‘I’m just looking into my phone 24X7,” says Sunchika Pandey, content consultant for the Mumbai police and the person behind those viral memes on the force’s Twitter page.

Pandey, who now works with the police departments of Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh, Pune and Thane, got into this line of work somewhat surendipitously. She started her career as crime reporter for various media outlets, before joining an agency that handled Satyamev Jayate‘s social media. When the show ended, she decided to work for the Mumbai police after noticing they had a large social media following. She approached an officer at the commissioner’s office and suggested that the police force set up a Twitter account, which coincidentally, was exactly what they were planning to do. “They were looking for some kind of direction as there was a specific purpose they wanted to achieve by being on Twitter. They did not want their efforts to get drowned out by people shouting, screaming and being negative.”

Discussions on content followed. “We thought that it would be great if the police could bring about a smile on people’s faces while creating awareness. The police are cooler than any of us could imagine. When I suggested humour, they immediately said, ‘Why not?’ Sarcasm was not the way to go. We just wanted meaningful humour and satire.”
They came up with Bollywood references “to attract the youth”. The rise of streaming and easy access to films and TV shows created abroad also gave them a fresh source of content. “When the previous season of Game of Thrones began streaming here, we did a creative called Game of Phones.”

“We also had an Amitabh Bachchan-Shahenshah reference, a Sholay reference.”

The police force’s Reel To Real campaign took aim at ‘objectionable’ song lyrics and outlandish stunts, turning them into cautionary tales.

Even last year’s Oscars goof up, when La La Land was mistakenly announced as the Best Picture winner instead of Moonlight, swiftly became fodder for memes.

Pandey says she did not expect the account’s follower count to shoot up so dramatically. It spurred the department to work at reaching out to even more people. “It’s possible that some people may not understand the Hollywood references, so we have Bollywood ones for them. Children may not have watched films of the ’80s and ’90s, but they will definitely know about Stranger Things and 13 Reasons Why.”

She admits she hasn’t seen a lot of these shows herself. “A lot of young people work with me and I keep asking them what is trending and then I research it. I ask them a thousand times if I’m making the references correctly. Joint Commissioner, Law and Order, Deven Bharti and the commissioner himself also brainstorm with us because these are sensitive topics we are addressing. All the content is created after a lot of debate.”
 
Despite these stringent measures in place, the account has attracted its share of trolls and critics. A recent Avengers: Infinity War meme it posted drew fans’ ire for ‘spoiling’ a major plot point. 

Pandey says the department was just following a template it had used before the release of Baahubali 2: The Conclusion

People just assumed it was a spoiler even though none of us had seen the movie yet. This was the first Avengers movie I watched and I went for it just so I could create more content,” she says.
For the Uttar Pradesh’s Twitter account, however, Pandey looks for content a little closer home. She says memes involving Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan are a huge hit.

“If I’m creating content for the UP police, I can’t use it for Mumbai and vice versa, because the people react differently. The idea is to create something people can relate to, something that gets their attention.” 
While future projects involve getting celebrities on board, Pandey says the police aren’t afraid to pull them up in case of wrongdoing. Case in point: Varun Dhawan was promptly pulled up last year for flouting traffic norms to take a selfie with a fan. A back and forth on ensued on Twitter, with the police telling the actor to expect an e-challan soon. 

“He’s an icon and should set an example. It’s not about picking on celebrities,” says Pandey. 

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