RUSSY K. KARANJIA: REST IN PEACE

1 February 2008

sans serif records with deep regret the demise of Rustom Khurshedji Karanjia, aka Rusi or Russy Karanjia, the legendary editor of India’s first tabloid newsweekly Blitz, in Bombay this afternoon, February 1, 2008. He was 95 years old. He is survived by his brother, the well-known film journalist, B.K. Karanjia, and his daughter Rita Mehta.

Russy was a special correspondent at The Times of India, before leaving to start Blitz in 1941. A small, delicately architectured Parsi, quite a contrast to his towering reputation, Karanjia prided himself on his interviews with world leaders from Anwar Sadat to Nikita Krushchev to Marshal Tito in the Nehruvian non-alignment era.

His interactions with the Shah of Iran resulted in a book The Mind of a Monarch.

But it was as the helmsman of a no-holds-barred tabloid that unabashedly took sides that Karanjia gained his true and lasting reputation, the only competition coming from Current, launched by another Parsi, D.F. Karaka.

In the infamous Nanavati murder trial—a handsome naval officer called Kawas Nanavati had shot dead his wife’s playboy lover, and more than half the nation thought he had done the right and decent thing—Blitz ran a parallel trial that not only took Nanavati’s side but also celebrated the elegant commander, writes Indra Sinha.

A self-declared atheist and Marxist, Karanjia tore into crooks and charlatans, and among his favourite targets was the Sai Baba of Puttaparthi. When Sai Baba gave him rare access and interviews, Karanjia turned around, and admitted he was wrong, and proclaimed him as a living god, even becoming his follower.

Blitz played host to several luminaries. Its back page was written for decades by the film-maker K.A. Abbas. The former media advisor to Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, Sudheendra Kulkarni, was a deputy editor of the tabloid. And the Hindu‘s rural affairs editor, P. Sainath, too cut his teeth there.

Karanjia was also a key figure behind one of India’s all-time-great women journalists, Olga Tellis.

Buoyed by the success of the weekly Blitz, Karanjia started a morning tabloid in Bombay called The Daily (“a bulldog of a newspaper”), which was later sold to the industrialist-politician Kamal Morarka. The Blitz group—comprising the Urdu edition of Blitz, and the movie magazine Cine Blitz—was later sold to the industrialist-politician Vijay Mallya.

A natty dresser, Karanjia, for a one-time Marxist, ended up modelling for Vimal Suitings of the late Dhirubhai Ambani.

Karanjia was known to accept contributions from young journalists after sending them a stentorian telegram which read: “WILL USE IF EXCLUSIVE TO BLITZ AND BLITZ ONLY”. And he always paid, sometimes even inviting them for dinner at his Marine Drive residence in Bombay, with his Afghan hound for company.

“He was an aristocrat by birth but believed in Marxism… he was never an ivory tower editor—his room was always open for people,” V. Gangadhar, the satirist who wrote a column for Blitz for 15 years, told the Indian Express.

Photograph: Mid-Day

TARUN VIJAY on Russy Karanjia

BACHI KARKARIA on Russy Karanjia

B.R.P. BHASKAR on Russy Karanjia

Mid-Day obituary

The Hoot obituary

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9 Responses to “RUSSY K. KARANJIA: REST IN PEACE”

  1. Not A Witty Nick Says:

    Even the creator of World’s first blog in print and Mysore’s very own tabloid — Mr. KB Ganapathy worked there!

  2. Nikhil Moro Says:

    In 1992-93 I regularly read “Blitz” in Mysore University’s library. Colorful scoops, all-cap italicized reverse banners, boxed highlights, black-and-white printing. “Blitz” had energy written all over it — Mid-Day, entertaining as it was, never quite had the same energy.

    The other political weekly I loved was M.J. Akbar’s “Sunday” for the Mani-Talk column by Mani Shankar Aiyar.

  3. Sallie Saraceno Says:

    Researching “K. Russy” signed by the artist on a painting of flowers in a container. Fascinating–never imagined a history such as this. I am blessed.

  4. gframesch Says:

    HE WAS GREAT SOUL-THAT IS WHY GOD AS MAN-SATHYA SAI BABA-WHO IS NO MORE THAN “INDIAN GURU” TO THE DUMB HEADED MOST IGNORANT JOURALISTS OF INDIA OF TODA WHO CAN NOT SEE BEYOND THEIR TINY NOSES-GAVE ONLY TO HIM THE LONGEST INTERVIEW EVER-YOU CAN NOT CONVINCE GOD OF ANY THING ABOUT YOU-HE KNOWS YOU INSIDE OUT-SO IF GOD HIMSELF GAVE HIM THAT HONOR HE HAD TO BE GREAT SOUL-JUST AS AMONG ALL PANDU BROTHERS IT WAS ONLY ARJUNA TO WHOM KRISHNA SHOWED HIMSELF AS GOD-I WILL ALWAYS ADMIRE HIM AND HIS PERSONAL LETTER HE WROTE TO ME-gframesch

  5. Gurmeet Singh Randhir Says:

    I deeply admire RUSI for his great contribution to Indian journalism and free ,frank and fearless coverage of the events and happenings in public life.Can any one favour me by referring to me his authentic biography

  6. R.K.Rathi Says:

    Mr. Karanjia was admonished by the loksabha for writing an article on Acharya J.B.Kriplani


  7. in the 70′s, we, just after the schooling years, waited with bated breath for the arrival of Blitz at the local news stand in a remote town, week after week. Blitz had class. And, the language had a clarity, attraction and punch of its own. Gripping to the core. As for reading, there was nothing in it that was boring…for sure…unlike the journals today!

  8. Laxman Says:

    Sai Ram, is there anywhere ORIGINAL version of interview of respected Sir R. K. Karanjia with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba? Cause I feel the one that is available online is a bit spoiled…


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