Sealed with a click: Decoding the online negative campaign on nepotism
As Sadak 2's trailer recently became the second-most disliked video on YouTube, we explore the 'power' that online hate campaigners wield.
Can negative social media campaigns kill a film? If the post-release feedback of Sadak 2 is anything to go by, it definitely can. When filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt launched the much-anticipated trailer of his comeback film mid-August, he ended up setting a record of sorts. The film received over 1.2 crore dislikes on YouTube, becoming the second-most disliked video in the platform’s history.
Bhatt’s labour of love—he returned as director after over two decades with Sadak 2—was dissed by film-goers with many celebrating the film’s failure on Twitter with #ThrilledBySadak. The hashtag became one of the top trends on the social media platform. The film also managed a poor rating on IMDb—1.2 out of 10.
"People have always had an opinion, whether it was about politics, a product, movie or TV show. Earlier when there was no WhatsApp or social media, people’s opinion would be limited to who they spoke to and the people they met. The speed and the pace at which opinions would be shared and the number of people who were exposed to it was minimal,” says Sidharth Jain, founder of Mumbai-based The Story Ink, India’s first company which deals in book-to-film adaptations.
The reason for Sadak 2's 'failure' is, of course, the fiery nepotism debate which has rocked Bollywood, post actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death. The film was made out to be the epitome of nepotism—involving the Bhatt family: Bhatt and daughters Pooja and Alia.
Adding fuel to fire were the allegations of Bhatt’s involvement with Rhea Chakraborty, Rajput’s girlfriend, besides Alia openly making fun of the late actor on a show with the 'flagbearer of nepotism' in Bollywood—filmmaker Karan Johar.
But the Bhatt camp isn't the only one facing the ire of social media influencers. Aamir Khan's next film, Laal Singh Chaddha, for which he recently travelled to Turkey on a recce, too has ruffled feathers. The actor's photos with the First Lady of Turkey, Emine Erdogan, haven’t gone down well with people back home due to the strained ties between India and Turkey. Many have taken to social media platforms calling to 'make sure' the film receives a similar treatment like the one meted out to the unfortunate Sadak 2.
Setting these controversies aside, the question to ask is, can a film’s fate be sealed due to an online hate campaign? "I don’t think any amount of negative publicity or any social media influencer can kill a film, provided the film is good. In the promo the people themselves will see whether they like it or not. Even when the film comes out, because there are so many reviewers nowadays, it becomes a democratic process. I don’t think anybody will want to lie about the film because they know that other people will see it and their opinion will be questioned," says actor and director Parvin Dabas.
Vishal Furia, director of Criminal Justice, Lapachhapi and Bali, offers another perspective. "If public media influencers really have their heart at the right place and want to do good for the industry, they should push, support and promote smaller films and make them be seen by the audience," he says.
Maybe it’s time we as individuals bypassed reviewers—influencers on social media or just our immediate friend circle—and found out for ourselves whether we like a film or not.