Archive for the 'A bit of fun' Category

When a newspaper Editor looked like a hippie

28 March 2014

vinod mehta

Mainstream Indian (print) editors today are usually at their nattiest best, wearing carefully chosen Fab India kurtas if not designer clothes, trendy watches and slick spectacles, with not a strand out of place on their mane.

But there was a time, in 1971, when editors looked like Makarand Deshpande

Guess who this newspaper editor is?

‘Modi Wave’ can also touch a CPI(M) newspaper

25 March 2014

deshabhimani

From Buzzword, the gossip column of The Sunday Guardian:

The Communists in Kerala were left red-faced when the CPI(M) newspaper Deshabhimani carried a full page advertisement by Narendra Modi‘s Gujarat government. The advertisement, highlighting Gujarat’s Mahatma Gandhi Swachchata Mission, features a huge Modi portrait.

When taken to task, the newspaper management defended their act by saying it was a government advertisement.

The associate editor of the newspaper went ahead to say that it did not matter if the ad was from the Narendra Modi government, or from Mamata Banerjee or Oommen Chandy. However, CPM bosses have told the newspaper to stay away from accepting all Modi advertisements.

External reading: Madhyamam

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feast, a promo’

For cash-struck TV, Modi is effective  TRP

 

The Khushwant Singh “pre-obituary” from 1983

20 March 2014

Khushwant Singh, the self-proclaimed “dirty old man of Indian journalism”, has passed away at his home in New Delhi, at the age of 99.

Exactly, 30 years ago, when Singh was 69, the journalist Dhiren Bhagat wrote a pre-obituary of the “sardar in the light bulb” for the now-defunct Sunday Observer.

Ironically, Dhiren Bhagat was to predecease Singh by 24 years, and Khushwant Singh ended up reviewing a collection of his work for India Today in 1990.

Below is the full text of Dhiren Bhagat’s “obituary”, written for the February 13, 1983 edition of The Sunday Observer.

***

bhagat

By DHIREN BHAGAT

I was saddened to read that Khushwant Singh passed away in his sleep last week. What a quiet end for so loud a man.

How the gods mock the mocking.

Contradictions surrounded Khushwant at every stage of his life. He strove to give the impression that he was a drunken slob yet he was one of the most hard-working and punctual men I knew.

He professed agnosticism and yet enjoyed kirtan as only few can and do.

He was known nationally as a celebrated lecher but for the past thirty years at least it was a hot-water-bottle that warmed his bed.

He devoted his last years in the service of a woman who  decisively spurned him in the end.

He made a profession of living off his friends’ important names and yet worked single-handedly to diminish that very importance.

Empty vessels make the most noise but Khushwant was always full of the Scotch he had cadged off others.

He was a much misunderstood man. So before the limp eulogies start pouring in (how Khushwant would have hated them!) let me set the record straight.

As Khushwant once said, the obituary is the best place to tell the truth for dead men file no libel suits. (An agnostic to the end he didn’t believe in the Resurrection.)

***

Khushwant was born in 1915 in a rich but not particularly educated home. They were Khuranas from Sargodha who made good in Delhi.

His father, Sir Sobha Singh, was the contractor who built the city of New Delhi and who in consequence received a knighthood. In 1947 it used to be said (somewhat inaccurately it must be admitted) that ninety-nine per cent of New Delhi was owned by the Government and one per cent by Sir Sobha Singh.

After his initial education Khushwant was sent to England to appear for the ICS. He didn’t make it.

Later he would tell a story of how he had made it to the Merit List but how that year there was a reserved place for a non-Jat from Phulkian state (later PEPSU) and how some-one with less marks than him filled that place. But Khushwant was always a great raconteur so it is difficult to know what to believe.

Once bitten, twice shy. Khushwant didn’t try for the ICS again but instead enrolled himself at the London School of Economics from where in the course of things he acquired a BA.

The examiners decided to place him in the Third Class. After his degree Khushwant read for the Bar where he was equally successful. (His brother Daljit, now a businessman, was always the better scholar of the two.)

