Bollywood buffs would know his name all right, for he has handled the PR for the likes of Hrithik Roshan, Shilpa Shetty, Priyanka Chopra, Esha Deol, Shiney Ahuja, Randeep Hooda and Vivek Oberoi, among 40 others. Those not too familiar with Bollywood could try running an Internet search on his name.
The 14,000-odd entries it throws up, would tell a tale so often told in films and on television – about a small-town lad making it big through sheer perseverance and hard work in the concrete jungle of Mumbai.
Allow us to introduce you to Bollywood’s ‘King of Spin’ – Dale Bhagwagar.
Over the years, Dale has come to be one of the most powerful agents of influence in Bollywood, Dale Bhagwagar Media Group, his proprietary concern, has also undertaken publicity for films of Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar, Sanjay Gupta, Akbar Khan, N.Chandra and Ashok Amritraj including around thirty other makers.
Growth has come in leaps and bounds since Dale started out in the media line twenty-two years ago as a journalist, contributing articles to local newspapers and magazines in his hometown Nagpur in Central India. He was fourteen then, and studying in the sixth standard. Six years later, he had joined a local newspaper as a trainee sub-editor and reporter, confirmed in a year’s time, and given charge of various desks such as City, Business and the Features Desk.
But it was actors and cinema that he really loved writing about and his fascination for glamour saw him move to Mumbai after his graduation in English Literature three years later. He joined the popular Cine Blitz magazine as chief sub-editor and reporter, and managed to bag an exclusive interview with megastar Amitabh Bachchan on his second day in office.
More interviews, scoops, stories, scandals and investigative newsbreaks followed, and as his confidence swelled, Dale decided to quit his full-time job to freelance for various national publications.
In 1997, a premier event management agency faced a last-minute crisis situation in promoting a huge event they were to organise for the Indian Navy on the decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. They asked Dale if he could be of any help in their promotions. He decided to give it a shot and thus signed his first contract as a publicist, simultaneously launching his PR agency Right Publicity, later to be called Dale Bhagwagar Media Group.
In a decade since then, the agency has emerged as the market leader in entertainment PR, catering to print, television, radio and internet media. It taps the media for interviews, articles, features, write-ups, snippets, photo opportunities, mahurats, shooting coverage, press meets, press shows, premieres etc; covering all aspects of image-building, branding, publicity, hype and crisis management.
The agency has its headquarters in Madh Island, a breath-taking beach-end locale, and two more bases in Colaba and Andheri, respectively, all in Mumbai. His firm has received over a dozen awards and felicitations from various institutions for excellence in the field of entertainment PR.
When his client Shilpa Shetty participated in the Celebrity Big Brother reality show in UK, the publicist moved quickly, and efficiently took charge with a steel-like grip on the various controversies surrounding her.
Giving unexpected twists and turns to the hoopla and outbursts of alleged racial discrimination, Dale made sure he spun a diva-like image for Shilpa Shetty. As a result of her evident grit and determination in the show and the publicist’s clever handling of the media situation outside it, ‘Brand Shilpa’ emerged an anti-racial-discrimination icon for the world to look up to, while Dale came to be recognised as a self-styled PR guru.
While playing his manipulative PR games in the media minefield, the publicist was widely quoted on all national and many major international television channels including BBC World, Sky News, CNN, Channel 4 and Voice of America.
During the same time, in the print media, he has been quoted and mentioned in publications like New York Times and Washington Post in USA; The Times, Guardian, The Independent, The Mail, Daily Mail, Mirror and Marie Claire in UK; The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia; International Herald Tribune in France; and Pravda in Russia, among many others.
Dale has been interviewed live on radio a couple of times, among others, by the BBC. As a matter of fact, he has been quoted in as many as 30 countries, which sure places him among the world’s most talked-about and extensively quoted film publicists.
Journalism to him was a profession, while PR has been more like a business. Brand positioning and spinning the news evokes child-like enthusiasm in him. “Fantabulous” is a word he loves, and “glory”is what he seeks. Networking is his daily commitment and his easy demeanour and accessibility make him a service provider hard to ignore.
In his personal life though, the sworn bachelor,is a recluse, and very matter-of-fact. He is frank to the point of being blunt and that is one aspect many of his clients appreciate. His honesty and sincerity can be gauged even in short interactions with him, though a little shrewdness and media notoriety seeps through his pleasant facade.
Not many know that he works on a back-breaking schedule for 13-14 hours a day, and at times, even through nights, which has given rise to a rumour that he never sleeps.
Not for him an elaborate retinue. His team includes precisely four staffers in Mumbai, and seven media reps across the country, plus one each in London and Washington DC. That’s a paltry staff, considering, at any given point in time, Dale has at least 10-12 clients. And he must also keep a hawk’s eye on the PR machinery elsewhere in the world, if only to be able to stay abreast of innovation and implement new ideas.
Success sure sits easy on this man.
Entrepreneurs can contact Dale Bhagwagar on his e-mail id firstname.lastname@example.org (we did so, and got his reply within four minutes)