A promotional 'prank' by online streaming platform SonyLIV confounded several residents of Mumbai on Friday, leading to a slew of calls to the police control room.
Late in the evening, the cyber cell of Maharashtra police said it had asked SonyLIV to stop the promotional activity.
The main control room of Mumbai Police started getting calls from people in the afternoon that they had received strange calls from numbers starting with 140 or 40.
Vaibhav Pawar, who owns an advertising agency, said around 4pm a man who identified himself as 'Rishi' called him, begging for help and saying that he had witnessed a murder and recorded the incident on mobile phone. The killer was now trying to kill him, Rishi said.
Many others received similar calls, not realising that it was a gimmick to promote SonyLIV's new series 'Undekhi'.
Some also tweeted about it, tagging the Mumbai Police's Twitter handle.
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
Who is the marketing genius who came up with this master plan?— Gulshan Devaiah (@gulshandevaiah) July 10, 2020
This is outrageous and so disgusting.— Aparna (@FuschiaScribe) July 10, 2020
In reply, Mumbai Police tweeted, "Please do not share any sensitive details over a call and visit the nearest police station for further support."
Finally, SonyLIV tweeted that it was a promotional activity.
"If you have received a call for our show...and it has disturbed you, we would like to sincerely apologise to you. This was a test activity which has gone out accidentally," it 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.— SonyLIV (@SonyLIV) July 10, 2020
Maharashtra Cyber tweeted that people should not panic and spread rumours if they had received these calls.
"We have instructed the channel to cease this promotional activity immediately," it added.
It has come to our attention that a Sony Liv, a tv channel has used a tactic for the promotion of its new show by calling people and playing a disturbing voice recording. If you receive any such call, please do not panic and create rumours. (1/n)— Maharashtra Cyber (@MahaCyber1) July 10, 2020