personally ayenge toh main bataa doongi phone pe nahi baat karein toh accha hai (No, it is not about having an account … no, I will manage that. When Sandeep [the reporter’s alias] comes to me personally I will tell him. Better if we don’t talk about it over phone).”            

Rohit Roy, TV and Film Actor

As an actor, Rohit Roy made his mark in Mahesh Bhat directed TV series Swabhimaan in 1995 which ran on Doordarshan for two years. In a career spanning more than two decades, the model-turned actor has acted in over two and a half dozen TV soaps and about half a dozen Bollywood movies, Shootout At Lokhandwala being the most notable one. Roy is popular on social media, with 1.17 lakh followers on Twitter, about 1.65 lakh on Instagram and more than 11,000 on Facebook. We met Rohit at a Goregaon studio while he was shooting for an ad campaign.

As the actor has already been briefed, we get straight into talking business with him. Saying that the Congress Party has given our PR agency the responsibility of refurbishing its image, we ask Rohit if he could help us by appreciating on social media the good work done by the Congress government in the past, including various schemes launched by it. Rohit is prompt to ask, “Ye sab aap humko material denge … content (You will provide me all the required material … content).” Yes we would, we tell him. You just have to tweet it in your own words. “Theek hai … usko personalize karke tweet karna matlab hai nahi lage ki (All right … I will have to personalize and tweet the same so that it doesn’t look …),” he is bang on. Appreciating, we tell him this way nobody would be able to associate him with us. “Aisa lagna chahiye ki Rohit Roy appreciate kar raha hai ki in logon ne itna kuchh kiya hai personal maanana hai … correct waise hee hona chahiye (It should look like Rohit Roy is appreciating it. It is his personal opinion that they have done some good work … correct, it should be done this way only),” he adds. You see the Congress government had launched many schemes and projects such as the Aadhaar and Delhi Metro, but the present government has forgotten all these appreciable works to project itself as the only harbinger of development in India. It has created a negative perception among the electorate that the Congress has done nothing in the past.

Referring to the Mars Mission Orbiter which was sent in space in 2013 by ISRO when the Congress government was in power at the Centre, Rohit opines, “Mars pe wo kya tha … Mars mein jab gaya tha orbiter wo toh kab se shuru hua tha tab jaake aisa thode hai ki (The orbiter for Mars … the mission started many years ago before it fructified. It is not so simple).” We can’t agree more. “Toh material abhi aap humko denge … kab se chaloo karna hai ye (So you will give me the material and when would I start),” he is curious to know. From the month of August, we tell him. You know the opposition always projects Rahul Gandhi as Pappu, thus denigrating him. You have to defend Rahul Gandhi. You can tweet saying should those who oppose Rahul Gandhi call him Pappu, should they use such language, we suggest. Refusing to criticize anybody, he agrees to defend Rahul Gandhi and makes it clear why he would not criticize anybody. “Kyonki main actor hoon na toh gadabd ho jaayegi fir (Since I am an actor it may create problem [if I do so]).” We appreciate his candid confession of limits as an actor.      

Coming to his fee, when we tell him we will pay Rs. 2 lakh per message the actor had quoted initially, Rohit wants more. “Aap toh bol rahe the usmein zyada ka (You were telling there is provision for more),” he complains. You will get more than that, we assure him. “Toh kitne karoonga wo mere oopar hai ki aap mujhe batayenge (So, how many [posts or tweets] should I make will depend on me or you will tell me),” he asks. He would be provided content for four-five posts every month on each platform, we tell him. He would have to repackage the same on his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages. Rohit is quick to calculate how much he is supposed to perform every month. “Nahi toh fir wo paanch agar karne hain toh paanch Facebook, paanch Tweet aur paanch Instagram … (If I am supposed to do five, then I have to make five posts on Facebook, five tweets and five posts on Instagram)?” he says. So, he would be paid a tidy some of Rs. 30 lakh for 15 messages a month, we finally tell him. Agreeing, Rohit asks, “Aur duration kya hai iska kitne time tak karna hai (And what is its duration and up to what time period it has to be done)?”

You will be hired on an eight-month contract, we tell him. When we hope his support on social media will be productive as he has genuine followers, Rohit reveals, “Mere toh sub followers ko pata hai ki main bina wajeh paid tweet bhi nahi karta hoon (All my followers also know it well that I never make even paid tweets without reason).” Curious to know how the deal would move on and how he would be paid, Rohit adds, “Theek hai done … that’s you mail me and I will take it forward … kaise kya karoge ye abhi dekhna padega kyonki ye sab toh parhai likhai hogi nahi iski (All right done … that’s you mail me and I will take it forward … you will have to see how you do it because you cannot put it in black and white).” We tell him he would be paid 90 percent in cash and the rest by cheque. Rohit has no problem with the deal as he says, “Correct.” Then he asks, “Usko kya likhenge (What will you mention in the contract).” We will show you as promoting some product, we tell him. “Accha (Okay),” says Rohit, satisfied.

After this interview, we received many messages from the actor asking us when to start. In one such message, he tells his brother Ronit Roy is also on board. “Ronit is on,” he says in this message sent on July 25. Three days later, he informs us, “I have started my first tweet. 1st August full steam. So either send payments or let’s forget it.”   

However, we couldn’t find any tweet made by him. Maybe he was just testing us.

Rajpal Yadav, Film Actor

The NSD graduate began his career with Mungeri Ke Bhai Naurangilal, a TV serial telecast by Doordarshan, which established him as a comedian. As an actor he has worked in more than 150 films. The Bollywood comedian has 1.33 lakh followers on Twitter, about 7 lakh on Facebook and about 1 lakh on Instagram. Cobrapost team met the actor at Goregaon Radisson Hotel. Yadav was accompanied by Goldie in this meeting.

As you know, we want you to help promote the BJP on social media in the run-up to 2019 elections. This you can do by saying good things about all those schemes the BJP government has launched. But in no case should you mention the name of the party or any politician. The actor does not take any time to understand what is expected of him. “Theek hai … yojnayein aur humare vichar aur vichar mein aapki party ka fayda ho nuksaan na ho (Alright … schemes and my thoughts, and in these thoughts your party should benefit, there should be no harm to its interests),” he says.  Apart from appreciating the BJP government, you have to defend it at times on social issues. Agreeing, Rajpal tells us, “Nahi nahi dekhiye humare naam panch chhe pata nahi kitne site chalaa rahe hain wo verified nahin hain … toh wo ghalat hai Rajpal kee wo bhasha hee nahi hai humaare man kaa kaam hai ye (No, no. There are five-six, I don’t know how many, accounts are running in our name. But they all are not verified. That is wrong. I Rajpal never use that language. This job is to my liking).” You see, we are using your social media accounts for our party’s benefit, we make the real purpose clear to him. “Theek hai (It is fine).” In the same breath he asks, “Lekin ye baat oopar tak pahunch jayegi (But will this arrangement come in the notice of the higher ups [in the BJP]).”  Why not, we assure him.

When we tell him it has to be kept a secret, he says, “Message nahi uski aap hard copy karayenge unki jo dus yojnayein hain unmein one, one liner likh ke de denge uski aapne ek hard copy kara lee bhai ko de diye … bhai ne hum tak bhej diya humne usko yaad kar liya humne WhatsApp kee wahin delete kar dee ab humne apne vichar Twitter ke roop mein usse daal diya jismein saboot nahi chahiye usse bhi hum mitaate gaye (Apart from the message, you will give me one liners on all those 10 schemes and hand a hardcopy over to this man for me … this man will send it across to me. I will rote that, and delete the WhatsApp message then and there. I will post my thoughts on Twitter and will then destroy all proofs which we don’t need).” He is eager to know if his association with this promotion would come into the notice of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi. 

Coming to his fee, we tell him there will be five contents every month which he will have to repackage and post on his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Offering him a rate of Rs. 2 lakh per message, we say we will pay him Rs. 30 lakh for 15 messages a month. Not happy with our offer, Rajpal says, “Nahi, Rajpal Yadav hazaaron karodon ka naam hai do lakh mein mat khareedo abe hutt … ek line ka agar ek matlab paanch shabd likhe jaayein per shabd ek lakh keemat nahi ho toh uske paanch laakh sammanit toh hon (No, Rajpal Yadav is worth thousands of crores. Don’t try to buy him for Rs. 2 lakh … come on … if I write five words in a line you are not giving me Rs. 1 lakh for each word … at least you can pay me an honourable fee of Rs. 5 lakh [per massage]).” Telling us he has a fan following in millions across the world, he further says, “Badnaam karo toh kuein mein matlab dubki mat lagwao (Don’t give me a bad name or push me into the well).” Goldie chips in, “Ye kabhi aise discussion mein khade bhi nahi hote (He [Rjapal] never takes part in such discussions).” Making his case for a better bargain, Rajpal says again, “Andar se lag raha hai lekin mera respect karo (I am feeling from inside but you should respect me).” Now, Goldie says, “Seventy-five per month kar do (Keep it at Rs. 75 lakh per month).”

We promptly agree to pay him a fee of Rs. 75 lakh for promoting the BJP on social media. But we so do with a rider. You will have to defend the BJP government on certain occasions, we tell him. “Itne acche se defend karoonga ki aapki tabiyat khush ho jayegi (I will defend [the BJP] in such a way that it will make you glad),” Rajpal assures us. When we come to discussing the mode of payment, Yadav seeks an advance payment. “Main kehta hoon kum se kum itna respect kar lo … payment do ek mahine ka jaise hota hai na wo kiryaa (Let me say, at least give me respect to the extent that you pay me a month’s fee in advance as you pay rent).” You will the payment in advance every month, we assure him. Then, leaving the discussion to Goldie, he pleads, “Lekin wo kaise dena hai wo rastaa aap log aap paanch Pandav hain hum nahi hain wo toh understood hai … pehle aap kar lo 15 ka poora kar lete hain aur usmein mujhe bhi accha lagega aur aapko bhi accha lagega (But how you will pay me, you people decide among yourself. For me you are like five Pandavas … This is understood … so first pay me for the first 15 messages. It will make me feel good, as well as you).”

Turning to Goldie, we say since it is political money, only 10 percent of the fee, that is, Rs. 7.50 lakh, will be paid in white transferred to his account. “Okay,” says Goldie in agreement. “Haan inke account mein chala jayega (It will go straight into his account).” Yes, we say, in white. The rest Rs. 67.50 lakh will be paid in cash in advance, every month. “Okay,” says Goldie, satisfied. Hope there is no issue with adjusting this much of cash, we ask. “Haan, haan koi issue nahi hai (Yes, yes. There is no issue),” assures Goldie. With this we wrap up the interview.

Sunil Pal, Stand-up Comedian and Actor

Born to an Indian Railways employee, Sunil Pal had to work for many years as a junior artist before he arrived as a stand-up comedian by winning in 2005 The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, a comedy show on STAR One. In a career spanning over a decade and a half, Sunil Pal has acted in about a dozen Bollywood movies in comic roles, while he entertains audiences with back to back shows across the country. His Facebook page shows about 1.61 lakh followers while Twitter has 1000 followers. He has his own YouTube channel.

We met Pal at Future Studio in Goregoan on the sidelines of a film shoot. As we explain our agenda to the comedian, we tell him how he has to go about praising the BJP government for its good deeds and schemes in a subtle way, without naming the party, on social media platforms. Pal responds with a “humm” here and there and when we ask him if it is clear to him, he replies, “Nahi samajh gayaa main samajh gayaa ismein kuch nahi ye toh kaam hai (No, I go it. There is nothing but only this much to do).” In addition, we tell him, you will have to defend the BJP government on certain issues from time to time on which the opposition parties corner it. We will provide you the content and you will have to play it out in your own inimitable style. Maybe doing so in a video format would serve the purpose in an effective way, we surmise. “Humm, mera apna YouTube channel hai (Yes, I have my own YouTube channel),” he informs us.

As he has understood what is expected of him, we ask him what he would charge for his services. “BJP itni badi party hai kyonki inhone duniya se liya bahut hai inhone… inhone Nirav Modi ko de diya falaan ko de diya hai toh hum kalakaaron ko bhi de dein kuch (The BJP is so big a party. They say it has gained a lot from the world … [they say] they have given so much to Nirav Modi, they have given so much to others, so it was high time we artistes also got something from the party),” Pal tells us in his typical style. Throwing light on how he would work for us he tells us in the same breath, “Dekhiye main toh kya hai main karna shuru karoonga na toh mera aisa hai din-raat mere ko koi na koi idea aate rehte hain… do line yaheen se boloonga aisa ho gayaa waisa ho gayaa ye ho gayaa khataak theek hai (You see when I will start doing it, ideas flow in my mind day and night … I will shoot two lines from here itself saying this has happened, that has happened, okay).”

