Did Deepika’s JNU visit lead to Chhapaak’s falling flat at the box office?

With nationalism being the 'flavour of the season', experts decode whether the actor’s off-screen choice has impacted her brand image and film

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jan 15, 2020 11:39 AM


Deepika Chhapaak

The double-edged sword of public relations is often responsible for making or breaking the brand image of a star. This time it is Deepika Padukone and her film 'Chhapaak' braving controversies. The critically acclaimed film based on the life of acid attack survivor Lakshmi Aggarwal saw empty seats at multiplexes managing to clock only about Rs 20 crore at the box office. According to experts ‘nationalists’ are making the actor pay for showing support to JNU protestors. The fall in the actor’s brand image is backfiring on her at the box office for Chhapaak.

Does the actor’s personal choice impact her brand image and films? “What a celebrity does off-screen directly impacts her onscreen. Chhapaak is Deepika’s film and she is the hero of the film so the best way to punish her according to the audience is by boycotting her film,” said Sabyasachi Mitter, Founder and Managing Director of digital agency Fulcro.

According to Mitter, Deepika has aligned herself to a cause on which people’s choices are much divided and that has impacted her brand image. “While public relation disasters are short-lived, so is a film’s shelf life. Since Deepika’s film released soon after the actor was seen at JNU, Chhapaak bore the brunt of the audience's anger,” Mitter added.  Mitter’s suggests the actor should soon make a public statement clearing her stand on the JNU attacks to bring in some hope for the success of the film that has fallen flat at the box office for the personal choices of the actor.

Experts also say that nationalism is the flavour of the season and anything not in tune with the same faces, the wrath of the audience/consumer withdrawing support.

“If you study the films Meghna (Gulzar) has made, the one that grossed the most was Raazi, which was a ‘patriotic’ film. Talvar, on the other hand, despite getting great reviews from critics just as Chaapak did, did not do well at the box office. There is a noticeable surge in nationalistic and patriotic films (think Uri, Padmaavat, War) being part of the top-grossing films in the recent past, and Tanhaji, which also released the same day, represents one more expression of that genre. The story of a girl who survives an acid attack would definitely have a restricted audience compared to this genre” said brand expert Kiran Khalap. Co-founder & Managing Director at Mumbai based Chlorophyll Brand & Communications consultancy.

It is, however, not the first time that a film is impacted by the brand image of the star. When Kangana Ranaut was amidst controversies about hijacking Manikarnika from her director, her brand image saw a sharp fall. Controversies relating to her and Hrithik Roshan also added to the negativity around her brand image. This impacted her film and its performance at the box office. Shah Rukh and Kajol-starrer film Dilwale was also caught in controversies and saw poor collections at the box office when Khan made certain statements about intolerance.

“The makers of the film were expecting the first-weekend collection of Rs 25 crore but the film only made about Rs 20 crore. Deepika’s film Chhapaak was meant for a targeted niche audience and films like that never target big numbers. The film will remain stable through the next week but there is no expectation of blockbuster numbers from the film,” said film trade analyst Atul Mohan.

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