Sony Liv appears to have adopted a novel strategy to promote the original content on its platform, however, social media users have not taken kindly to it. The network appears to have deployed telecallers to promote Undekhi, a new thriller web series that is apparently inspired from true events. It released on the 10th of July 2020.
Users have received calls from telecallers where a man can be heard saying that he has recorded a murder on his phone in a very distressed voice. He calls himself Rishi and says that one ‘Rinku’ is attempting to murder him too. This is before another voice says “Undekhi… streaming now on Sony Liv.”
What a ridiculous #promotional call trick by #Undekhi #SonyLIV Do U even realise what this can cause to a person if they miss out the last few words in panic. Get a better way to promote your series #webseries #advertisement #ScamAlert #murdercall #unethical #worldpremiereseries pic.twitter.com/8CzUhTkVti— Suvrata Bhati (@BhatiSuvrata) July 10, 2020
Users pointed out that such a promo could cause people to panic as someone could easily panic and miss out the last few words. Another user called it ‘creepy’ and wondered how such promos are allowed.
Dear @SonyLIV #Undekhi— R K (@RRosleen) July 10, 2020
What creepy shit promotion stint is this…. Horrible! @MIB_India @TRAI
How are Such promotional calls even allowed?
I almost skipped a heart beat, imagine elders or someone with weak heart conditions recieving it! Calling#+91 140 897 0061 #cheapshot pic.twitter.com/EOZDS35xsf
One user even tagged the Mumbai Police saying that she received a very disturbing call from the number +91 140 880 0135. However, she did not mention the fact that the call informs people that it is a show on Sony Liv. Smriti Kiran, who happens to be an artistic director, said that she later came to know that it was a promotional gimmick and demanded action from Mumbai Police regarding the same.
Shame on you @SonyLIV I just got to know that this call is a promotional gimmick for your new show. I was on the floor breathless with panic when I got it. Are you out of your mind doing this??? @MumbaiPolice you must take action. This is appalling and unethical. https://t.co/4Vp1YAzYjW— smriti kiran (@smritikiran) July 10, 2020
Various other users on social media have also claimed to have received calls from similar numbers beginning with 140. The prefix 140 is used for the phone numbers of telemarketers, as mandated by the Telecom Regulators’ Authority of India (TRAI), so that users can readily identify them. However, it appears that the regulation is not yet popular among people.
Such stunts have been pulled by telemarketers in the past as well. Pihu, directed by Vinod Kapri, received a lot of criticism after people received calls from a number and upon answering the call, were treated to loud wails from a child following which the call was disconnected. Later, when the person attempted to call back, they received a message with the trailer of Pihu.
Vinod Kapri has also been accused of using the tragic circumstances of a newborn baby to promote the same movie. It was claimed that Kapri had planted stories in Indian as well as international media houses that he had already adopted a newborn child who was found abandoned near a garbage mound. However, it was later clarified by the Nagaur district administration that formalities for her adoption had not started yet and a committee will be set to decide who becomes the adoptive parents of the child.
Undekhi is a thriller that was released on Sony Liv on Friday. It revolves around a murder where Rishi captures the crime and is then hunted by powerful men. It stars Dibyendu Bhattacharya and Harsh Chhaya among others. It has been written by Sidharth Sengupta and directed by Ashish R Shukla.
Update: After the outrage, SonyLiv issued an apology for their marketing technique. The statement said, “If you have received a call for our show Undekhi & it has disturbed you we would like to sincerely apologise to you. This was a test activity which has gone out accidentally & our intention was not to cause any kind of discomfort or panic. We sincerely regret any inconvenience”.