Then, in order to make his case for a higher remuneration, Pal tells us how he would work on our agenda in far more substantive and effective way. “Uske alawa doosra ek kaam jo hai wo isase oopar hai wo hai live shows aur mahine mein pandrah-solah live shows karta hoon … aur wahan mere haath mein mike hota hai aur wahan ki local media hoti hai … jo mujhe cable ke through wahan par poore area mein ek time ek sham ko kum se kum pachees lakh ke ghar pahuncha rahi hai pachees–pachaas lakh ke ghar pahuncha rahi hai … jaise main MP mein gayaa toh wahan MP ke liye bola toh wo jo media hai na wo baaki actors ko nahi milega (Besides that [the social media] I do another important work. I do 15–16 live shows every month … there on stage I hold the mike and present there is the local media … which connects me to about 25 lakh households in the area through cable TV. Suppose I visit MP and if I speak up for MP, the local media would give me coverage which none of the actors can have),” he says.

You mean you would use those platforms to promote the BJP, we wonder. Yes, this is exactly what he means. He says, “Haan wahi toh main kar raha hoon jismein Modi kee baat kar di Amit Shah kee baat kar di, BJP kee baat kar di wo mere paas mein hai aur uske alaawa main kahin bhi function mein chala gayaa kisi mein kuch chala gayaa, ek samajho ye hai iski toh ek party ho gai wahan humara local media rehta hai … wahan par main apni baat bol sakta hoon aur uske alaawa mere paas aur bhi jugaad hain (That is what I am telling you. It is my job to talk about Modi, to talk about Amit Shah, to talk about BJP there. Apart from this, if I go to some public function at somebody’s invitation, to an inauguration, for example … there is this party, and there is local media out there … so I can put forth my views. So, I have many more devices other than that [social media]).”

Telling him that we pay a celebrity according to the numbers of followers he or she has on social media, we quote Rs. 4 lakh per content. While trying to bargain for more, Pal again tells us about his reach to finally say, “Toh samajho agar main mahine mein dus show bhi karta hoon dus show ke hissab se toh aap samajh lo uss area ke 25 lakh log cover kar raha hoon ek show mein toh uske hissab se soch lijiye (So, try to understand. If I am holding 10 shows a month, then I would be covering about 25 lakh people in that particular area in a single show. You may decide [on my fee] accordingly).”

We again explain it to him how our agency arrives at a fee to be paid to a celebrity for the job. We would pay you Rs. 4 lakh per content per month, we tell him, and the number of contents to work on would be about four–five, which will be provided to you by us. But the comedian wants more. Pitching for a better bargain, he chips in, “Main toh zyada hee karoonga aap tension mat lijiye bas aap paanch kar dijiye per month main zyada hee karoonga aap content mein mujhe sir … content wo toh mere bhi kaam aata hai … koi acche content hote hain na toh main online news dekhte rehta hoon koi baat aa gai toh main karta rehta hoon uske oopar banaa deta hoon (Humm, no, I would do more, you need not to take any tension on this count. Sir, pay me [Rs] 5 lakh a month [per content]. I will do more [than what you say]) … As far as content is concerned, Sir that will be of good use to me as well … sometime you come across good content, so I keep watching online news and create something which I find interesting).” We happily oblige the comedian by agreeing to his demand and finally tell him he would be paid a fee of Rs. 20 lakh per month for his services.

Coming to money matters, we say it is political money, so how much cash he would be comfortable with, as we would be able to pay only up to 20 percent of his fee in white. The contract thus drawn will mention only the white part of his fee. The rest would be paid in cash. When we ask him if we could pay him 80 percent of his fee in cash, the actor ponders for some time to finally say, “Seventy-five kar lijiye (Keep 75 percent [in cash]).”

Barely a month or so after our interview, we had a conversation with the comedian on WhatsApp. Here, Pal told us he has started working on our agenda and in one of his shows lampooned Rahul Gandhi which led to a ruckus as some of the organizers did not like it. The local press covered the show held in Kuchera town in Nagaur district of Rajasthan. Pal even sent the cutting of the news published in local Hindi daily.   

  

             

In this chat, we find Pal to be very excited as he tells us, “Ab toh hum shuru ho gaye bas aapne aag laga diya tha toh ab shuru ho gaye hum log aur kya hai (I have already started it. You have stoked the fire in me and I have started it).” While appreciating his bold effort, we ask him to start making tweets as well. Agreeing, he assures us, “Done, done, done.” Pal went a step ahead to show us his seriousness on our proposition. He made two tweets. In one tweet, the comedian takes a dig at Rahul Gandhi, saying, “Rahul Gandhi bahut ashawadi (optimistic) to hai warna itni baar harne ke baad koi aur hota to Dhandha hee badal deta (Rahul Gandhi is really optimistic. He would have, otherwise, changed his profession after losing so many elections).”    

Raju Srivastava, Film Actor and Stand-up Comedian

Playing small cameos in a couple of Bollywood flicks since 1988, such as Tezaab, Maine Pyar KiyaBaazigar and Bombay to Goa, Raju Srivastava shot to fame when he won the title of “Comedy King” many years later as stand-up comedy became the staple of the middle class homes hooked to the idiot box. It did not take long for Raju to attain a celebrity status. This brought him a ticket to parliamentary elections from the Samajwadi Party in 2014. But the comedian with as much facility changed his loyalty to join the BJP. The comedian has about 3.90 lakh followers on Facebook which speaks volumes about his popularity. About 10,000 people follow the comedian on Twitter, though. His YouTube channel has more than 2 lakh subscribers. We met the comedian at his Oshiwara office.

Raju wears his loyalty to the BJP on his sleeve. So, no sooner has he been briefed he wonders, “Nahi mera matlab tha ye ki agar BJP ka kaam hai toh mujhe BJP karyalay se phone aana chahiye (No, I mean if this job is related to BJP, then the BJP office would have had called to inform me about it).” As we try to convince him the BJP has given us this job to burnish its image on social media by engaging celebrities in an indirect way, Raju tells how none other than Arun Jaitley filled his membership form and the day he joined the BJP in the presence of Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh who celebrated the moment with a hand raising ceremony. But it did not take much effort for Raju to get interested in the deal. As part of this job, you would have to attack leaders like Rahul Gandhi not in a blatant manner but in a balanced way. You can say, for example, as a young leader, president of a party Rahul should not indulge in caste-based politics. Agreeing, Raju says, “Nahi wo toh main samajh gayaa direct toh hoga nahi thoda bolkar nikal gaye (I got it. You don’t have to hit directly. Just say some words on the issue).”

Since he is already a BJP member and supporter, we thought why not check if he is willing to promote other political parties on social media for money. Other political parties like AAP have also given us the same job, we tell him. Now, the AAP government has done marvelous work in education field in Delhi. Can you say some good words about AAP government without sounding anti-BJP? The stand-up comedian first tells us how he would like to do it for the BJP. “Maan lo BJP ka main aapke saath karta hoon toh ek toh jo aap idea har baar denge har baar main wahi karoon ye … ismein chhoot chahiye mujhe jahan tak matlab mere usmein rahe ki mera ye fans naaraz bhi na hon … ek toh wo rahega ki jo tweet ya jo material aap denge koi main karoonga jo nahi jamega toh usko main theek kar doonga (Suppose, I start working for the BJP at your behest, you will provide me ideas every time [on issues to be covered] … I want some liberty as I don’t want to antagonize my fans. Whatever tweet you will ask, or provide me the material for me to tweet, I will do, but if I don’t like it I would correct that),” says Raju. He then goes on to ask about what the AAP would offer him in terms of fee. “Aur doosra kya waise kya rehta hai in logon ka kya offer hai (… and the second thing … anyway what is their offer).” What the comedian is looking for is obvious.

As the parleys move on, Raju says, “Main surety nahi de raha hoon matlab, for example, maine aapke project ko haan kiya aap humein kya kaam denge wahan se itta bhi pressure na ho jaaye mujhe (I am not giving you surety. For example, if I agree to do your project, you may give me so much work that it puts me under pressure).” No, there will be no pressure on you, we assure him. “Ismein se haan koi idea aayega aap humein bhejenge ki ispe kuch bol dijiye theek hai (Here, if you have an idea, you will send it to me and ask me to say something on it, that is all)?” he asks. Yes, we will provide you the content, we tell him. You will have to post the same content in your own language from your account on social media. “Usko character mein kar diya (I will do that playing a character),” says Raju while understanding what we want from him. Then Raju gives us a live demo how he would do the job.

He is even ready to promote Uber to help the company burnish its image as a safe cab service for women. He will do it on his own way. We have another demo from the comedian, as he says, “Hum toh kya bolta bhai apun toh raat ko nikalta hai khana khane ko raat mein kya rehta hai na bhai restaurant wagaireh mein ladki kam rehti hai mast rehta hai bhai main kaay koo ye wo aisa karke … (What I tell you I go out for dinner at night because there are fewer girls in restaurants then, something like that).” But you have to do it only when such incidents happen, we advise him. Saying that the number of tweets will depend on what is happening with such companies at a given point of time, Raju roots for a monthly contract for his services. “Wo tweet matlab chhe din mein aa sakte hain aath din mein aa sakte hain toh humein toh fir monthly contract hona chahiye (Those tweets may come in six days or eight days so better get me a monthly contract),” he says. He himself fixes his fee for such image promotion, quoting a price of Rs. 10 lakh per company. Listen to what the comedian expects out of this deal, “Amount per tweet nahi rakhte. Ye andaza ho gaya ki issi ke aas-paas rahega tweet kee gintee bhi nahi rakhte seedha … toh mujhe lagta hai duss lakh rupaye tak ek company (Don’t fix the amount [fee] per tweet. Now, we have an idea that it will be around this figure. There is no need to fix the count of tweets, either … then I think Rs. 10 lakh per company [should be my fee]).”

Coming to payment of his fee, when we ask Raju in what mode he would prefer to be paid, Raju informs us, “Main taiyar hoon donon tareh se taiyar hoon (I am ready to accept in both modes).” As you may know it, our client pays us mostly in cash, we say. “Jaise political toh jo hai cash hee rahega ye wala jo hai chhota mota … thoda bahut chahiye toh (If it is political it will be largely cash but in the case [of such companies] there will be some … some small amount will be …),” says the comedian. It is obvious that the comedian, like many BJP supporters, has no problem if he is paid in cash.

Krushna Abhishek, Stand-up Comedian and Actor

Before he hit the jackpot with Comedy Circus shows as a stand-up comedian, Krushna Abhishek, born Abhishek Sharma, had done some Bollywood flicks. Apart from films, Abhishek has acted in many TV series. He has been hosting OMG! Ye Hai Mera India, a popular reality show on History TV 18 channel, which showcases stories of unusual men and events across the country. With about 54,000 followers on Twitter, about 69,000 on Facebook and about 2.40 lakh on Instagram, Abhishek scores over many other celebrities in terms of popularity on social media.

We met the comedian at his residence in Mumbai. He was accompanied by his manager Arshad in this meeting. In this image-building exercise in the run-up to election 2019, we tell him, you have to appreciate the work that the Modi government has done after coming to power in 2014, such as Ujjwala Yojna, surgical strike, demonetization and GST, among others. But this has to be done in a discreet manner. Concurring, Abhishek says, “Okay direct na lage, aisa na lage ki paid hai aur uske liye ye aadmi kar raha hai (Okay, it should not look direct, it should not look like I have been paid for it).” Yes, you got it right, we say. We will provide the content, numbering three-five, every month and you will have to redo it in your signature style. “Wo apne hissab se (I will have to do in my style),” says Abhishek, nodding in agreement. But the meaning of the content should not change, we say. “Samajh gayaSamajh gaya  main (I got it, I got it),” Abhishek assures us.

Basically, we will be buying your thoughts, we tell him. Abhishek says, “Haan, haan samajh gaya, samajh gaya (Yes, yes. I got it, I got it).” Chipping in, his manager says, “Haan, haan, fir aapko good feel dena hai jo chahiye bas aapki party ko humein hamper nahi karnaa hai humein usko promote karnaa hai jisase inka brand hamper na ho aur logon ko lage genuine banawat nahi lage (Yes, yes. You have to give a good feel. That is what is needed. You don’t have to hamper their party. We have to promote it, so that their brand is not hampered and people should take it something as genuine, not made up).” Both the manager and his boss understand the delicate nature of job at hand. Striking a note of caution, we tell the actor to not go full steam at once. He should rather do it in a gradual manner. He has to post hardly three to five messages on a given topic every month. Otherwise, people may think there is something wrong with it. “Haan achanak se kya ho gayaa isko wo nahi hona chahiye (Yes, [they will say] what has happened to this man all of a sudden. That should not happen),” says Abhishek, in agreement.  

