Indian actor-model Poonam Pandey has found herself at the centre of controversy and criticism after orchestrating a fake death stunt to raise awareness about cervical cancer. The move has sparked outrage from netizens and fellow celebrities who have called her actions insensitive and distasteful.
On February 2, Pandey’s social media accounts were flooded with condolence messages following a post by her team announcing her demise due to cervical cancer. The news triggered an emotional response from fans and several Bollywood celebrities who mourned her alleged passing.
However, just one day later, Pandey resurfaced with a video message revealing that her death was part of a staged campaign to draw attention to cervical cancer and the importance of vaccination. The revelation did not sit well with many, leading to a wave of condemnation.
Indian director and actor Pooja Bhatt, who had previously taken to the microblogging platform X to express condolences for Pandey, deleted the post after the revelation. Remarking on the stunt, the celeb made another post on X saying, “I never delete tweets but I did so in the case where I expressed my shock at the news of Poonam Pandey’s demise due to cervical cancer. Why? Turns out the news was engineered by a digital/PR team. Absolute disgrace and a disservice to those battling the same – her included.”
I never delete tweets but did so in the case where I expressed my shock at news of Poonam Pandey’s demise due to cervical cancer. Why? Turns out the news was engineered by a digital/PR team. Absolute disgrace & disservice to those battling the same-her included. 🙏
— Pooja Bhatt (@PoojaB1972) February 3, 2024
Director Vivek Agnihotri of The Kashmir Files also joined the online storm, emphasising the need for regulations, particularly for influencers and newsmakers. “With the emerging challenges of social media, I think there should be some regulations, especially, for the newsmakers and those who call themselves influencers.”
With the emerging challenges of SM, I think there should be some regulations, specially, for the newsmakers and those who call themselves influencers.
Normalising sensationalism and gimmicks is dangerous.
Fake death news is just the beginning. Aage aage dekho hota hai kya.
— Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri (@vivekagnihotri) February 3, 2024
He furthered on, “Normalising sensationalism and gimmicks is dangerous. Fake death news is just the beginning. Just wait and watch.” Queen actor Kangana Ranaut, who has apparently deleted her former X post on Pandey’s ‘demise,’ agreed with Agnihotri.
Renowned producer Ekta Kapoor expressed her disapproval on Pandey’s post, stating, “This is awareness for which vaccine not to use! The company that encouraged such an insensitive campaign should be sued.”
Indian television actor Arti Singh took to Instagram grid with a post slamming Pandey and called the hoax “disgusting.” She went on to say, “This is not awareness. I lost my mother when I was born because of cancer. I lost my father because of cancer…You are not spreading awareness, you are spreading lies.”
Bollywood actor Bipashu Basu put her two cents in the replies to Singh’s post. “Beyond pathetic behaviour. The PR people behind this should be ashamed too… not just this person.” Designer Saisha Shinde, who considered Pandey a friend, was particularly vocal in her anger. She blocked the actor’s number and Instagram account, labelling the incident as a disgusting misuse of awareness and playing with emotions.
“Totally disgusted! I called you my friend! You don’t deserve to be my friend! You called this awareness? Shut the f*** up! My mom has had a double mastectomy and she has battled cancer! My sister has had a kidney failure and she’s passed away, my aunt died of mental illness and unlike you they can never come back! Death is not a joke!” she penned in her IG Story.
However, Pandey’s controversial move has found support from B-Town filmmaker Ram Gopal Varma who commented, “The extreme method you employed to draw attention to this issue might attract some criticism, but no one can question your intent or what you achieved with this hoax. Discussion on cervical cancer is trending all across [social media] now. Your soul is as beautiful as you.”
Hey @iPoonampandey the extreme method u employed to draw attention to this issue might attract some criticism , but no one can question ur INTENT nor what u ACHIEVED with this HOAX .. Discussion on cervical cancer is TRENDING all across now 🙏🙏🙏 Your SOUL is as BEAUTIFUL as YOU…
— Ram Gopal Varma (@RGVzoomin) February 3, 2024
Varma’s appreciation comes amid intense criticism from both celebrities and social media users, the latter flocking to Pandey’s post to denounce the staged campaign. One IG user argued, “Exploiting a serious issue like cervical cancer for cheap publicity is absolutely disgraceful. Using your platform to spread awareness is commendable, but faking your own death is a new low.”
The post maintained, “Respect for real survivors and victims matters more than attention-seeking stunts,” concluding with the hashtag ‘disappointed’. Another user voiced a similar disapproval, “This is very disrespectful to those who have actually lost their loved ones due to cervical cancer. Terrible way to do it.”
Others chimed in with mixed feelings of relief and apprehension. “I am happy she is alive, but please arrest her for this drama and publicity stunt,” insisted one critic. While many called it the “worst publicity stunt ever”, one post wittily penned, “RIP to this publicity stunt.” As per another reply, Pandey might have to worry about long-term repercussions. “Next time, people won’t take you seriously. You just destroyed your entire credibility.” Since the initial barrage of reproval, comments on the post have been limited.
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