Image maker Prabhat Choudhary on the nuances of brand building and the meaning of success

In conversation with founder of Spice PR, Prabhat Choudhary about his tryst with Bollywood, the unanticipated shift witnessed by Indian cinema post the pandemic, and more.

Harper's Bazaar India

We never started out to create Spice PR. The idea was simply to create something we loved, so we combined marketing and movies, and ended up doing PR. Back then, there was a vacuum in the space and we knew there was ample scope to do things. Fortunately, Aditya Chopra—known to be one of the most difficult persons to meet and approach—was our first client. Having Chopra on board can be purely attributed to providence. It was also a time when Yash Raj Films (YRF) was reinventing itself—we brought the studio format into the industry. The first film was Hum Tum (2004), and, in the same year, there was Salaam Namaste (2005), Dhoom (2004), and Veer-Zaara (2004). We were just surrendering to the experience, and we learnt many things on the job. I wasn’t sure if there was a future here, but we went on. It was pure luck that I got to interact with brilliant minds like Aditya Chopra and Aamir Khan. The idea was to give it our best, and we kept doing that. I think our timing was right because our story coincided with that of new Bollywood. Spice PR started out with three or four people—we are now in our 20th year.”


“One of the first movies that I remember watching was Razia Sultan (1983); it featured a seductive song, Jalta Hai Badan with a nautch girl’s performance. It is an embarrassing anecdote but, as a child, I was intrigued—and vaguely attracted—by the song. Later, I picked up the lyrics, and would sing it too. One day, a few friends asked me to sing a song, and I chose Jalta Hai Badan…my mother was not pleased. Later, as a literature student, I learnt to experience narratives. Literature gives a person the quality to appreciate narratives, and also makes one a good reader...”


“Films, entertainment, folk culture, are all functions of society. When society is in a state of flux and is changing, its stories, movies, novels, and poetry, will change as well. That is what’s happening right now. We are rapidly changing...especially post Covid. But, even otherwise, ours is a young society that is available to change and we must adapt quickly. Social media has also transformed our aesthetics. Every habit of ours is being shaped by our phones; it is difficult for people not to look at their phones at the movies or even while driving.  Which is why movies have to really captivate someone to distract them away from the demon (the phone) they’re holding.”


“I believe OTT has changed the content consumption game. People are discussing how mid-level good cinema is under fire and there is a reason for the same...the evolved audience is my target audience, and that audience suddenly has stumbled upon a Pandora’s box of content with OTT shows such as Money Heist (2017), Fauda (2015), etc. The audiences have undergone a massive transformation—what would’ve happened in 10 years has happened in two years. It is almost as if our entertainment industry went to sleep and woke up in a different world without being able to recognise anything.”


“In this industry, you cannot get carried away by rumours or what circulates on social media. If you become too reactive, you can end up damaging yourself. Earlier, tabloids provided sensational news every day. With social media, the timeline [of receiving such news] has changed to an hourly basis. This salacious consumption of news is a social need; you cannot blame anyone for it. Everyone has a different approach to handling rumours; my belief is that it will pass. But, if we need to intervene as a PR representative, we will do so because we are also living in a time where we can’t let things linger for too long as then even a lie can become a reality. You have to react, but you cannot react to everything—what to react to, when to react to is where expertise plays a massive role.

Everyone has a different way of looking at a crisis as it happens on a daily—if not hourly—basis. Every crisis is an opportunity in disguise. I have been able to convert a few into opportunities and that’s what I keep looking for. Everything is a form of energy, and if directed well, it can change a situation.”


“Each and every person is a brand. There are archetypes in the world, and you need to impart individuality to those people. Yes, we all have weaknesses, but we need to concentrate on individual strengths, and then you will arrive at a brand that is unique to that person. Also, it is important that we concentrate on the positives of human beings because we all have sides that cannot be fixed. My job is very similar to that of a make-up artist. Flaws and strengths are nothing but conditioning. I work on making one’s flaws their strengths. And how do I define that strength!? If you are loved or liked because of your flaws, that can become your strength. That’s how I approach branding.”


“I am yet to find an enduring meaning of success. I think if you are free and are at peace, you are successful. The conventional meaning of success often becomes a prison because even good work imprisons you, and it’s difficult to come out of that prison. For instance, if you’ve done a great marketing campaign, the next one can be difficult to your first good campaign becomes a prison. Success, to a large extent, is a prison. If one is able to make choices freely and your work enables you to do that, that is success.


“I was often perplexed by the idea of ‘who is a star?’. Strangely, it was in physics that I found the answer. A star has its own energy. To me, a star is someone who radiates his own energy. Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone...their energy impacts society—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. Even Michael Jackson is a star; so is Narendra Modi. I think anyone who is able to energise society and people is a star.”