When Khushwant came back after six years in England a family friend asked his father: ‘Kaka valaiton kee kar ke aayaa hai?  (What has the boy done in England?) Sir Sobha Singh replied ‘Time pass kar ke aaya hai jee.’ (He has been marking time.)

It is unlikely the canny contractor was joking.

***

After the Partition Khushwant joined the Indian Foreign Service and this phase of his career took him to London, Ottawa and Paris. In this period he began publishing short stories on rustic themes.

In 1955 he shot to fame when a novel of his won a large cash award set by an American publishing house in order to attract manuscripts. It was a mediocre Partition quickie called Mano Majra (later published as Train to Pakistan).

Years passed. Khushwant kept writing books, on the Jupji, on the Sikhs, on India, stories, translations: many of them provocatively titled and indicative of his deepest desires, “I Shall Rape the Nightingale”, “I Take This Woman” etc. Some of these attempts were successful.

But success and cosmopolitan living did not spoil the earthiness of the robust Jat.

He continued to down his Scotch with a ferocity that made his hosts nervous. He

continued to tell stories that revealed his deep obsession with the anal.

He had a theory that all anger was a result of an upset stomach and instructed his son to ask his mother if her stomach walls troubling her whenever she scolded him.

In his more smug moments he attributed his own iconoclastic calm to the severe constipation from which he had suffered since childhood.

In 1969 Khushwant took over the Illustrated Weekly of India and embarked on the most controversial phase of his career. On the editor’s page Mario Miranda drew a bulb and Khushwant sat in it, along with his Scotch and dirty pictures.

Sitting in that cross-legged position Khushwant took the ailing magazine from success to success, all along illuminating millions of readers on the more outre aspects of the world’s brothels.

Once in a while he tore into a friend’s reputation. So great was our prurience that he became a household name in a short while. Fame he had, honour he sought.

In the early seventies an eminent Muslim journalist friend of Khushwant’s approached Rajni Patel. Could Rajnibhai fix Khushwant with a Padma Bhushan? If the honour didn’t come his way soon Sardarji would have a heart attack. Patel flew to Delhi twice and fixed it. Later Khushwant showed his gratitude in strange ways.

***

Then came the Emergency. Khushwant’s friends and admirers were very troubled by his stand: IndiraGandhi was Durga incarnate, SanjayGandhi the New Messiah and the highways of the land were clogged with smoothly running Marutis.

Many explanations have been offered for his position but I believe I am the only person to know the right one. (Khushwant in an unguarded whisky-sodden moment once opened up to me and told all.) And since it is only in obituaries that it is proper to disclose the little-known details of a man’s personal life I shall come out with it now.

Impotence had claimed Khushwant back in the fifties. At first he had been sorely troubled by this condition (most Jats are) and had tried several remedies, mostly indigenous. This accounted for his immense knowledge of jaree-bootees and his disillusionment with quacks.

When he had finally given up all hope of lighting the wick he had turned to other pleasures with a vengeance. (Exposing his friends’ affairs was a favourite pleasure: it was envy compounded with righteousness.)

It must be remembered that Khushwant’s lechery was of the mildest order: he as a voyeur, he could do nothing. Scotch was a palliative, but in the end even that failed to make up the loss.

It was Sanjay’s power that finally did the trick. So great was the vicarious pleasure the ageing Sardar felt that it went to his head. And after Sanjay’s death Khushwant lost his vitality, his vigour. He grew listless.

And then the quiet end. A lively man all in all. Even as I write this I am sure Khushwant is busy looking up the angels’ skirts. And since angels are constitutionally condemned to celibacy that should suit Khushwant fine.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Khushwant Singh on his last day at The Weekly

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

External reading: The journalism of Khushwant Singh

How Amitabh Bachchan ‘saved’ an AFP journo

14 March 2014

20110311.191628_afp_journo

SUDHEENDRA KULKARNI writes: “Hi Sudheen, how are you?” the caller on my mobile phone asked me the day after I landed in Cairo last month. It was an Indian voice, also somewhat familiar, but I couldn’t quite connect the voice with the name.

