News portal Cobrapost stirred up controversy with their 'sting operation', Operation Karaoke, that shows 36 Bollywood celebrities agreeing to post positive social media messages for various political parties and passing it off as their own opinion.
Mumbai: News portal Cobrapost has done a sting operation called Operation Karaoke, a 60-minute documentary film that allegedly shows 36 Bollywood celebrities agreeing to take money in exchange for posting positive messages for various political parties (but putting it across as their personal opinion) on social media.
The 36 celebrities featured in the documentary are actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Sunny Leone, Ameesha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Surendra Pal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani and his wife Gauri Pradhan, Pankaj Dheer and his son Nikitin, Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra, Poonam Pandey, comedians Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar, singers Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal, choreographer Ganesh Acharya and dancer Sambhavana Seth.
While Sonu Sood released a statement today, the evening we spoke exclusively to Koena Mitra and Shakti Kapoor about the sting operations conducted on them. Here's what they had to say:
Koena Mitra: Silence is never an option. I have always been vocal about everything and I will continue to do.
Our lifestyle and times are such right now that they demand a different kind of promotions which include brands for social media. Many new managers want to manage my social media ads as we are social media influencers. In 2018, end April two guys came home saying they wanted to discuss an endorsement which would start from May 6 and carry on till the general elections 2019. When they started talking about politics I asked for their profiles and who they were representing. Their lies and script started from there. They have edited their questions, the way they provoked and everything that they tried to sell and only kept my answers. When I asked for their profile, they said they represented the BJP government at the centre. The platform they said they came from, convinced me so I didn’t check their IDs. They said they had been observing my posts for the last couple of years. I have been pro-BJP and supporting our PM since the last two years and I wasn’t doing it for money and that’s why they got in touch with me as they saw that my posts were in their favour. I said I was doing it for free so why are they paying me for it now? They said I supported the BJP and Modiji and wanted me to endorse BJP campaigns like Swach Bharat, Saaf Ganga and Beti Bachao campaigns which had done really well. They said that they needed more people like me so they wanted me on board officially and would pay me for it. I don’t promote these brands on social media as I write what I like and speak my mind. They said pre-election they wanted me to campaign for these brands aggressively so I said yes.
Why wouldn’t I say yes? If any brand comes to me for endorsement, why will I do it for free and why won’t I say yes as its one of my favourite brands already. And they approached me as a digital representative saying I already support Modiji so why don’t you promote these brands also? No celeb or social media influencer will work for free. So many brands are paying celebs to promote their brands on social media so this is nothing new. If I am already fond of a brand then obviously I will say yes to endorsing it. I said yes to endorsing these brands. You enter someone’s house in disguise, using the central government's name, our PM’s name which is a crime and then you lie about the political party. They have that edited out two things – their introduction where they said they represent the Central Government and the offer they made. They offered me the various social campaigns created by the BJP and said they would pay me for it.
How will I know that they will use this in February 2019 for a campaign offered in 2018? Look at their agendas - they want agitations, people to misunderstand each other, all the political parties to fight. They had an agenda, they recorded all this and tried to offer money for brand campaigning in April 2018 so they are using it pre-election but not to sabotage us but our political parties and leaders by creating tension. They walk miles to defame our nation. Their agendas are wrong. They are trying to attack the Prime Minister, the central govt, trying to prove a point that people who are supporting our PM are taking money to write well about them. No. If the Central Government wants us to support brands every professional will charge money and they know that too. They are trying to sabotage our political parties and our voting season. They tried to trap us last year but why are they using these videos now?
I didn’t know it was a sting operation as they were chatting with me casually. But what I loved about their sting operation is that every word I spoke is that it matches to what I say in public and what they recorded – it’s the same and the truth. My stance remains the same. They couldn’t buy my voice for another party. They had agendas to disturb people or politicians or India or pre-elections and that is why they released it now. They have edited out two things – their introduction where they said they were representing the Central Government and the offer they made to endorse the campaigns. But I have always been vocal about things. Silence is never an option. I have always been vocal about everything and I will continue to do what I have been doing in the last three years toh inko fayda kya hua?
Shakti Kapoor: Whenever the BJP needs me, I will be there!
I don’t want to comment on whatever they (Cobrapost) have written. I have not read it as I feel it’s a waste of time. All I will say is that I don’t need to get paid to talk about the BJP. I am openly saying this - as a supporter of BJP, I am always there, standing with them. I have always said that whenever they need me, I will be there. I am always there for the BJP, always stood for them and talking good about them as I love everything about the party. I have spoken about the good qualities of BJP earlier and Modiji, so I have nothing to do with anyone says. Whenever they need me, my family and I will be there. I am a small actor but from my side, if I can do something for them in my capacity, like contributing an amount, or doing shows for them, or anything financial like raising funds for schools and hospitals, giving money for books and toys to children and building toilets in villages, etc., I am willing to do that. My wife Shivangi and children Siddhant and Shraddha are always there for a good cause. My family believes we must do something for society. Even now if they call me at night, I will be there. My daughter has even met our PM Mr Modi and I have always maintained that we have a very strong Prime Minister.
Sonu Sood: The editing has been tampered with and projected in a bad light.
What was actually discussed has been wrongly reproduced and projected. This is a clear case of sabotage.
The editing has been tampered with and only certain elements of the conversation have been used and projected in the wrong light. To add to that the background score only sensationalizes it further.
It is very regular for brands, political parties, individuals and corporates to use celebrity social media platforms for promotions. It's the content being posted that needs to be responsible and something that the celebrity believes in. Even such collaborations and endorsements have to be followed in an ethical and responsible manner.
In the video too, I had clearly stated that I won’t demean any party or promote anything which is not right or not true.
I would always be open to promote or highlight good work, which everyone would agree isn't wrong whatsoever.
With reference to the contract, I had also clearly stated that I want everything to officially be put on paper as that is the regular protocol.
Promoting brands, political parties, individuals or corporations isn't wrong as long as you believe in the product, the ideologies and the intention.
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Last Updated Feb 20, 2019, 9:26 AM IST