Amita Malik, the ‘first lady of Indian media’, RIP

20 February 2009

sans serif records with regret the passing away of Amita Malik, the radio journalist who grew to be one of India’s leading film and media critics, in New Delhi, on Friday. She was 86 years old.

Often referred to as “the first lady of Indian media“, Ms Malik conducted path-breaking interviews with luminaries like Satyajit Ray, Marlon Brando and David Niven before the airwaves were opened up. “Her columns on TV and film were both heeded and feared.”

In a recent column for The Tribune, Chandigarh, she wrote on an NDTV anchor…

“…who reads like a drone and sounds like a tanpura from the next room. With no change of facial or audio expression, she reads so fast that even an expert lip-reader like shall fail to understand what she is saying.”

In October last, Ms Malik spoke to Omair Ahmad of Outlook for the magazine’s 13th anniversary on radio in its 13th year after India’s independence:

“In 1960, All India Radio was the only truly national organisation that reached and touched everybody. Pandit Ravi Shankar even composed the signature tune for AIR. The national programmes produced great concerts by great musicians. Every other Saturday, Hindustani and Carnatic musicians would play jugalbandis, bridging a gap that had existed for many long years.

“The then IB minister, B.V. Keskar, restricted the playing of Hindi film music on AIR, so then Radio Ceylon swamped the airwaves with Binaca Geetmala—a hit parade of film songs—broadcast by Hameed and Ameen Sayani. Keskar had to allow film music back and the Vividh Bharati channel was created. TV was some years away—although the first experimental broadcast of Doordarshan took place in 1959, regular service only started by 1965. By 1967, TV was important enough that I hosted a show on it with Marlon Brando and Satyajit Ray.”

Catty in a delightful sort of way, Ms Malik mourned the demise of Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni‘s tresses in a TV column two years ago in The Pioneer, Delhi:

“There was for me, the sad spectacle of Dhoni shedding his locks for a crew cut. We all remember that famous occasion in Pakistan when president Pervez Musharraf complemented Dhoni on his hairstyle and advised him not to cut his hair. His long locks have long been Dhoni’s own special identity and I was as hurt as his fans to find him unrecognisable with his crew cut.

“The rumour goes that one of the actresses, on whom he has a crush, asked him to trim his long locks. If this is true, all that I can say is: ‘Silly girl’.”

Ms Malik was 84 when she wrote that.

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Also read: India’s first TV newsreader passes away

A baritone falls silent watching the cacophony

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One Response to “Amita Malik, the ‘first lady of Indian media’, RIP”

  1. Nikhil Kumar Says:

    I have not been able to find an article Ms. Malik wrote on Brando’s demise in HT. A phrase that has stayed with me from that article is Brando’s ‘voodoo voice’


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