It was Jay Deshmukh, a colleague with whom I had worked together many years ago ─ indeed, in the early 1990s ─ in The Sunday Observer and the Business & Politics Observer in Mumbai (Bombay then). I had lost contact with him after I moved to Delhi and I least expected to receive a phone call from him in Cairo of all the places.

Jay had come to know about my arrival in Cairo from the email sent out to mediapersons by the Indian embassy in Egypt, which had organised my talk on ‘Mahatma Gandhi in the Internet Age’ the following day.

We met the same evening at Hotel Flamenco, overlooking the Nile River, where I was staying. The view of the river, and also of the sprawling city of Cairo beyond the river, was enchanting from the tenth floor of the hotel.

Over cups of Egyptian tea, we spoke about ourselves and about the state of the world.

My admiration for Jay grew immensely when I heard about his journalistic journey since he first cut his teeth in the profession two decades ago in Mumbai.

Jay, who is now the Cairo-based Middle East correspondent for Agence France Presse (AFP), is quite simply the only Indian journalist who has worked in so many “interesting places” in West Asia.

For the past fifteen years, he has served as a news agency correspondent in Iraq, Iran, Libya and now in Egypt. Earlier he has also worked in Sri Lanka.

Three years ago, he was expelled from Iran because of his powerful reporting about opposition reports in that country.

It takes courage and a very degree of professional commitment to work as a journalist in this part of the world, especially in countries like Iraq and Libya when they were facing both external wars and bloody internal conflicts.

The risks involved in covering conflict situations are obvious. The risks are all the greater for news agency correspondents who have to be alert 24×7.

For Jay, money is clearly not the attraction for working in these places.

He told me: “I have consciously chosen to specialise as a correspondent in this part of the world because, as I have often told myself, why should only westerners be telling the story of Africa, the Arab world and other West Asian countries like Iran? Of course, as a journalist working for an international news agency, I am a thorough professional, but at heart I remain a proud Indian. And I strongly believe that there should be more Indian journalists working in different parts of the world. Indians should see and understand the happenings in the world from an Indian perspective. Indian media has not paid adequate attention to this aspect.”

I couldn’t agree with Jay more.

Jay recounted one particularly thrilling ─ or scary, if one were in his position ─ experience of his as a news agency journalist while covering the US war in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.

One day he was kidnapped by a militant group, which suspected him to be an American spy. They handcuffed him and dragged him to an unknown place. Their captors used various methods to extract information from him ─ who he was, what he was doing, what information he was passing on, and to whom.

Jay tried to tell them, in his broken Arabic, that he was a journalist working for a news agency, but to no avail. The day wore on, but there was no sign of him being released.

Then a new interrogator came and asked Jay, “Are you from Pakistan?”

“No, I am from India,” Jay replied.

“INDIA? Sholay? Amitabh Bachchan? You know Amitabh Bachchan?”

When Jay convinced his interrogator, through his knowledge of Hindi films ─ and particularly Amitabh Bachchan’s films ─that he was indeed an Indian, the ice suddenly broke.

His Iraqi captor’s attitude turned perceptibly warm. Thereafter he started telling Jay what a big fan of Amitabh Bachchan he was. He then told his colleagues, “This man is a friend of ours. He is from India. Let’s set him free.”

Amazing, isn’t it?

(Sudheendra Kulkarni is former media advisor to Atal Behari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani)

Photograph: courtesy Asia One

Follow Jay Deshmukh on Twitter: @DeshmukhJay

***

Also read: Sudheendra Kulkarni on Russy Karanjia

Sudheendra Kulkarni ends his Indian Express column

Operation Rajnikant: starring Samir & Vineet Jain

13 March 2014

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There are 12 media personalities in the Indian Express list of the most powerful Indians in 2014—“ie 100″—for 2014, but 10 of them are proprietors, only one is a journalist and the other is a former journalist.

