Bollywood Buzz

Akshay Kumar goes out on a googly

Promotional gimmick at Eden Gardens goes horribly wrong as the actor and his co-stars spend futile minutes wooing the cameras

What is being made out to be a battle of egos between Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar, may be just a case of a publicity gimmick gone wrong.And according to reports, Akshay is not at all pleased to have been dragged into a situation where he is in the path of direct conflict with SRK.

On Wednesday, Akshay, Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha, were at Eden Garden stadium in Kolkata for the IPL match, not for their love of the game, but to promote their upcoming film Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai 2.

The strategy, devised by the Balaji team, involved the stars dressing up in identical T-shirts that said: ‘Once Upon a Time in IPL,’ and hanging out at the venue till the cameras were drawn to them. The seemingly harmless plan went awry when the stars arrived at the stadium, took their seats and waited, and waited for their spot in the sun.

They did Mexican waves, they cheered and at one point, Akshay and Sonakshi got up and waved out to the crowd even, but not for a second, did their faces flash on the screens. To make matters worse, at that precise moment, the cameras chose to focus on the crowd waving back at the stars instead.

According to sources, the camera crew was acting on the behest of a certain ‘administration official’ from the the IPL team. And while Akshay and Co eventually left with not even half a second of air time to their credit, the Balaji team seized the opportunity to make it sound like a case of ‘sabotage’. However, it appears that the IPL’s code of conduct takes a strict view of surrogate advertising. And in this case, Akshay and company were ill-advised to wear the t-shirts. Moreover, the brand that had sponsored Akshay’s VIP box, had not paid IPL for any airtime.

A member from the IPL events team argued: “IPL is all for celebrities adding glamour to the matches. The cameras love them, but not when they are promoting something else.”

A senior member accompanying Akshay and his co-stars said on the condition of anonymity: “The trip to Eden Gardens was organised solely to promote our movie. We knew nobody could ignore Akshay, Sonakshi and Imran when they are together. We had arranged for a VIP box in the C-block which was just a few yards away from the owners’ box. You literally have to skip that block while you are panning the camera if you want to ignore us and that is exactly what happened.”

Akshay, say his friends, is not amused with the way the evening panned out. He left the stadium, not because he was upset, but he had to attend a media event at a Kolkata fivestar, said his close friend on condition of anonymity.

“He was not keen to wear the t-shirt, but the promotional team convinced him that the gimmick will definitely work. And then, he was made to wait and try out all sorts of things to draw attention to himself, none of which worked,” said his friend.

A Balaji official said that the star contingent may have also been upset about the fact that neither SRK, nor any of his senior KKR members came to greet them, even when they were just sitting next to them. And this, they say, is because of the imminent clash between SRK and Akshay’s films at the box office in August.

Sources say Akshay has been quite vocal of late about avoiding the collision with Chennai Express at the box office but Tanuj Garg, CEO at Balaji, is in a combative mood: “We don’t care which film is clashing with us. We are going to take up all possible means to ensure that our film is what people watch on Eid,” he said.

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