There will be a contract between us, we tell him. But what we are telling you will not be put in black and white as it is a hidden agenda. The contract will show you as endorsing a product. “Jo apni ek legal team hai na jo ye karti hai wo Dilli kee hai wo humare saare channels hain unke saath mein … aap unse contact kar lena ya mail pe kar lena (We have a legal team which works out of Delhi only… we have all channels with them … you can contact them or follow this up on email),” his manager informs us. We promptly agree to do so.

Is it clear to you how you have to deal with the content, we ask. “Samajh gaya main. Haan, samajh gayaa (I got it. Yes, I got it),” Abhishek assures us. Telling us the merits of working with him, he says he does live shows where the number of audience can be in thousands. Apart from doing this digital promotion of the BJP at our behest, he would also use those platforms. He now explains how he is going to leverage what he says is his “plus point” in furthering our agenda. He says, “Toh wahan par kis tareeke se usko karna hai toh usko shoot karke fir tweet karna hai aap samajh rahe ho na … ek ho gaya ki akela banda hoon, main akela masti kar raha hoon, yaar dost bhi hain …  maine kisi ko saath mein le liya jaise Jacqueline hai mere saath mein toh maine aisi kuch baat kar dee apni hee cheej ko leke usko maine zyada involve nahi kiya lekin uske saath main kar diya toh wo plus point hai … doosra plus point hai jab main apnaa show karta hoon mere kum se kum teen hazaar kabhi dus hazaar kabhi pachaas hazaar log hote hain toh wahan par jaise ye mere saath mein hain toh isko bol diya ki too shoot kar le aur wahan kis tareeke se usko mein lekar gaya hoon uss mudde ko … aur ek minute mein maine khatam kar diya aur wo tweet kar diya jahan par log bhi sun rahe hain aur ye bhi dekh rahe hain wo bhi hum kar sakte hain wo humare saath plus point hai … kyonki hum show wale log hain (So, how I can shoot that and tweet also, do you understand … in one case I am alone on stage, playing by myself and there are friends as well … I take somebody along. Jacqueline is there by chance. I will say something playfully on the issue without involving her much, that is a plus point … The second plus point is when I do shows, there are audiences numbering anything between 3,000 and 50,000. Suppose he [his manager] is with me there. I will ask him to shoot that. This is how I will raise that issue … and within a minute I will finish it and tweet the same instantly …. where people are listening and they are also watching this [on social media]. That I can do. That is our plus point … because we are from show business).”

Abhishek is unstoppable, as he adds in the same breath, “Aur agar professionally kar raha hoon main toh fir main usko proper plan bhi karoonga (And if I am doing it professionally then I would plan it in a proper way).” Yes, you are right, we say. “Aapko natural lagega (You will find it natural),” his manager chips in. Abhishek is so excited to work for us that he suggests he would get involved in social issues to promote our agenda. “Wo mujhe socially bhi na isko hum direct isase shuru nahi karenge isko mere paas duss hazaar phone aate hain ki … ji idhar na Lokhandwala mein peeche wo safai ka kuch hai aap aayehge na subah aath baje. Main kabhi jaata nahi hoon toh fir kya karna padega humko socially ghusna padega (I will [have to do it] socially. You see, I will not start it directly. I get thousands of phone calls telling me ‘… ji There is some cleanliness drive at 8 in the morning in Lokhandwala.’ I never go there. But now I have will have to get involved socially in these issues),” says Abhishek. We are quite effusive in our praise of his approach.     

With Abhishek completely hooked to our agenda, it was time to negotiate his fee. But Abhishek delegates the negotiation to Arshad, his manager. “Nahi ye bahut comfortable hain aisa nahi hai mujhe aap batao aap kya soch rahe ho kaise soch rahe ho (No, he is very comfortable. No issues, tell me what and how you are thinking about it),” he tells about his boss. You tell us what your expectation is, we ask. “Aap ye nau mahine ka soch rahe hain ya per month (You are thinking of [paying us for] nine months or per month),” he asks in turn. You will be paid in advance every month during the course of this contract, we say.  At this point, Abhishek chips in to share an idea to take our agenda to an international level. He says, “Nahi, theek hai mera ek … dost rehta hai mera wo India ke topics pe baat karta hai (No, that is fine … one of my friends lives there. He talks on India-centric topics).” Chips in his manager, “Hum ghuma sakte hain isko (We can circulate your agenda).” Before we could ask how, Abhishek explains it to us in these words, “Mera paanchavan season abhi mera September mein shoot ho raha hai hum log pataa kya kar skate hain aap believe nahi karoge jo mudda hai usmein se chaar mudda mujhe de do main anchor link mein dalwa doonga … main anchor link mein dalwa doonga unko nahi boloonga … hum apne hissab writer ke saath toh main hee baithta hoon unke bolta toh main hee hoon aur main baat kiski kar raha hoon Hindustan kee main baat kar raha hoon India kee (The fifth season of my show is going for shoot in September. You know what we can do? You will not believe it. Give me four issues. I will put those issues in the anchor link … I will get them in the anchor link. I will not tell him about it … I sit with the writer and it is me who does all the talking. Then what I am talking about? It is Hindustan. I am talking about India).” We are really floored by this idea of putting in our topics in his show OMG.

Now, coming back to his fee, the manager again asks, “Kaise karoge aap pehle ye bataao kaise soch rahe ho (First, tell us how you will do it? What do you think)?” You see, there will be five contents to be written about in a month on all three social media platforms, we say. So, there will be in all 15 messages to be posted. He quotes a fee of Rs. 90 lakh per month, telling us it is a political promotion. It is a way bit on higher side, we say. We will pay Rs. 5 lakh per message, which comes to Rs. 75 lakh a month. Only 10 percent of this sum will be paid in white, the rest in cash. The fee will be paid in advance every month. Hope you get it. “Haan, bahut acche (Yes, [I get it] very well),” says the manager, appreciating. Then he asks, “Hum log agreement mein baithenge … agreement kee kya terms and conditions hain agreement mein hum kitna comfortable hain (We will sit for the agreement … what are the terms and conditions of this agreement … how comfortable we are in the agreement)?” There will be agreement just for the heck of it. “Hum apne ko sirf safe karna chaahte hain (We want make it safe for ourselves),” the manager says. We tell him, there will be a small contract showing your boss as endorsing some products and only the white component of his fee will be mentioned in that contract. Satisfied, the manager asks next, “Paisa ghar pe (You will deliver the cash at home)?” Yes, we say. We can deliver the cash anywhere you want us to.

The deal struck thus, we take the leave of the stand-up comedian.

Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar, aka VIP, Stand-up Comedian

His biggest on-stage moment came in 2008 when Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar, aka VIP, won the second season of the comedy reality contest show Comedy Circus on Sony TV. A past master in mimicking, both humans and animals, Pawar has since then attained a celebrity status only few artistes succeed to attain. You name an actor and he would amaze you by mimicking the actor then and there.

Our team met the comedian at a restaurant in Thane. As soon as we began to brief the comedian on our objective, the comedian tells us that he has already campaigned for the BJP and shares with us his experience of working for Ramdas Tadas, BJP MP from Wardha. Finding him on the same side, we tell him that we are approaching celebrities like him who could help us promote the BJP on social media in the run-up to 2019 general elections. Pawar tells us that he has opened a new account on Facebook by the name of VIP Comedian as his old account, managed by somebody else, was closed down by Facebook. His FB page VIP Comedian has about 3,000 followers.

Eager to jump on the bandwagon, Pawar asks, “Toh apne ko ye kya karnaa hoga sabse pehle (Then, what will have I to do first).” You see, we tell him, we would provide you the required content and you would post the same on your Facebook and Instagram accounts, in your own words. Ideas begin to float in the mind of the comedian. Referring to the Swach Bharat Abhiyaan, he tells us how he will promote it on social media, “Fir ye aise karne ka hai ki koi aadmi kachra utha raha hai koi bhi aadmi kachra utha raha hai main shoot kar raha hoon ‘Dosto lag raha hai ki desh badal raha hai. abhi abhi dekhiye wo saamne dekhiye wo aadmi kachra utha raha hai matlab usse lagne laga hai ki Bharat ko saaf karna chahiye ye Swach Bharat Abhiyan hai’, aise bolenge, ‘ab logon ne serious lena shuru kar diya hai ab jaage wo’ (Then, I will do it like this. Suppose a man picking up trash. I will shoot him doing so and say ‘Friends, the country is changing for good. Look this man is cleaning the garbage. He now thinks India should be made a clean country. Now, people like him have started taking Swach Bharat Abhiyan seriously. They have awoken’).” Yes, since this will come from your personal profile, it will carry a lot of credibility and people will sure believe it.

Apart from appreciating the initiatives taken by the BJP government, he will have to defend the party at times. Taking the Karnataka elections as an example, we suggest, you can say the real winner was the BJP. Agreeing, he says, “Haan, haan, bilkul sach mein maine aise hee nahi bola sach mein hua hai aisa. Aaj desh ka naam har logon kee zubaan par hai out of India mein. Isase pehle mujhe pata nahi tha mera pradhan mantri pehle ka pradhan mantri kya karta tha mujhe sach mein pata nahi tha kya karta tha kya nahi karta tha (Yes, yes. You are right. What I am telling is not a lie. Today, our country’s name is on the lips of the people out of India. Earlier, I really never knew what my Prime Minister was doing).” He will have to lampoon the leaders of rival political parties like Rahul Gandhi. The comedian promptly agrees to do what we ask. He tells us how he would lampoon the Congress party leader by mimicking his mother Sonia Gandhi. “Uski maa bolegi Modiji baar-baar aap kyon jeet rahe ho. Mere khyal se Rahul bhi Modiji ko hee vote de raha hai wo bhi Modiji ko hee vote de raha hai Pappu (His mother [Sonia Gandhi] asking Modiji why he has been winning all the time. I think son Rahul is sure voting Modiji. That Pappu),” he says. Don’t name Rahul, we caution him. Yes, of course, you can say Pappu. He as much promptly corrects himself saying. “Lagta hai mera baba Pappu wo khud bhi Modiji ko vote de raha ([Mimicking Sonia] Looks like my son Pappu himself has been voting Modiji).”

Is the agenda clear to you, we ask. The comedian replies with a crisp “Haan (Yes)”. He understands it well how he has to play it out on social media. “Main baar-baar ye bolne ka ‘Dekho koi main Modi Bhakt nahi hoon lekin jo mujhe dikh raha hai wo main aapko bata raha hoon’ taaki logon ke dimaag mein fir ye ho jayega ki main Modi ke liye logon ko uksa raha hoon ye bol-bolke logon ke dimaag mein daalna padega (I tell the people time and again, ‘Look, I am not a Modi Bhakt but I am telling you what I have observed. Otherwise, people will think I am trying to convince them at the behest of Modi. This is how I will have to bring it to the minds of people by telling them again and again),” he says. Yes, you got it right. You have to do it in a subtle, indirect way.

As our negotiations move on, we tell the comedian that there would be an eight-month contract for the job which he shall disclose to none. In other words, you will be working for a secret agenda. Swearing to secrecy, Pawar reveals, “Arre nahi nahi bilkul nahi maine bola na main toh Modi Bhakt hoon (Oh no, not at all. I told you I am a Modi Bhakt).” As he is going to be doing paid tweets for the first time in his life, the comedian does not have any idea how much he should charge for his services. So, telling him that he will have to promote five contents a month, we fix Rs. 5 lakh per month and tell him he would be paid Rs. 40 lakh for the entire contract period of eight months. He will be paid his fee in advance every month. When we ask him if he has any questions with regard to his fee, he assures us in these words, “Nahi nahi dekho main kya bolta hoon main khud Modi Bhakt hoon toh aisa kuch bargaining main boloon itna utna chahiye paisa mil raha hai correct (No, no. What I am telling you is I am a Modi Bhakt. So there is no point in bargaining that I should be paid this much. Whatever you are paying me is correct. That is all).”

Some days after we had canned him, the comedian made some tweets. In one tweet he poked fun at Akhilesh Yadav when a controversy arose after he had vacated his official residence in Lucknow. “Modi ji ka sabse bada bhakt Akhilesh Yadav hai. Swach Bharat abhiyan ko safal banaane mein poora bangla saaf kar diya (Modiji’s most ardent devotee is Akhilesh Yadav. In order to make the Swach Bharat campaign a success, he swept the entire banglow clean),” says one tweet made in Hindi. The other tweet praises Modi while referring to FitIndia campaign.