As usual, the most interesting part of the prospective list are the factoids accompanying the profiles.

# 19, Mukesh Ambani, Network 18: Mumbai Indians player Dwayne Bravo calls him ‘Madam Boss’s husband’ (after Nita Ambani)

# 21, Jagan Mohan Reddy, Sakshi TV: He has a personal videographer who records every moment of his public life

# 38, Anil Ambani, Bloomberg TV: He has been a teetotaller except for one swig of champange at his wedding to Tina.

# 51, Samir Jain and Vineet Jain, The Times group: Last year, as part of their cost-cutting initiatives, they launched what they called Operation Rajnikant and Operation Dark Knight in which they set such impossible targets for employees that only a Rajnikant or a Dark Knight was likely to achieve them.

# 52, Mahendra Mohan Gupta and Sanjay Gupta, Dainik Jagran: Their annual chaat parties are a hit, something to look forward to.

# 56, Kumar Mangalam Birla, India Today group: He quit from the RBI central board to avoid conflict of interest with his banking license application.

# 68, Shobhana Bhartia, chairperson, Hindustan Times group: She speaks fluent Bengali and also reads the language. Every morning, a Bengali newspaper comes to her for her to read.

# 72, Aveek Sarkar, editor-in-chief, Ananda Bazaar Patrika group: Sarkar is a regular at the Wimbledon every year

# 80, Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief, Times Now: He is India’s most famous Assamese by a long way

# 87, Uday Shankar, CEO, Star TV: A JNU alumnus, he started as a journalist with Down to Earth magazine from CSE

Among the 27 exiting from the 2013 list are press council chairman Markandey Katju and Sun TV boss Kalanidhi Maran.

***

The Indian Express power list

2012: N. Ram, Arnab Goswami crash out of power list

2011: Arnab Goswami edges out Barkha Dutt

2010: Arun Shourie more powerful than media pros

2009: 11 habits of highly successful media people

***

Also read: 12 media barons worth 2,962, 530,000,000

10 media barons in India Today 2010 power list

26% of India’s most powerful are media barons

An A-list most A-listers don’t want to be a part of

Blogger breaks into Businessweek most powerful list

 

Shekhar Gupta storms into India Today power list

The media Marwari who’s a ‘proper Tam-Brahm’

8 March 2014

goenka

After a long period away from the arclights, Viveck Goenka, the scion of one of India’s most influential newspapers, The Indian Express, is slowly bouncing into the main frame.

He is now playing an increasingly hand’s-on role at his own paper, making key decisions; is seen at media events, is making his presence felt on industry bodies—and is starting to give interviews.

In his first formal powwow in 20 years, in a special issue on Marwaris in the business magazine Forbes India, the chairman of the Express group, talks fondly of his grandfather, the late Ramnath Goenka, and even poses with his son Anant Goenka in a photograph (above) in the paper’s presses.

Viveck Goenka tells Forbes India:

# “Ramnathji taught us never to compromise on editorial values and freedom… to be fearless and not to be aligned to any political party. I have had a whole lot of people threatening me.”

# “There was one thing clear about Ramnathji. ‘If I have an end-goal, I don’t care how I reach that…’ I agree with him but not everyone does.”

# “I see myself as a proper Tamilian Brahmin [Goenka grew up in Tamil Nadu], that’s my upbringing.”

***

The chairperson and editorial director of Hindustan Times, Shobhana Bhartia; Subhash Chandra and his son Punit Goenka of Zee; Gulab Kothari and his sons Nihar Kothari and Siddharth Kothari of Rajasthan Patrika, are the other media Marwaris featured.

The interviews give an inside view of the austere and conservative business and management ethic of the original media Marwaris, which later generations are eagerly dismantling.

# Shobhana Bhartia: “When we started innovative advertisements, my father [K.K. Birla] was taken aback. ‘No, we can’t do this. You can’t affect page one, can’t place something in the middle of it.’ I can understand that his generation was not used to these things. He felt colour pages would be more like a comic book.”

