The Rise of Fake Crowds in Bollywood Post-Pandemic

The post-pandemic era in Bollywood has ushered in a peculiar trend where stars are not born but manufactured. An increasingly common practice involves paying crowds to create hype on social media, ensuring packed auditoriums and enthusiastic audiences for promotional events. This method, while visually impressive, distorts the reality of a star’s genuine popularity.

The 2020 Turning Point

The Hindi film industry will always regard 2020 as a transformative year. The tragic death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput triggered a political storm that saw Bollywood stars turned into targets of online hate. Simultaneously, South Indian films were celebrated as the “purer” alternative, further alienating Hindi cinema. Despite recording its best box office year in 2023, Bollywood’s reputation remained tainted by the events of the previous years.

The Emergence of Fake Crowds

During the pandemic, as Bollywood struggled to recover from the shutdown, stars and marketing agencies devised a strategy to manipulate public perception: manufacturing crowds. A veteran industry source disclosed that young actors, eager to be labeled superstars, turned to crowd-supplying agencies. These agencies charge between Rs 30,000 to 1 lakh, depending on the crowd size, to create a facade of fan frenzy.

The Mechanics of Fake Fan Engagement

Crowd-supplying agencies collaborate closely with marketing teams to stage fan engagement activities. These agencies often connect with college student coordinators, offering celebrity appearances at college festivals in exchange for a guaranteed student crowd at promotional events. The costs for these staged engagements are considered marketing expenditures, covered by the film’s producer.

A Misleading Practice

Veteran journalist Bharati Dubey, who has observed the film industry for over three decades, remarked on the shift from organic fan movements to manufactured ones. She noted that while stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, and Aamir Khan have genuine fan bases, newer stars rely on agencies to mobilize crowds, creating an illusion of popularity. These agencies also provide promotional materials such as flags, posters, placards, and whistles to complete the illusion.

A Pattern of Deception

Recent Bollywood events attended by highlighted this trend. Press conferences, once exclusive to journalists, now include orchestrated fan presence. At a film’s promotional event, agency volunteers directed the crowd on how to chant and react, ensuring a controlled and enthusiastic atmosphere. This practice misleads the public and artificially inflates a star’s perceived popularity.


The post-pandemic Bollywood landscape has seen the rise of manufactured crowds as a marketing tool. While visually effective, this practice undermines the authenticity of fan engagement and distorts public perception of a star’s true popularity. As the industry moves forward, it remains to be seen whether genuine fan connections will once again take precedence over fabricated hype.


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