Evelyn Sharma, German Model-turned-Bollywood Actor

Before turning to acting in Bollywood films, Evelyn Sharma was a German model and acted in Hollywood film Turn Left in 2006. Born to a Punjabi father and German mother, Evelyn’s big break in the Tinsel Town came with Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, opposite Ranbir Kapoor in 2013. In the past six years or so of her career in Bollywood, Evelyn has earned herself a good number of fan following on social media, with 1.20 lakh following her on twitter, more than 41 lakh on Facebook and more than 20 lakh on Instagram. We met Evelyn at the Taj Santacruz. Present in this meeting were her manager Sneha and Sameer Matai.

After briefing the actor about the agenda, we explain how she can help promote the BJP by praising the good works done by its government at the centre. Whenever you are on an outdoor shoot, you can recall those old times when there was no electricity there. Now, you find the place has electric power. It has brought a sea change in the lives of the residents there. Jumping at the idea, Evelyn says, “I love this idea, I really like. It’s very subtle and at the same time it’s promoting country suppose to are we following, so yeah I really like this.” We will provide you the content, we say, which you will post in your language on all your social media accounts. We get a crisp “Yeah” from the actor. After having her on board, we tell Evelyn that she will receive an official mail from our company informing her of this meeting. She will have to confirm the meeting and say she agrees to what was discussed between us. After you revert to us, your contract will get ready and within 15 days we both will sign it, we say. “Okay,” says Evelyn. Sameer interjects to say, “Wo maine samajha diya hai (I have already explained it to her).” Complementing him, the actor says, “Yeah, you guys figure out that for me.”

Tell us if you have any confusion about the topics to be covered, we ask Evelyn. “No, it’s normal. Basically, if I would be here and I would see like this … it’s very natural, right. It’s supposed to be very like I started an hashtag.”  Taking charge, Sameer now begins to explain it to her further. “So what they are saying how Beti Padhao-Beti Bachao … How will you integrate something which they will tell you? … This’s integrated so you are supposed to do four posts … All right, on all places, each post in all three mediums, about four posts. If you do three [in a month] then one [remaining] can carry forward till the next month.” Agreeing, Evelyn says, “Yeah.”  “So we are doing a tie-up for eight month[s],” Sameer tells her, finally. “Ok,” says Evelyn.

Her manager Sneha also has some ideas. Giving the example the actor’s Nagpur visit, where work on solar energy is under works, Sneha says, “Toh ye hum suggest kar sakte hain if you want us to talk about it hum … (So, we can suggest you if you want us to talk about it, we …).” We welcome her suggestion. “So, you will suggest the captions, right? I don’t have to do really anything?” asks her boss. We tell her we will provide her the content which she will require to rewrite in her own words. Understanding, Evelyn says, “In my words … yeah okay, it’s not a problem.” There are occasions when opposition parties corner the government, we say. So, what you do is express your thoughts on social issues without naming any party or individual. Saying aye, Evelyn informs us, “Even I could ask my fans may be what you guys think about it how can we get solution to this problem … because you know sometimes fans also want to get into the conversation. And by asking them, instead of giving them my direct opinion, I can ask them give their positive answers and you will get more positive answer.” We are in complete agreement with the actor.

Tell us if you have any confusion, we ask, to ensure all nuts and bolts have been put firmly in place in her mind. Evelyn comes up with a crisp answer, “Quite clear.” You also have to maintain secrecy, we tell her. “Haan ji (Yes),” she says, giggling. Hope you understand nothing will be mentioned in our contract, we say. “Wo aap tension mat lein (You don’t take any tension),” assures her manager Sneha. Evelyn doubly assures us, while saying, “I am sure this will be very beneficial for both sides.”

With this hope we end our interview with the model-actor.

Minissha Lamba, Model and Actor

With a career spanning more than a decade as a model and Bollywood actor, Minissha Lamba has worked in award winning flicks like Corporate and Well Done Abba. The Delhi-born girl enjoys a huge following on social media. She has about 8.60 lakh followers on Twitter, more than 6 lakh followers on Facebook and more than 3 lakh followers on Instagram. Cobrapost met Minissha in a five star hotel at Santa Cruz in Mumbai. As we briefed her on our one-line agenda – write in support of the BJP government – we find her more than interested. Suppose there is a case like the Kathua rape and Minissha Lamba, being a woman and a celebrity, tweets asking not to make it a political issue while telling people to raise their boys as good cultured citizens, it is bound to make ripples in the minds of people. They will take it something as meaningful. But what you will be doing should be in a discreet manner without naming any leader and the party. Minissha understands it well to proffer, “Ki matalb mudde par baat karna hai mudde ko depoliticize karna hai lekin bina kisike naam liye ye nahi ki aap PM ka naam lijiye aur boliye ki nahi unka kya lena dena …. Ye bilkul nahi … party ka bhi naam nahi … ki mudde par awareness barhani hai (You mean I have to talk about a given issue and depoliticize it without naming anybody … one does not need to name the PM and say what he has to do with the issue … you don’t have to name the party either … you just have to make people aware of a given issue).”

Yes, you are bang on, we tell her. Similarly, Hindi is becoming popular the world over but how it happened and who made it happen you have to write about it without naming the leader. You have to phrase the content in your own words. “Apne words mein personalize karna hai jaise ye personal feelings hai ([You mean]I have to personalize the issue in my own words like it is personal feelings),” Minissha gets the gist.

The one-line message to you is you have to promote the content that we would provide you, she is told. Minissha is eager to know what that content would be, as she asks, “Toh mujhe ek example dijiye … aap jaise aglaa jo aap keh rahe ho agle do aapke content hoyenge aap mujhe wo content ka example dijiye jaise abhi aap kya chah rahe ho toh fir hum discuss kar sakte hain mujhko samajh mein aana hai ki how to do (Then, give me some example … give me example of the next two contents, what you want me to do, so we can discuss. I must understand how to do it).” You see, you have to promote on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram all schemes the BJP government has launched in the past four years, such as Beti Bachao Beti Parhao, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Jan-Dhan Yojna, Namami Gange and Ujjwala Yojna, among others. “Theek, perfect,” says Minissha. We will be using your social media accounts to promote our party, we say. “Correct, ismein koi political baat nahi hogi (there will be no political talk),” she says in agreement.

She is so eager to work on the digital promotion that ideas begin to take shape in her mind. “Abhi ek naya aaya hai na IndiaFit usmein bhi bahut kuchh kar sakte hain (Recently a new campaign India Fit has been launched. We can do a lot with it as well),” opines Minissha, referring to #Hum FitToIndia Fit campaign launched by Union Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Taking a leaf out of Goebbelsian propaganda, we tell her: The point is we have to hammer it in the minds of the public by aggressively promoting the BJP as a good political outfit which needs a second chance at the helms of the country. Agreeing, Minissha says, “Logon ko yaad dilana padta hai (Yes, you have to remind the people).”

Eager to know what topics she is supposed to cover in her tweets and posts, Minissha asks, “Aur kitne tweets chahiye aapko (And how many tweets you want me to make)?” Four-five posts every month, she is told. You will have to post the same content on all social media accounts for the next eight months or so.

Minissha left the money talk to her manager. But she was ready to accept payments in cash. When she is told she would be paid a major part in cash, turning to her manager she wonders, “Lekin aapne mujhe bola tha ki saara cash hoga (But you had told me payment will be made entirely in cash).” Our team mollifies her by telling her that only 20 percent of the payment will be made by cheque, the rest in cash. You will receive an official mail from our agency confirming our meeting with you and you will have to revert to us with your consent so that we proceed to ready a contract for the assignment, she is told. “No I thought it was a mainly a cash deal toh fir jo contract banega what is going to be scope of … (No I thought it was a mainly a cash deal. Then what is going to be the scope of …)?” she asks. Our meeting with Minissha ends with a secrecy pact. When we tell her she should never discuss it with anybody, Minissha assures us with these words, “No, of course, not.”

Koena Mitra, Model and Actor

A graduate of Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute of New York, a major in psychology and trained in western dance forms, Kolkata-born Koena Mitra won the beauty pageant Gladrags Mega Model India 2001. She began modeling while still in school. After she had featured in some music videos, her big Bollywood break came with Anil Kapoor starrer Musafir in 2004. With over 15 films behind her, Koena has enjoyed success in Bollywood. The celebrity has about 2 lakh followers on Twitter and about 1.30 lakh on Facebook. We met Koena at an Oshiwara coffee shop in Mumbai.

We brief her how this BJP promotion on social media is targeted on young generation who are hooked to it. But whatever you do, you have to do it in such a way as would not lead to an impression that you are doing it for BJP for money. Understanding this delicate balance of the assignment, Koina says, “Jo party BJP party se nahi hai jo bahar se hai uska impact bahut accha hota hai ([Yes, like] A person who is not part of the BJP party but who is from outside … it creates really a very good impact).” Asking us if we have an account on Twitter, Koena reveals, “Ismein agar aapne notice kiya hoga main jo bhi likhti hoon Narendra Modiji ko leke likhti hoon ya BJP ko leke ya fir criticize karti hoon toh log aisa hee sochte hain ki mujhe endorse karne ke liye kaha gaya hai waise bhee sochte hain theek hai na (If you have ever noticed I write for Narendra Modiji or the BJP or write to criticize something, people think I have been asked to endorse the BJP. Anyway, people also think like that. That is fine).”

You see if a celeb like Koena write something, we say, it carries a lot of credibility among your followers. Koena is quick to grab what we are expecting from her. “Haan toh uss cheej ko na mujhe apni language mein apne hissab se likhna hai … aisa nahi lagna chahiye ki party jo bolna chah rahi hai main wahi baat dohra rahi hoon (Yes, I will have to write in my language in my style … so that it should not look like I am regurgitating what the party wants to say).” Yes, this is what is required from you, we say encouragingly. We will provide you the content. “Main apne hissab se likhoongi … matlab kabhi-kabhar usko humour ke saath likhna hai kabhi-kabhar usko masti-mazaak karke likhna hai kabhi-kabhi thoda tease karke, taunt karke likhna hai jaise maine kal bhi likha tha thoda taunt karke maine likha tha logon ko pasand aaya (I will write in my style … I mean sometime it should written using humour, sometime taking a dig, sometime teasing or sometime taunting, as I did yesterday only. People liked it).”

Yes, as you can poke fun at Pappu, we come with an example. Here, Koena makes a revelation saying, “Nahi, nahi. Kejriwal ko maine thoda troll kiya tha … Kejriwal ko maine thoda troll karke likha tha unka thoda mazaak udake likha tha. Public ko bahut pasand aaya tha wo kyonki official accounts se aisa nahi likh sakte (No, no. I somewhat trolled Kejriwal … I had written while trolling Kejriwal. I had poked fun at him. Public loved it very much. We cannot write such things from our official accounts [directly]).”

Completely on board, rather overenthused for, the undertaking, Koena says, “Mujhe jaanana hai every month har month jo hai kitna (I want to know how many every month).” Four to five contents a month, we tell her. “Matlab chaar Twitter, chaar Facebook na ek topic pe (You mean four messages on Twitter and four on Facebook on a single topic)?” Koena asks again. Yes, but on all three social media platforms. She has account only on two platforms, she informs. That is fine, we tell her. We will provide you the content, which will number four to five maximum depending on the issue at the moment of time. It is entirely on you how you handle the content at that time while conveying our message to your followers. “Four to five, wo aap decide karenge (Four to five, that you will decide).” Yes, we say, we will do that depending on emerging issues.

Apart from the general elections, there are elections due in some states. Why not chip in when state elections are held, we suggest. While agreeing, Koena reveals, “Haan, kyonki Karnataka ke time pe maine kiya tha (Yes, I have already done that during Karnataka elections).” Now, it is logical for both parties to discuss the money part. “Payment mode?” Koena asks. How much cash she would like to be paid in cash, we ask her, as it is political money.

But contrary to most of the celebs interviewed by Cobrapost during the course of this investigation, Koena wants to be paid less in cash, as she says, “Jitna kum se kum ho … sabse zyada problem toh wahi hai na ki hum salary de kisi ko jo bhi dein hum cheque se dete hain (As less as possible [in cash]… The problem is whatever salary I pay any of my staff, I pay them by cheque).” We then explain her that we would not put all this in black and white in our contract as it is a hidden agenda. We would show you to have been hired for some brand promotion. We ask her in what percentage would she like her fee to be paid in cash. “Nahi, pehle amount toh fix karo ek (No, first fix an amount [fee]),” says Koena.

Agreeing promptly, we begin to negotiate her fee for the assignment. Asks Koena, “Aap bataiye best price aap bataiye paanchon (Tell me the best price for all five contents).” We quote a price of Rs. 3 lakh for one content and accordingly say we will pay her Rs. 15 lakh a month. Negotiating hard, Koena pitches for a better bargain. So, we finally agree to pay her Rs. 25 lakh a month for her services.