# Anant Goenka: “[As a Marwari, I have] an inherent drive to spend wisely and to build wealth. Whether large or small, [the 2,500 sq ft bachelor pad he bought after running up hefty hotel bills] is our own. It’s a Marwari thing. We are obsessed with appreciation.”

# Punit Goenka: “It is clear that we are in the business to make money; we are not here for charity or for building power or influence.”

# Gulab Kothari: “If you borrow money for growth, I believe you can’t reverse that decision. The question is, do I give my children 100 per cent of the business or leave them to deal with an outsider who I sold a stake to? My view is, expand less and gradually… we don’t need to jump the gun by taking debt.”

The Marwaris who own The Times of India group, Dainik Bhaskar and Dainik Jagran “did not participate in the story or were not available”.

Photograph: courtesy Forbes India

Also readWhen Samir served a thali, Vineet served a scoop

‘Zee is the only news channel making money’

Are journalists already poised to ride Modi wave?

27 February 2014
mjsd

M.J. Akbar (extreme left) and Swapan Dasgupta (second from right) at the release of the book on Moditva

As the 2014 general election campaign gathers steam, the masks are beginning to come off, as journalists who make no pretence of their political and ideological inclinations (without disclosing it publicly) walk over to the other side, just as they did in previous elections.

Ashutosh of IBN-7 is officially the Aam Aadmi Party’s candidate from Chandni Chowk; Manish Sisodia of ex-Zee News has already done a stint as Delhi education minister; Shazia Ilmi of ex-Star News could stand against one or the other Congress or BJP heavyweight.

The buzz is a number of scribes are being tapped by AAP to make the switch.

Both in the 2004 and 2009 elections the BJP had no shortage of journalists, columnists and editors advising it from inside and outside. And 2013 is proving to be no different.

At a recent event in New Delhi to release a book titled Moditva, former Telegraph editor M.J. Akbar and former India Today managing editor Swapan Dasgupta  (both columnists for The Sunday Times of India) were helpfully at hand, making no bones about where they stand.

The Telegraph, Calcutta, reported the BJP president Rajnath Singh‘s address thus:

“When I first heard of the book, I was certain it was authored by a politician or someone wanting to get to the Rajya Sabha or acquire a post when our government is formed….

“I was amazed to know that this young man [Siddharth Mazumdar of Columbia] was not a politician or a political aspirant” added Rajnath, before looking long and hard at a group of panellists who had taken their seats for a discussion.

For the record, the other members at the book-release panel were economist Bibek Debroy, former Delhi police chief Kiran Bedi (a likely BJP Lok Sabha candidate), the BJP’s stormy petrel Subramanian Swamy, and BJP treasurer Piyush Goyal (who is already a Rajya sabha member).

Also for the record, M.J. Akbar is a former Congress member of Parliament from Kishanganj, Bihar. His name was mentioned in 2008 as a potential BJP member of the upper house along with former India Today editor Prabhu Chawla.

Photograph: courtesy The Pioneer

Also read: Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh, do journalists make good politicians?

Why the BJP (perhaps) sent Chandan Mitra to RS

Kanchan Gupta versus Swapan Dasgupta on Twitter

For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Ex-Star News, TOI journalists behind ‘Arnab Spring’

When the gang of four meets at IIC, it’s news

A Kannada paper breaks RG’s code of silence

17 February 2014

Screen_Shot_2014-02-16_at_9.26.42_am

Even before he sat down last month with Kalpesh Yagnik of Dainik Bhaskar and Arnab Goswami of Times Now for one-on-one interviews, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi had met Editors in Delhi off and on, more off than on.

These meetings were long, relaxed,  informal but strictly off the record.

Smart phones and cameras had to be deposited with the security guards before entering the venue, where on each chair lay a piece of cardboard with a pencil to take notes.

Attendees were free to report what was uttered without directly quoting Rahul Gandhi or suggesting that he was the source. So, “highly placed Congress sources said…” kind of stories were legion even if nothing earthshaking had been revealed.

