We've always admired the journey that our stars have had, but have you ever thought about the magic behind this madness of stardom? Well, it's one neat magic that the people behind all the limelight do and one such person has been Universal PR's CEO, Mr. Parag Desai. The way his journey in film PR has panned out has left me quite inspired. Today, having found one of the leading PR agencies in India, Parag spearheads a creative team that oversees personal publicity for superstars like Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Rohit Shetty, Yash, Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Sidharth Malhotra, and the list goes on.
And while he continues to soar to greater heights, I spoke to the man about his journey, the relationships he made along, and a lot more...
Read the interview here:
When you started off, there was nothing called PR. how much time did it take you to establish that there was PR machinery in existence?
I started my career with corporate PR, I was working with my elder brother Sameer Desai. He was a pioneer in PR, but yes in entertainment there was no structural agency. We were amongst the first who started this.
Starting your journey in an industry that is so competitive must have been a challenge. Tell me about your journey.
I started with Television shows like Hum sab Ek Hai, Close Up Antakshri, Sa Re Ga Ma and many more. After TV, I approached a few film producers to handle their PR. At that time a few TV producers were venturing into films and I started handling their film PR. That’s how I got into film PR. I started with small films like 18 Antop Hill, Oops, Page 3, Corporate, etc. Then in 2006, I got my first big film that was Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal. Then there was no looking back, after Golmaal I started handling PR for Mr. Ajay Devgn and Rohit Shetty. Thanks to Ashtvinayak, I got my second film which was also a blockbuster, the film was Jab We Met.
Was there a struggle you have faced in making Universal PR reach where it is today?
I would not call it a struggle, but it took a lot of hard work in doing PR for films and promoting actors.
I want you to go back in time and tell me about the very first deal or client you had, and what was that feeling like?
The first big client I got was Ajay Devgn, followed by Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. When we got a call from Mr. Bachchan's office it was an over-whelming feeling for me. I am glad that they continue to trust me with my PR expertise.
Also, you are very close to Ajay Devgn and Rohit Shetty especially, how did you build this bond over the years? What was your first meeting with them like?
I feel extremely glad with the all the trust Ajay Sir and Rohit Shetty and all my clients have shown on me in all these years. Like I mentioned, I did my first big ticket film Golmaal with Rohit Shetty, and since then he has entrusted me and my agency with all movies and same with Ajay sir. According to me, any good working relationship is build over the trust they have in your good work. Over the years, it's just grown and I am fortunate to associate with them.
You have now also dabbled into the South space, can you tell us a little more about it?
The southern territory is a huge market, they are big cine lovers. Tapping in that market has become crucial and hence we are seeing a lot of our filmmakers these days opting for a PAN India release. We as an agency have been marketing movies down South for a very long time. All the Hollywood project that we do publicity for are marketed in the south territory with a regional connect as localization is a key for a bigger reach. For example, for The Lion King or The Terminator, the biggest stars down south were brought on board to promote the movie. It becomes important to get local talent to endorse the film. With our latest PR campaign for the Hindi version of Pushpa, we approached it with a complete 360-degree perspective. The strong marketing campaign laid out by Mr. Rahul Nanda helped us support the film better with our expertise. Given the reach the market gives, we also ensure, that all our Bollywood films also have enough buzz in the southern market with a strategical PR campaign.
How has the PR game changed over these years?
The rise of the growing digital era has played a big role in the change in PR dynamics. Its now just not restricted to journalists but also taking into accounts the Influencers, bloggers, paparazzi and lot more. We all have changed with times and learning every day.
With a journey in this industry that has been so amazing, is Parag Desai happy? What’s the next milestone we can expect coming from you and your team?
I am content with my journey and grateful for all the work I have done and continue to do. To all the producers, studios, actors who trust me and my team our aim is to only keep the momentum going.
It surely has been a great journey for Universal PR and Parag Desai, so far. And I am totally looking forward to seeing them reach greater heights in the times to come.