We come back to the mode of payment. In what percentage you should be paid in black and white, we ask. “Kya best aap white se kar sakte ho best (What best you can pay me in white),” she asks in turn. Maximum 50 percent, we say. Koena seeks to know, “Fifty matlab amount abhi three months ka hai … toh matlab 75 lakhs ka 50 percent kitna hota hai (It means 50 percent of the amount for three months … so how much is 50 percent of Rs. 75 lakh).” She says she would like to keep this fee for the first three months, after which she would like it to be revised. We dutifully agree.

After we have settled everything with the actor, Koena makes another revelation. Telling us she had received a similar offer from the Congress Party two years back, she says, “Unhone kaha tha ki humein party ke baare mein baat karein ki kya kya kaam ho raha hai usko thoda highlight karein unka accha kaam jo bhi wo kar rahe hain ya koi bhi tareh ka election ho toh uss cheej ko highlight karein social media pe toh uss waqt maine unhein seedha bol diya tha ki I personally don’t follow this (He told me to speak about his party. Highlight what the party is doing, and highlight their good works on social media whenever an election is due. But I told him that I personally don’t follow this).”

Tell us if you have any doubt, we ask. While assuring us on that count, Koena does not stop bargaining. “Nahi, doubt clear three months ka aap kariye three months ke kyonki itne din se main active nahi thi abhi last three months se bahut zyada active hoon toh mere publicist se baat karke isko main thoda boost kara doongi … taaki three months ke baad usko jo baaki five months ka hai wo aap better karne kee koshish kariye (No, doubt is clear. Pay me for first three month. I was not active for a long time [on social media] but I am now quite active. I will talk to my publicist to boost it … so after three months pay me better for the next five months).” We happily agree.

After delving into the issue some more time, we advise the actor to be careful to not post anything that goes against the BJP. Assuring us, she again reveals, “Nahi wo toh jayega nahi kabhi-kabhi main doosri party ko target karke bhi likhati hoon (No, I will not post anything like that. Sometimes, I also write targeting other political parties).” While appreciating her pro-BJP stance, we again reiterate that the actor needs to praise all good works done by the BJP government and defend it when it finds itself in any controversy. She will be provided the necessary content with facts and figures by our research team. “Phone pe denge (Will they give the content on phone)?” she asks. But before we could satisfy her query, she suggests, “Mail pe na dein toh better hai (It is better if they don’t give it by mail).” No, it will be sent on your WhatsApp, we say. “Haan, WhatsApp pe baat mail karne kee zaroorat nahi hai (Yes, on WhatsApp. There is no need to send mail),” says the actor, satisfied.

As we swear her to secrecy, she gets into journalist bashing. When in an off-the-cuff remark, we say journalists are a nuisance to the party, Koena observes without mincing words, “Koi kaam nahi hai mujhe lagta hai ki Pakistan se inhein diya jaata hoga fund … mujhe lagata hai inko diya jaata hoga fund kyonki ye Kashmir ke baare mein baat karte hain toh ye Kashmiri ke favour mein hain humare Army ke against mein hain. Kuchh bhi baat karte hain toh criminals kee taraf se baat karte hain … humesha lagta ki ye criminals ke supporter hain (Yes, they don’t have any work. I think they get funds from Pakistan, because whenever they talk of Kashmir, they talk in favour of Kashmiris only. They are against our Army. They talk like they are on the side of criminals. I always feel they are supporters of criminals).”

With Koena venting her anger on us journalists who are not ultra-nationalists like her, our interview with the actor ends.

After the interview, Koena exchanged messages with us, seeking updates. Obviously, she is eager to get the contract. In one such message sent on June 7, 2018, she asks, “It’s been 5 months. What happened to your project and plan?” In another message, she informs us she has tweeted for the BJP indirectly. She even reverted to our official mail saying aye to our proposition.

Sambhavana Seth, TV Presenter, Dancer and Actor

An item number in movie 36 China Town catapulted Sambhavana Seth to fame. She is now one of the most celebrated actors in Bhojpuri films having acted in about 20 Bhojpuri films. As a dancer, Seth has won many dancing shows. She is one of the judges on reality dancing show BIG Memsaab. She has about 93,000 followers on Twitter, 1.23 lakh on Facebook and 1.95 lakh on Instagram. Her YouTube channel has more than 1.5 lakh subscribers. We met the dancer-actor at a Versova coffee shop.

It turns out that Sambhavana is a supporter of the BJP, so is her family, which makes our job easier. “Toh basically ye BJP ka aap wo kar rahe ho jo bhi kar rahe ho toh humare paas best part ye hai ki main BJP ko hee support karti hoon. Obviously, mere liye aur accha hai humari poori entire family BJP ke usmein hee hai (So, basically whatever you are doing for the BJP, here with me the best part is I support the BJP only. Thus obviously it is good for me. My entire family supports the BJP),” she informs us. But then it is not about doing it openly, we tell her. “Basically aap like kitne uss pe jaa rahe hain jo content number hai (Basically what is the number of content like you want me to play out),” she inquires. We will give you four-five contents every month for repackaging on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Telling us she runs a successful YouTube channel as well, which has about 1.50 lakh subscribers according to her, she says she would put that channel at our service. “Lekin matlab kya hai meri unit poore follow karte hain kaafi accha … basically main YouTube pe apna kaam daalti hoon aur blogs daalti hoon but ye ek alag message jayega kyonki bahut accha overall bhi hai kyonki uski reach bahut hai (My whole unit follows the traction … basically I post my work and blogs on YouTube, but this will go as a different message, because it is very good overall as it has a vast reach),” suggests Sambhavana.

We cannot agree more. You can always make a video on an issue and post it on your channel, but it should look it is coming from you. “Samajh gai main bilkul samajh gai (I got it, I got it completely).” Finding her on board, we asks her what she expects. Telling us she has done such assignments in the past as well, she says, “Dekho main aapko saara aapko kuch idhar-udhar karke kuch main bataa nahi sakti hoon maine jo ye pehle ye sab liya hua hai maine 75 mein kiya tha … toh mere ko kabhi aur un logon ka matlab ye tha ki hum ek part payment aapko kar dete hain aur baaki aapka wo hum cash kar denge … mujhe pataa nahi hai aap logon ka we need to talk about budget also I think … ji se pata nahi baat hui ya nahi hui (You see, I will not quote anything beyond logic. I have done this for Rs. 75 lakh. They would make a part payment and the rest would be paid in cash … I don’t know how you will do it. We need to talk about budget also, I think. I don’t know if you have discussed it with … ji or not).”

We have certainly but not about direct payment. We had told him that we would prefer to pay in cash because it is political funding. “Haan samajh gai main (Yes, I got it),” says Sambhavana. Now we tell her we will pay 20 percent of her fee in white only, and the contract will show only this much of fee. This contract will show her to have been hired for some product endorsement. The promotion will go on for nine months and we will provide you five contents every month for you to post on all three platforms. Asks Sambhavana, “Aap jo contract karenge wo wo nine months ka rahega (The contract you will have with me will be for nine months)?” Yes, and it can go further. But it all depends how creatively you handle the content which we will provide you. Assuring us, Sambhavana says, “Dekho ye toh hoga hee hoga lekin once main start karoongi toh aapko maloom padega ki kitni jageh iska wo aa raha hai mere through kyonki mere alag-alag tareeqe hain apne (You see, this will sure be done. But once I start, you will see how much impact it is creating through me, as I have different ways of doing it).”

Assured thus, we again ask her what her expectation is. While praising herself, Sambhavana pitches in, “At least kum se kum main agar aapka itna lamba agar chalne wala hai toh main expect karoongi ki kum se kum mere paas pachaas tak to aaye anywhere between 50–55 toh main boloongi ki mujhe chahiye (If it is going to run so long, then I would expect at least Rs. 50 lakh. So I would quote anything between Rs. 50–55 lakh as what I want...).” But we have set aside a budget of Rs. 45 lakh a month, we tell her. Seeking a better bargain, the actor-dancer says, “Mera na actually jab aap dekhoge na ki main kya kar rahi hoon toh aap baaki artist ke baad ye kahoge ki inhi ko kyon nahi de diya main itni in cheejon mein sharp hoon (Actually, when you will see what I am doing compared to other artistes, you will say why I was not given the entire project to handle. I am so sharp in these things).” After discussing the nitty-gritty of how she will receive her fee, we close the interview.

Like some of the celebrities, Sambhavana was also over-enthused to take up the assignment. But when nothing materialized, she began to have anxiety pangs. Her message reproduced here shows just that.

Salim Zaidi, Theatre, Film and TV Actor

Two ducks in a series before the selectors cost him a promising career in cricket. Before making Mumbai his second home, Salim Zaidi did theatre in Delhi while working as a radio jockey. He shot to prominence with sitcom Bhabi Ji Ghar Par Hai in 2015, which is still running on TV, where he plays Tillu who does never succeed in recovering his six-month pay his employer owes him. Apart from working back to back in TV serials, the actor has acted in Bollywood flicks like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, O Teri, Trip to Bhangarh, Hai Apna Dil To Aawara and Vicky Donor, among others. Zaidi has about 2000 followers on Twitter, while more than 6,000 people follow him on Facebook and about 1000 on Instagram.

His importance lies in the fact that he is not only a celebrity but also a well-known Muslim face, we tell him, and naturally he enjoys credibility among his community. What all you have to do is speak about all the good work the BJP government has done. We will provide you the content and you have to post that content on your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts after paraphrasing it. In other words, you have to make it interesting in your own style.

Understanding the nuances of the assignment on hand, Zaidi says in agreement, “Ye nahi ki specially main aapko kar raha hoon samajh gaya (I got it. It should not look like I am promoting you [the BJP] specially).” You see you have to work in such a manner that people don’t take you as someone working directly for the BJP, we tell him again. You have to create an impression so that they would rather believe what you would be telling them about the BJP. “Apne shabdon mein uss cheez ko jo aapka concept hai usko bayaan karna ([I got it]I will have to say that concept in my own words),” Zaidi says.

Zaidi is not associated with any political party which will help gain credibility among the people. We advise him against going whole hog into the job at once. He should rather make four–five tweets a month keeping in mind that we are targeting the 2019 elections. He gets it well to say, “Dose ke type aise ([You mean like] Dose [of medicine] type).”

Giving him an idea how he should go about praising the BJP government, we tell him the example of Swach Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Campaign. You can tweet, we suggest him, saying the success of campaign is the success of Modiji. Zaidi is a step ahead of us in this game. “Gandagi ke gurde chheel diye Modiji ne (Modiji has taken filth to task),” he says. Now take, for example, the Karnataka elections. You can tweet, we suggest him, saying that the BJP has increased its victory tally from 40 MLAs to 104 while the Congress under the leadership of Pappu could not fare well. He rather failed. And Pappu can be anybody. This way you can make fun of the leader in question as well as send your message across. 

Zaidi does not have any problem with caricaturing the leader of a national party in this manner. “Baat bhi pahuncha denge ([Yes, this way] Message will also get across),” he returns with as much promptness and adds, “Ab jo Pappu keh raha hai kya keh raha hai wo duniya jaanati hai bas yahaan par ye kehna chahenge ki khisyaani bhilli khamba noche, kabhi ye aa gaya kabhi kuch aa gayaa … kum shabdon mein teer lag jaaye sateek (Now, what Pappu is saying the whole world knows it well. Here I will say he is barking up the wrong tree. Sometime I will write like this at other times something else … I mean it should hit the target using fewer words).”

This is how you have to work on our agenda, we appreciate him. What you will post on social media should look like your own thoughts as an individual, we say. “Samajh gaya main I got it (I have understood it. I got it),” says Zaidi. As a Muslim, you are very important to the BJP, we tell him. “Main samajh gaya. Main samajh gaya (I got it, I got it),” says Zaidi.

Telling him that this activity may last for eight months, we ask him how long he would like to work for us. Surprisingly, Zaidi is eager to work for the entire period. After all, he would be making money out of this exercise. Listen to what he says, “Agar judna hai toh poora aath mahine tak judo dekho do paise agar mujhe mil rahe hain toh mera job hi advantage hai wo milna chahiye wo convey ho jaata hai ki banda jo hai wo juda hua hai. Ab ek mahina kiya aapne gayab ho gaye toh usase log jude fir gayab ho gaye. Ab election tak banda continue juda hua hai wo ek theme ko lekar aa raha hai mentally unko strong kar raha hai leke aa raha hi, leke aa raha hai aur election aa gaye aur aakhir mein keh diya bhai vote for BJP … khatam (I would like to join you for the entire eight-month period. When I am getting paid for it, you should get advantage from me. It gets conveyed that the fellow is associated. If I work for one month and disappear, then people who join me would also disappear. So if a fellow is associated with you till the time of elections continuously, he is working on a theme and making those [who has joined him] mentally strong, bringing them in more and more, and when the election would arrive, he would finally tell his followers to vote for BJP … That is all).”