The arrangement worked neatly in Delhi where the deference to power borders on stenographic servility.

Not so in the rest of the country.

As “The Candidate who doesn’t say he is The Candidate” goes around the country spearheading his party’s election campaign, his media meisters are enabling journalists from the  “regional” media to come face to face with Gandhi. And the results are not always to script.

In Karnataka, on Saturday, Rahul Gandhi met Bangalore’s editors informally “not for reporting“—and if Ajay Maken & Co expected stenographic servility in cyber-coolie capital, they were in for a surprise.

Kannada Prabha, the daily newspaper that mobile phone baron turned media baron Rajeev Chandrasekhar bought from the New Indian Express group, front-paged Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with the media, accompanied by a photograph shot with a cell phone.

Editor-in-Chief Vishweshwar Bhat recorded his impressions of the 45-minute meeting, with a three-deck headline saying it all: “It’s nice to see and hear Rahul’s words, but they are impractical. He is a good purchaser/ customer of his own ideas”.

On his Twitter account, Bhat wrote: “Rahul freely and excessively used the words, system and process. After 20, I lost and stopped the counting.”

And over a six-column story that spills on to page 8, Bhat provides his interpretation of all Gandhi said.

“When he repeatedly spoke of inner-party democracy, and the requirement for a new atmosphere, a new system and a new culture in the party, The Times of India‘s Washington correspondent Chidanand Rajghatta (who hails from Bangalore) said to Rahul:

“We have been hearing the same words, since the party’s Bombay national executive meeting, for the last 25 years. But the party has remained the same and the dinosaurs have survived.”

“For a moment, Rahul was stumped, and then said maybe Chidu shouldn’t have used the word ‘dinosaurs’.”

For the record, Rahul Gandhi held a similar interaction in Bhubaneshwar on February 9, which one participant described as “super-boring“.

Also read: Is “Modi Media” biased against Rahul Gandhi?

‘Media’s Modi-fixation needs medical attention’

Mani Shankar Aiyar launches into Arnab Goswami

BJP man’s suicide threat “live and in full colour”

12 February 2014

Long years ago, a TV studio participant in the United States pulled out a revolver and shot himself—“live and in full colour”, as a prominent American magazine headlined it.

Something similar has (nearly) occurred several continents away in Mysore.

S.A. Ramadas—a pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and a former medical education minister in the previous BJP government (who also served as chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa‘s political secretary)—has been outed by a widowed government clerk of promising to marry her and then abandoning him.

Reports Star of Mysore:

“Interestingly, even as Premakumari was speaking to journalists, her phone rang. Looking at the phone, she said, ‘See, he (Ramadas) is calling,’ and received the call and turned ‘on’ the speaker of her cell phone at the insistence of media persons.

“During the conversation, Ramdas said, ‘Chinnu, do not go to media, if you do not come back, I will commit suicide by consuming poison.’

“Soon, news channels started broadcasting the developments. As the news was beamed on many TV channels till late night, terribly depressed and upset Ramdas rushed to his guest house in Srirampura, went into a room, bolted the door from inside and tried to hang himself from a ceiling fan.”

For the record, the three-time former MLA is now reported to be stable.

On the other hand, a supporter of Ramadas is reported to have committed suicide on hearing the news of the alleged suicide attempt of his mentor.

Also read: The nurse, the married man and the minister

And the milk man is pure, positive and virtuous?

How media went overboard in Padmapriya case

The UPA minister who is a TV news editor is…

16 December 2013

Virendra Kapoor in The Sunday Guardian:

BENDING THE MEDIA

There is this senior minister in the UPA government, who is so sensitive to what the media says and writes about him that he invariably gets on the phone to the media owner to complain against even a passing mention which may not be too complimentary about him.

Like the other day, he SMSed a popular television anchor, asking him to immediately replace a panellist debating the Assembly election results because what the panellist said about the fallout of the outcome on the minister’s own re-election chances was highly pessimistic.

Of course, the anchor retained the said panellist for the entire duration of the programme.

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