This is exactly what we expect from you, we tell him encouragingly.  Zaidi furthers adds, “Lekin mera apna individual hai ki yaa toh judo sahi se judo warna mat judo (But what I believe as an individual is if you want to be associated you should associate properly).” This is exactly what we are looking forward to, we say. We will provide you four-five contents every month to play out. At this point, Zaidi explains how he would go about doing his job. Listen to what he is suggesting, “Usmein hum ek kaam aur karenge usmein jo bhi nai cheej uthkar jo media se related hai ya jo kuch bhi ho usko bhi bade pyar se samet lenge aur koshish ye rahegi ki kum shabdon mein … aajkal ka time para khatm ho gayaa. Muhavaron ka istemaal karte huye chipka denge baat kahi aur muhavara cut … poori baat muqammal kar deta hai wo (I will do one more thing. I will also include anything new related to media or other things, and I will try to convey it with minimum words … in present times a para ends as soon as it starts. We will paste that stuff making good use of idioms. I will say something and close it with idioms … cut … that will convey the message in an effective way).”

Finding him completely on board, we now discuss his fee. When we ask him what his expectation is, Zaidi tells us to quote what is our offer saying, “Matlab kya hota hai mi baat jab nikle munh se alfaaz toh ferbadal naa ho usmein (What matters is when you commit something you should fulfill that).” So, we offer him Rs. 15 lakh a month for 15 messages. Thinking for some moment, he asks, “Iska contract hoga (Will there be a contract).” Yes there will be one, we say. But we will not put all these details in black and white therein as it is a hidden agenda. You will be shown as promoting some products. Agreeing, Zaidi says, “Arre nahi wo likhna bhi nahi kyonki iss cheej ko hum hide leke chal rahe hain (Oh yes, you don’t have to write all such details as we have to hide this thing).”

His fee settled thus, we ask him in what mode he would like to be paid. “Toh ismein black mein denge ya cheque mein denge (So, will you pay it in black or by cheque),” he asks in turn. We tell him we are comfortable in cash as it is political money. Says Zaidi, “Cash hee sahi hai (Cash is fine).” When we say we won’t be able to show these transactions in our books, Zaidi reiterates, “Cash hee sahi hai (Cash is fine).” This is how our interview comes to end.

Upasana Singh, Actor and Stand-up Comedian

Beginning her career with Rajshri Productions Babul, Upasana Singh became a household name as Bua, paternal aunt, on Comedy Nights With Kapil, a comedy show with millions of viewers across the globe. The stand-up comedian has acted in many Bollywood and regional films and TV series.

When we tell Upasana that our agenda is to promote the BJP so that it comes to power again in 2019, the actor says with much glee, “Main waise bhi BJP ke favour mein hoon BJP ko sach mein pasand karti hoon (Anyway, I am in fovour of the BJP. I really like the BJP).”

She thus sets the tone of our interview. What you have to do is you have to praise the BJP government by positively talking about various schemes in your own words on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, so that it looks natural to your followers. We will provide you the content. “Haan, haan, baaki haan (Yes, yes, the rest assured),” the actor says. But you will have to do is employ your creativity so that people take it something as your own thought. Upasana assures us she would take approval before she posts a message on social media. “Wo main aapko pehle bhej doongi … fir aapko lagega okay hai toh fir (I will send it first to you … when you find it okay only then …),” says the actor. We cannot agree more.

The actor is, in fact, so excited with the prospect of getting a good deal that she forgets propriety while talking politics. Taking, perhaps, a leaf from the WhatsApp University, Upasana tells us that Indira Gandhi’s husband was a Muslim. Referring to Rahul Gandhi someone as a Muslim child, she say, “Toh ye bacche Musalman hain, toh wo Muslim hai toh wo poora toh kitna maine kiya hai dekho aisa nahi hai ki mere ko kisi Muslim lekin mere ko real lagti hain ye cheejein bahut buri (So, her children are Muslim, so he is a Muslim. I try to control myself, and you see I am not against any Muslim as such, but such things really hurt me).” Prodding her, we tell her she can make such tweets as warranted when the Congress launches personal attacks. You can tell the Congress leaders to introspect before raising such personal issues. Upasana says, “Haan, haan.” You can also lampoon opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, we suggest. Jumping at the idea, she says, “Haan, Mayawati wo hai bua toh main bhi Kapil Sharma Show kee bua hoon (Yes, if Mayawati is Bua then I am the Bua of Kapil Sharma Show).” Then why not say ‘One Bua is making the people laugh, the other Bua is making the people of Uttar Pradesh cry’, we further suggest. The actor hums in agreement, “Humm.”

Is the agenda clear to you, we ask her. “Haan, aap pehle hee pay karte hain (Yes, do you pay in advance),” she asks while saying yes. Yes, we will pay you in advance, we say. “Advance payment toh aath mahine mein kitni baar tweet karna hai ya Facebook pe daalna hai (You make advance payment. How many times in the next eight months will I have to make tweets or Facebook posts)?” she asks. We will give five contents a month to work on. She asks, “Toh wo aap cash denge (Will you pay that in cash)?” Since her fee has already been fixed through the agent at Rs. 1.50 lakh per message, we say she will be paid Rs. 7.50 lakh a month. Desperate to know how the cash will be delivered to her, Upasana asks, “To wo aap kaise wahan pe kaun aaya karega (So, how will be deliver that, who will come)?” We have our own ways to deal with that, we assure her. But she will be paid cash up to 80 percent of her fee and the remainder 20 percent will be paid in white.

With this understanding our interview with stand-up comedian comes to an end.

Baba Sehgal, Hindi Rapper, Playback Singer, Actor and Music Director  

Before becoming a household name as India’s first Hindi rapper with hit show on Doordarshan Superhit Muqabala, in the early 1990s, Baba Sehgal had cut hit albums like Thanda Thanda Paani. Who can forget his rendering of the hit song “Rukmani, Rukmani” from Mani Ratnam’s equally hit movie Roza. An engineer by training, Baba Sehgal, born Harjeet Singh Sehgal, graduated to become an actor, a playback singer and a music director. Off the Bollywood scene for the past one decade or so, as he had taken up playback singing and acting in South Indian movies, Sehgal made a sort of comeback in 2015. Although a late starter on social media, he has more than 2 lakh followers on Twitter, more than 2.70 lakh on Facebook and more than 2 lakh on Instagram.

When Cobrapost team sought an appointment for a one-to-one meeting, Sehgal refused to meet saying he was too busy. But he nonetheless talked business over phone.

Introducing himself, the Cobrapost reporter tells Sehgal his PR agency has been tasked with digital promotion of the BJP.  We are roping in celebrities like you who would post positive messages about the party on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. In a way we will be hiring you. But it has to be done in such a way as would lead people to believe that you are supporting the BJP and its ideology on your own. Responding with a “Haan, haan (Yes, yes)” here and there as the reporter briefs him on the agenda, Sehgal says to reveal, “Haan samajh gaya main. Samajh gaya main. Karte hain hum log bahut baari kiya hai (Yes, I got it. I got it. We people do such promotion. I have done it many times).”

So, what we are talking to him is not something new. He goes on to ask, “But how many tweets, how many because kitna tweets kitna aapko (How many Tweets you [want me to do])?” We can meet in person today evening to discuss the details, we say. He refuses to oblige but says we could talk business over phone. “Nahi bhaiya main aise milta nahi hoon. Sab phone pe hee ho jaata hai. Main travel kar raha hoon (No brother, I don’t like to meet when we can discuss everything on phone. I am travelling),” says Sehgal.

As our telephonic negotiation moves on, we tell him he would have to make four-five tweets a month, for instance. Understanding very well that he has to post messages on all three social media platforms, Sehgal says, “Haan, matlab tweet bhi karne hain saath mein Facebook par bhi daalne hain aur Instagram mein bhi daalna hai (Yes, you mean I have to tweet along with writing posts on Facebook and Instagram).” Yes, we say.

What is your expectation in terms of remuneration for the job? “We normally jo bhi ek tweet ka ek post ka hum 2 lakh rupaye charge karte hain … ek ka maan lo agar 15 huye toh 30 ho gaya plus GST (We normally … for a tweet or post I charge Rs. 2 lakh … suppose if there are 15 messages, it comes to [Rs] 30 [lakh] plus GST),” he is quick on calculation. We promptly agree to pay him his fee, Rs. 30 lakh a month.

When we insist for a personal meeting so that we are sure we were talking to the right person, Sehgal assures in these words, “Wo problem nahi hai milne ki aisa aajkal sab phone pe aap sahi aadmi se hee baat kar rahe hain don’t worry … sahi aadmi se baat kar rahe ho (There is no problem in meeting. But we can talk over phone. Don’t worry you are talking to the right person … you are talking to the right person).”

We would provide you the content for these messages, we tell him. But you will need to write them in your own words, in a creative way. You have to speak good about the work done by the BJP government, for example, Swach Bharat Abhiyan. Agreeing, Sehgal says, “Usmein kuch change apne tareeke se karne kee zaroorat hai usmein jo style humara chalta hai … wo kya krenge na jab bhi hum post karnege na jab bhi mere ko change karna hoga main aapko message kar doonga confirmation ke liye ki maine ye rhyme kiya because mere rhyming bahut chalta hai (I will need to make change in my own way … I have style of doing that … what I will do is whenever I would post something I will send you a message whenever I have to change the content telling you that I have written this rhyme for your confirmation because my rhyming is very popular).”

After some weeks, our reporter calls Sehgal again to remind him what we had discussed with him. His fee having being settled, we come to discuss the mode of payment. How much cash you can accept, we ask Sehgal. “Main le sakta hoon aapka kya hai mere ko 50 percent … aapne bola 30–40 jitna bhi aap kar sakte ho … aapko kitna white karna hai aapko (I can accept cash. Tell me what you want. I can 50 percent … 30–40 whatever you said … how much you want to pay in white),” he seeks to know. We can pay maximum 20 per cent in white, we tell him. “Arre baap re, accha toh cash ka kaise fir (Oh my god. Okay, how this much cash then)?” he asks. Then he finally says, “Nahi nahi, anyway… theek hai toh aap dekho kaise and how do you want to start kaise karna hai (It is fine. So, you see to it how [can do this] and tell me how do you want to start. How it has to be done)?” With this broader understanding thus arrived, our telephonic interaction with Sehgal ends.

Aman Verma, TV Anchor and Actor

Beginning his career as an actor in Doordarshan series Pachpan Khambe Laal Diwar in 1987, Aman Verma attained a celebrity status with TV series like Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, while anchoring the first season of Indian Idol and hosting popular shows like Khul Ja Simsim. In an acting career that spanned two decades, Verma acted in scores of films and TV series. His promising career hit the nadir after the 2005 casting couch controversy, pushing him into oblivion, almost. The actor has about 3,500 followers on Facebook and more than 8,000 on Twitter. His Instagram account boasts more than 48,000 followers.

We met Verma at Love & Latte coffee shop in Lokhandwala, Mumbai. When we tell him how he can help us promote BJP on social media by saying good things about it has done at the centre, Verma asks, “So, how does this work economically in my favor, how and how may?” It depends how many followers a celebrity has on social media, we tell him. For instance, you have 8,000 followers on Twitter, but you have credibility. Anyway you can always tell us what your expectation is. The actor, however, puts the ball again in our court saying, “Nahi toh aapke you also must be having any kind of system in terms of ki aap iss tareh se what are the payments that you … (No, you also must be having any kind of system in terms of … what are the payments that you …)?” There will be a contract for eight months, we tell him, as we are targeting 2019 elections.

Verma keeps an eye on political development in the country and, while eager to know when he is supposed to start, says, “Nahi nahi wo main samajh gaya wo main ye hee soch raha tha ki saari cheejein abhi chaloon ho jayengi. Karnataka election kee saari cheejein aa gai hain … kitna 104 … 104. Fantastic. I agree, I completely agree. I think what BJP has done in last 4 years it is very, very commendable and if given another chance definitely bahut aage, haan kuch cheejon mein they should have little more … (No, I got it. I was thinking if all things will start immediately as Karnataka election has thrown up all things … how much 104 … 104 … Fantastic. I agree, I completely agree. I think what BJP has done in last 4 years it is very, very commendable and if given another chance definitely, yes in some matters they should have little more …).”   

Appreciating his viewpoint, we come back to discussing his fee. There are some options for you, we say. Either you may go for an eight-month contract or you can charge per tweet. In order to put his up case for a better bargain, Verma says. “Aap mujhe apna jo bhi aap offer kar rahe hain … dekhiye mere paas iss tareh kee bahut saare offer aate rehte hain, toh main sabse poochhta hoon aap mujhe apnaa bataiye. Aapka ye jo tweet hai in sabka hai. Mera ek package hai. Abhi kai logon ke saath main judne wala hoon … toh suddenly mere followers barh jayenge in the span of one month pehle ek mahine main toh usmein bhi hum kuch kar sakte hain toh we can work upon that (You can tell me what is your offer. I often get such offers. I ask them what they want to pay me. They all have this tweet thing. Everyone has a package so do I. I am going to join many people … So suddenly my followers will increase in the span of one month. So, we can do something about it. We can work upon that).”

This social media campaign will start from June, we tell him. The first few months, you will have to write only positive things about the party. We will provide content in the form of video or audio. Take, for example, the Kathua rape case. Everybody is asking why Modiji is silent on this issue. Now, you can say in your messages how come Modiji has anything to do with this case. Why not raise your boys as cultured creatures.

Agreeing, Verma says, “Bilkul, bilkul (Sure, sure).” Before the interview comes to an end, we tell him we would pay him Rs. 50,000 per message. “And how is the payment going to come in?” Verma asks. Tell us which mode of payment will be comfortable for you, we say, in cash or in part cash? “I would love all in cash,” replies Verma.

Hiten Tejwani and Gauri Pradhan, TV Actors

Both Hiten Tejwani and Gauri Pradhan are well-known small-screen actors, who arrived with the soap opera Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, a family melodrama. Hiten has also acted in some Bollywood films such as Krishna Cottage, Vaastav and Anwar. Cobrapost team met the actor at a Varsova beach coffee shop Chai Coffee. The actor had already been briefed over phone about what would be discussed during this meeting.

As we brief the actor on our agenda and tell him how he can use his personal experiences and imagination to convey our message, the actor assures us, “Haan wo toh ek baar karne par aaynege toh bahut kuch kar sakte hain (Yes, when it comes to doing it I can do much more).” It was interesting to find him more than interested in our proposition. We will provide you the content on various good schemes launched by the NDA government such as Swach Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bachao Beti Parhao and rural electrification, among others, we tell him. You have to post that content on your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. But be careful it should never give rise to a perception among the public that you are doing this as a BJP spokesperson. Understanding the delicate nature of the assignment, Hiten says, “Naye hissab se tweet karna hai … normal aadmi hai support kar raha hai (I will have to tweet the content in a novel manner … [they should think] I am supporting as a normal man).” Yes, it should look like your personal view. Agrees Hiten, “Personal point of view.” This way we would be able to get political gain out of your social media messages, we say. Agreeing, Hiten says, “Correct.”

As you may have by now got it is a hidden agenda, we say, it is essential that public should never come to know what is really happening. Hiten cannot agree more, as he reveals, “Correct, public ko nahi pata hoga. hota hee aisa hai saara matlab ye bhi for example ye political party ka kind of promotion hai toh hum log product bhi uss tareh se promote karte hain (Correct. The general public will never come to know. This is what happens. I mean, this is promotion of a political party but we promote products that way only).” But you do not need to fire on all your cylinders. It has to be done in a graded manner. So, you better start posting messages on social issues, we suggest him. Agreeing, Hiten says, “Achanak se nahi … logon ko samajh mein aa jayega … ye jo log karte hain jo beech mein khurapaati log baithe hain wo uthayenge ki isko BJP se mila hai isne daala hai (No, not all of a sudden … people will take it otherwise … there are many clever people around who would pick it up and say he has got money from the BJP to do it).” 

After driving home our agenda of BJP promotion and how it has to be done, we ask Hiten if he has any doubt on it. Nah, he assures us. “Nahi, nahi, samajh mein aa gayaa clear hai aap maheene ke teen-chaar tweet (No, no. I got it, it is clear to me … you want three-four tweets a month),” says Hiten. You will have to post four-five messages on all three social media platforms, we say. “Haan, haan matlab pandrah ho gaye (Yes, yes, meaning 15 messages),” he is double quick in giving as the exact figure. But the agenda is clear to you, we ask again. Says Hiten, “Correct.” When we ask him what his expectation is, Hiten shares with us his past experience of such promotions on social media, “Nahi, nahi wo hee hai kyonki jo kiye hain wo thoda alag ho jaata hai kyonki wo karke hut gaye khatam ho gaya kahani ho gai khatm ye abhi aap bol rahe ho abhi aath maheena hai … iske baad mein jab aas-paas government BJP kee hogi unke support mein bhi rahega toh fir aisa lagega ki isne pehle kiya (No, no. The thing is whatever I have done was different because everything ended as soon as the campaign was over. Now, you are telling me this would go on for eight months … after this when the BJP government is formed I will continue supporting the BJP. People will think otherwise if I don’t).” We assure him we will continue our association for eight months. Then, there are many celebs who have agreed to work for the entire period of contract. “Correct, baraabar hai beech mein chhodne ka matlab hee nahi hai (Correct, there is no point in leaving the assignment in between),” says Hiten. 

You see it is entirely political money, we say. So we will pay the bulk of your fee in cash. Only about 20 percent will be paid in white. Well Hiten is quite happy with this arrangement, for the simply reason of GST, “Haan, better rahega kyon bataaon main aapko ye saala GST ek bamboo hai har mahine aapko bhi bamboo hai mere ko bhi bamboo hai … maine agar idhar invoice aapko raise kar diya toh mere ko uska aata hai 20 tareekh ko chalo sir ye hai aapka calculation monthly bhar do online (Haan, it will be better. Why? I will tell you. This GST acts like a bamboo both for me and for you every month … If I raise an invoice, then I am told over phone [by the CA] this is your monthly calculation and I tell him to file it online).”

After telling him that he will receive an official mail from our PR agency, we offer him a fee of Rs. 1 lakh per message per month. He does not get it. Thinking that we are offering him Rs. 1 lakh only per month for his services, Hiten asks, “Lekin for example, what is the minimum guaranty hum log kitna karenge minimum (But, for example, what is the minimum guaranty? How much I will be required to do).” Maximum 15 messages a month, we tell him. Hiten says, “Dekhiye ab hum Facebook, Twitter aur Instagram teenon pakad rahe hain aap one mein teenon bol rahe hain (You see, I am taking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all three, whereas you are quoting price for only one [lakh rupees]).” No, we are offering you Rs. 1 lakh per message on each of the three platforms, we correct him.

When he realizes what the real offer is, a satisfied Hiten finally says, “Theek hai toh agar hum log minimum 15 ka hota hai toh it’s fine matlab per month 15 lakh minimum hota hai then it works fine (That is fine. If I am paid Rs. 15 lakh, it is fine. I mean if it is minimum Rs. 15 lakh per month, then it works fine).” Telling us that he would have to show this white income of Rs. 3 lakh, the actor says, “Mere ko minimum agar 15 kee milta hai toh mere ko koi problem nahi hai (I am going to receive a minimum Rs. 15 lakh in payment, then I have no problem).” We finally tell him if he is really interested in the deal, we will send him an official mail that very evening. Hiten nods gleefully, as our interview with the actor comes to an end. 

When we spoke to Hiten over phone again, the actor suggested us to rope in his spouse Gauri Pradhan. Hiten has 1.28 lakh followers on Twitter, more than 73,000 on Facebook and 5.42 lakh on Instagram, while Gauri has more than 32,000 followers on Twitter. That is good stats to measure their popularity. Therefore, we met the couple at the same rendezvous.

It is obvious Gauri knows well the purpose of the meeting. Telling Gauri that she will have to take up women centric issues on social media to support the government, we clearly state our objective: promote the BJP but in a different way. “Matlab directly nahi indirectly (You mean not directly but indirectly).” You got it right, she is told. “Wo toh samajh gai. Content aap denge yaa humara (I got it. Will you provide the content or we will)?” Gauri asks. We would provide you the content on the issues at hand, we tell her. You just have to put it across your followers in a creative manner. The point is if we say the BJP is a good party people would not take it seriously, but they would sit up and listen when a celebrity like you would say that. Although she agrees to play ball, Gauri does not have any idea of a much-touted scheme like Ujjwala and she is tutored by Cobrapost team on how she should write about it.

We tell the couple that they would receive an official mail from our PR agency, describing about the meeting they had with us. If they are willing to take up the assignment, they would have to revert to the agency with their PAN and bank account details. The couple would be paid Rs. 27 lakh, Rs. 15 lakh to Hiten and Rs. 12 lakh to his spouse, for five contents a month each. The couple has no problem if they are paid 80 percent in cash. So, when we say if it was clear to her they would be paid only 20 percent in white and the rest in cash, Gauri confirms as much, “Bataya mujhe (Yes, he has told me).”

The couple is planning a trip to the US and is thus desperate to clinch the deal. His eagerness to start is palpable when Hiten says, “Abhi humein jisko final karna hai jaise aap bol rahe ho na aap mujhe kuch de do main daal doon taaki meri shuruaat ho jaaye. Aapko lagega jo study kar raha hai unhein bhi lagega isne shuruaat kar dee aur hum log ismein se chhod toh sakte nahi mera bas itna hai ki hum log jaa rahe hain toh humara usase pehle close ho jaaye (Right now we have to finalize that thing. You can give some content so I can post that to make a start. You and the person who is going to study will also take it that I have started it. And we are not going to forego it. The only thing is I want to close the deal before we leave).” Assuring the couple that they would soon receive the contract, we remind them that they have to write positive things about the BJP government. Yes, they would act more than positive. “Haan haan humein positive kyonki hum log pro-BJP ho gaye ye yaad rakhna kabhi anti bolna mat interview mein mat (Yes, yes. We have to keep it in mind that since we are pro-BJP, we should not take an anti-BJP stance in interviews as well),” reassures Hiten, while Gauri nods in agreement.

Hiten was prompt to respond to our mail and sent us his PAN and banking details. But when the contract did not materialize, he kept on asking us on WhatsApp when it was going to “happen”. In the meanwhile, to show he is raring to go, Hiten tweeted on July 4, 2018 for us praising the Union government’s unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir during the holy month of Ramazan. His tweet is self evident.

Rahul Bhat, Actor and TV Producer

Beginning his career in acting with Bollywood flick Yeh Mohabaat Hai one and a half decades back, Ruhal Bhat has about eight movies such as Jai Gangajal and Ugly behind him as an actor. He has also worked in popular TV serials like Heena and has now graduated into a TV producer himself, producing serials like Tum Dena Saath Mera. He has about 12,000 followers on Twitter and about 5000 on Instagram. Cobrapost team met the Srinagar-born Bhat in his office at Laxmi Mall, Andheri West. Our proposition made him sit up and take notice. But here our team has a different story. Our PR agency is instead working for the Congress.

As we explain the nitty-gritty of the assignment, Rahul wants to know, “Okay hoon … toh usmein mujhe kya milega kaise karenge (Okay humm … so what would I get in return and how would it be done).” What is your expectation, we ask. “Nahi, I don’t know. You have to tell me na what is your,” Rahul asks us. You see your fee would depend on how many followers you have on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, we tell him. But the going rate per tweet for celebrities is anything between Rs. 2 lakh and Rs. 2.50 lakh per message. You have to make four tweets a month and this will be an eight-month long exercise. We would provide the content which you would have to present in your own language so that it does not look like you are openly batting for the Congress. “Haan (Yes), naturally,” concurs Rahul, finally, while saying in between an “Okay” or “Theek hai (It is fine)” approvingly.

In this eight-month contract, running up to the next Lok Sabha elections, you would make 12 posts on all three social media accounts. These posts will be on the achievements of the UPA government and all those schemes, including Aadhaar, which the present NDA government is milking. You would be paid a fee of Rs. 30 lakh a month. “Okay,” returns Rahul. As the negotiations move forward, Rahul asks, “Toh isko kaise karna hai (So, how this has to be done).” We will provide you the content, we say. You have to convey the same in your own style to lend the message credibility. So, the content is clear to you. It is meant to promote the Congress. “Correct,” says Rahul nodding.

Sometimes, you will have to defend the Congress Party whenever it is cornered by its rivals. You have to help build its image, particularly that of Rahul Gandhi. The actor promptly agrees to do so. While discussing his fee again, we ask how him many followers he has. “Twitter pe koi 45 hazaar hain (About 45,000 followers on Twitter),” he rattles the figures. We are not impressed especially when we are paying him Rs. 30 lakh a month. So, we advise him to become more active on social media. People will start drawing their own conclusions if you all of a sudden go on an overdrive. Rahul promises to go all out. “Nahi wo toh main karoonga parson se mere paas time hee nahi hai social media par jaane ke liye but now that agar tum log aisa karoge and I will be making money out of it then I will go, I will go all out (No I shall start doing it from day after tomorrow … actually, I don’t have time to spend on social media. But now that you people are asking me to do so and I will be making money out of it, then I will go, I will go all out),” he says. The deal thus settled, we ask him in which mode he would like to receive his monthly fee of Rs. 30 lakh. “Yeh toh cash mein hee hona chahiye better hai (It should be paid in cash. It is better),” he promptly informs us. The deal thus struck, our interview is over.

Poonam Pandey, Model and Actor

More than her acting talent, Poonam Pandey is known for baring her skin be it in modeling or in films. In fact, she took to social media to promote herself as a sex symbol by posting her hot photos and videos. No wonder she has about 8.80 lakh followers on Twitter, more than 23 lakh on Facebook and 20 lakh on Instagram, which speaks volumes about her popularity as a celebrity. Cobrapost met the sultry siren in a Mumbai five star hotel.

Briefing her, we tell Poonam she will have to promote the BJP on all her social media accounts by talking good about the deeds of the BJP government at the centre, such as Beti Bachao Beti Parhao, Swach Bharat, Ujjwala, Namami Gange and so on. Then there were steps such as GST, demonetization and surgical strike on which the opposition tries to corner the BJP government. You have to praise such steps saying while GST and demonetization have helped check black money, surgical strike has enhanced the status of the country in the eyes of the international community. Giving her the example of Rahul Gandhi laughing away the surgical strike as jumla strike in the Parliament, we tell her she can criticize the Congress leader for his misdemeanor of belittling the sacrifices our soldiers make. We will, of course, provide the content on all such topics for you to play out on your social media accounts. Agreeing to the agenda, Poonam says, “Hum log basically content hum log baat karke we can sort it out wo kar sakte hain (We can basically discuss the content, we can sort it out, we can do that).” We fully agree with this arrangement.

Now, we tell her we will be using her social media accounts to promote the BJP in such a manner as your followers do not take it like you have become a BJP spokesperson. You know, it is basically a hidden agenda. Understanding it well, Poonam says, “Haan, wahi mera main concern tha maine jab Goldie se jab tak baat kee he cleared that part unhone mujhe bahut clearly ye bola ki silent most basically aapka naam kahin par obvious (Yes, that was my main concern. When I spoke to Goldie about it he cleared that part. He made it clear to me that it has to be done in a most silent manner basically. Your name will not become obvious).” You got it right, we say. Giving her example of Ujjwala Yojna we suggest she can appreciate the scheme while at the same time advise some corrections if warranted. Appreciating our suggestion, Poonam says, “Haan, haan wo thoda sa practical bhi ho jayega aur wo bahut obvious wo nahi lagega matlab wo waise ho jaaye toh wo zyada accha hai because then jo mere followers jo hain wo they would think that’s reality thing, this is me speaking (Yes, yes. That will be somewhat practical and will not look obvious. I mean, if it goes like that it is far better because then my followers they would think that’s reality, this is me speaking).” You see, it should not look like you are doing it at our behest for some gain, we say again. You have to keep it so natural that people take it as Poonam Pandey talking this on her own. Hope you understand it. “Perfectly,” assures Poonam. Tell us if you have any confusion in this regard, we again ask. She reassures us again, “Nahi, nahi, nahi ekdum perfect (No, no. I got it completely perfect).”

She further adds, “Aapne abhi jitni bhee baatein boli hain aapne already wahi cheej mention kee jo mere dimaag mein tha jo already aake poochhna tha Goldie cleared that part ki ye bahut obvious nahi hona chahiye jo main bhi nahi chahti ki because hum kabhi kuch post karte hain my team posts it should not, never looks like you know she is promoting something obvious, obvious toh main agar usko humare mutual conversation ke baare mein if I write something I also should agar ye aisa hota toh waisa bhi ho sakta tha toh bahut real lagegaIt has to look exactly, it has to look real (Whatever you have already told me so far, you have mentioned all what was going on in my head and which I wanted to ask you. Goldie has already cleared that part that it should not look obvious, which I also don’t want because whenever I or my team posts something, it should not, it never looks like you know she is promoting something obvious, obvious. So, if I write something after our mutual conversation, I also should say if it can be done this way it could also be done that way. That will look real … It has to look … exactly … it has to look real).” 

We will provide you the content on current hot topics, we tell her, which you will have to rewrite and seek our approval before rendering it on her social media accounts. “I get it,” Poonam says. So, it is clear how you have to deal with the content, we ask. “Absolutely,” replies Poonam. Coming to payment of her fee, which is yet to be decided, we tell her 80 percent of her fee will be paid in cash and the rest in white. Poonam has not any problem if the bulk of her fee is paid in cash, as she says, “Okay.” Only the white part of the deal will be mentioned in the contract which will show you as endorsing a product, we tell her further. “Okay, okay I get it,” says Poonam. Tell us if you have any issue with it, we ask. Says Poonam, “Absolutely not.”

When we ask the actor what her expectations are, she leaves the topic for her manager Goldie, who is present there, to negotiate. So, we turn to Goldie, who says, “We were mota-moti hum log soch rahe the about 50 lakhs (We were thinking of quoting a fee of about Rs. 50 lakhs).” In order to encourage the actor, we say we will pay her Rs. 3 lakh for each message. At this rate, she will be paid a fee of Rs. 45 lakh for 15 messages on all three social media platforms. “Theek hai final (Okay, final),” says a satisfied Goldie. Of this sum, she will receive 20 percent, that is, Rs. 9 lakh, in white through RTGS. This is what has been agreed between us. “Haan koi diqqat nahi (Yes, there is no problem),” Goldie assures us. The rest, that is, Rs. 36 lakh, you know, will be paid in cash, we say. “Wo cash mein koi issue nahi hai (There is no issue either with cash),” Goldie again assures us. Our interview with Poonam and her manager Goldie thus ends.

Mahima Chaudhry, former Bollywood Actor

Today she is a pale shadow of her yesteryears. Crowned Miss India in 1990, Mahima Chaudhry, born Ritu Chaudhry, became a rage among cine buffs when her debut Pardes hit the silver screen two decades back. But the one-film wonder actor receded into oblivion. Chaudhry hit the headlines in 2015 when her name figured among 628 Indian who had Swiss bank accounts.

Cobrapost team met the actor at her Lokhandwala residence. “Jhoot mooth ke Tweet kitna milegakya budget lekar aaye ho (You mean, fake Tweets. How much will you pay … What is your budget)?” she asked in a business-like manner. Cobrapost reporters made the agenda clear to her: This social media campaign will run for eight–nine months. We will provide you the content and you will have to post the same in your own words on your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages. The campaign will have three phases. The first phase will consist in promotion of various popular schemes floated by the NDA government in the past four years of its rule, such as Beti Bachao Beti Parhao, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Ujjwala Yojna, among others. Sometimes, the opposition tries to corner the government when a bridge falls in Banaras and a girl is raped in Kathua. You have to defend the government when the opposition becomes aggressive on such issues.

Agreeing to tweaking the content according to situation at hand, Mahima says, “Haan, matlab (Yes, you mean) it should look genuine.” The Cobrapost team even gives her idea how creatively she can tweet about the Kathua rape case. Without naming anybody, we tell her, she can write how the PM has nothing to do with the case. “Achha matlab support karna hai (You mean I have to support [the government]).” Yes, you got it right, she is told. You have to defend the NDA government on issues such as this. This has to be done logically. The objective is: reap political benefit out of your support on social media. Hope you are comfortable on both counts. “Nahi (No), that is fine,” cooed the actor. She has no problem, either, with the political mileage her tweets will give to the party. She is smart enough to acknowledge what the real objective of this celebrity social media support is, as she says, “And plus everybody start thinking like that, brain wash.”

She is also aware how resourceful the BJP is to tell the Cobrapost team, “BJP toh kuchh bhi de sakti hai. They can give one crore a month (The BJP can give you anything. They can give 1 crore a month).” It is a steep price, so we try to negotiate. “Itna bada kaam hai jhooth bulwa rahe ho tareef karwa rahe ho saste meinnahi Twitter aur Facebook aisi cheej hai mitati nahi ek baar maine kuchh bol diya haan kar di ek tareh se I have joined BJP (This is such a big assignment. You are asking me to tell lies, commending [the government] for cheap … No, Twitter and Facebook are not something which can be erased if I say something on them. When I agree [to work for you] in a way I have joined BJP),” she reprimands us. Finally, we agree to pay her Rs. 1 crore a month.

When we ask how many followers she has on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, she tells us she is not active on Twitter. She is on Instagram while her Facebook account is handled by her sister. Telling us she does not buy followers on social media, she makes a stunning revelation while dropping the name of a very well-known actor. “Tomorrow if I will say I can make 2 million, 3 million, 4 million [followers]. You know they all negotiate with me. [Pointing upstairs] Abhi jo … ka bhi hai (You see … has also offered me). He says give me [Rs.] 50,000 a month I will make this many twitter [followers]. You know how it is?... Maine nahi kiya (I didn’t go for that). I want to see my own base how it starts.” We appreciate her honest approach.

Coming back to her fee, we say you have quoted a fee of Rs. 1 crore. But before we could complete the sentence, Mahima interjects to know, “Haan, ye aap paise kaise doge (Yes, how will you pay me this money).” We will come to the point and explain it to you, we assure her. As we say since she does not have a Twitter account, she will be posting only 10 messages a month. Mahima jumps to promise she would open a Twitter account after the deal is finalized, “Nahi agar fir aa jayenge na hum Twitter (Then, I will come on Twitter).”

Her fee thus settled, we ask her if she has any doubt about the agenda and the job at hand. “Nahi koi doubt nahi hai (No, there is no doubt),” Mahima is categorical. As the discussion moves on, Mahima becomes critical of the government policies, saying loan defaulters have left the country after defrauding the public exchequer. There is anger and aggression among the public, she says. Raising a red flag, we advise her not to make such tweets criticizing the government. At this moment, talking like a blackmailer, the actor threatens, “Agar aapne dhang se paisa nahi diya toh main Congress ki taraf se kar doongi (If you don’t pay me well, I will do such tweets in support of the Congress).”

After the deal has been settled between the two parties, Mahima comes up with an idea: She is invited to many events where she can say something in support of the government. She shall send the videos of such events which can be tweeted or retweeted. “Don’t you think it will look more genuine,” she asks. We couldn’t agree more.

Like many other celebrities, Mahima was also desperate for the contract to materialize. Here we quote verbatim a mail she sent us, “Hi this is with regard to the PR activity discussed can we move ahead this week as you mentioned it was to start on 8 th of June. Kindly let me know what’s to be done. ”

We spoke to Mahima over phone a couple of times to check if she stood by what she has committed. Her only worry is the contract which has not reached her yet. “Nahi koi confusion nahi hai (No, there is no confusion). You just send me the contract so I can send you my PAN card and bank details,” she tells us.   

Conclusions: Imagine you are an ardent fan of a famous Bollywood actor and zealously follow him on social media. What he says on an issue of topical importance you may often tend to take as gospel truth because you hold him to be as righteous as any of your gods are. Hadn’t this been the case, many cine stars would have never found themselves enshrined in temples built for them by millions of their star-struck fans. But do you realize your favourite star may have been paid to sway your opinion in favour of a particular political party or a product through those catchy messages on social media? Or, simply the demigod may have been hired to further a political agenda?

But more than that the larger issue is the sway these celebrities hold on their gullible followers. It may be argued as well that they are doing it in personal capacity so where is the harm. Their promoting a particular party for money, however, restricts citizens’ choice to freely exercise their right to vote by taking an informed decision and makes them bias in favour of a particular party their heroes may be promoting at a given point of time. It was high time, the Election Commission of India framed guidelines to regulate such proxy campaigning by celebrities on social media by making such activity an offense on the lines of paid news and put in place a mechanism to monitor it. Or they are asked to affix a disclaimer saying it is an advertisement to make their followers aware of their motive. It is essential to save the democracy from such proxy campaigning by celebrities whose greed knows no bounds.

As these conversations reveal, some of the celebrities are hired by various political parties for promotion on social media. Another fact that emerges from these revelations is most of the celebrities promote different brands and products on social media for money. So, if you think what such celebrities write on their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles is out of their genuine appreciation of a political party, think twice.


Replies from Celebs
We received replies from three celebrities: Rajpal Yadav, Sonu Sood and Mahima
Chaudhry.
Rajpal Yadav’s team said, “Rajpalji is unavailable till April to answer any questions.” Sonu
Sood, while commending Cobrapost work, said, “Promoting political parties, brands,
endorsements is not wrong as long as you believe in the product and their ideologies.”
Chaudhry has this to say, “No I didn’t agree to it.”


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