Posts Tagged ‘Lucknow Boy’

Coming soon, from the author of ‘Lucknow Boy’

3 June 2014

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The cover of former Outlook* editor Vinod Mehta‘s upcoming book, Editor Unplugged. Published by Penguin, the 500-page book, priced at Rs 599, will be out in December 2014, three years after his memoir Lucknow Boy.

The photograph on the book jacket is by Briana Blasko.

*Disclosures apply

Also read: Vinod Mehta on Arun Shurie, Dileep Padgaonkar

Shobha De tears into Vinod Mehta in India Today

Shobha De tears into Vinod Mehta in India Today

27 January 2012

There are two tried and tested formulas for commissioning reviews in the shockingly incestuous bordello of Indian books that has now spread its wings into Indian journalism.

The supposedly dignified formula is to get an author’s friend or associate to do the unctuous needful (say a Khushwant Singh to “review” a David Davidar) so that reputations are protected, nothing damaging is said and everybody gets called for the next orgiastic party.

Its opposite recipe is to get a hired gun who will fire at will (say a Mihir S. Sharma to pump into Suhel Seth) so that the old gasbag is punctured, some buzz is released, and major “trending” happens in blogosphere.

India Today magazine uses the latter technique in the latest issue while belatedly reviewing Outlook* magazine editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta‘s memoirs.

In Lucknow Boy, published nearly three months ago, Mehta gives the sultana of scuttlebutt, former Stardust editor Shobha De, some chosen ones— for not including an introduction to a book she had commissioned him to write and then for not having had the courtesy to inform of it, despite bumping into him off and on, etc.

De has returned the favour in kind (and more) in the India Today review calling the 306-page tome “that’s filled with Delhi style bragging… rather dull”—a loosely strung account of job-hopping full of old-fashioned self-righteousness and tedious justifications:

#What happened? Something obviously got in the way, and let’s blame it on Delhi. Had Mr Mehta continued to live and work in Mumbai, I am certain he would have written a far more readable book.

# Mr Mehta’s sepia-toned recollections may be of some interest to his colleagues and assorted politicos who wish to be featured in the magazine he so ably edits. Give them Sunny Leone‘s unedited life story in ten easy chapters intead—now that’s riveting stuff.

# The biggest letdown in this memoir is the absence of any asli masala….

# The Mumbai Mehta was an amiable chap. He wasn’t boastful. And he could out-bitch anybody in the room. Most of the time, the bitching was about those absent. Everybody laughed—including his highly “intellectual” friends tiresome then, far worse now. But Mr Mehta had not turned as pretentious… nor did he drop names.

# The one magazine Mr Mehta missed editing and he could still do a brilliant job of it, is Stardust.

* Disclosures apply

Illustration: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Also read: Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

It isn’t easy telling tales of even dead editors

Wife-beater? Freeloader? Menace to society?

Vinod Mehta on Arun Shourie, Dileep Padgaonkar

7 November 2011

“India’s most independent, principled and irreverent editor” Vinod Mehta has just published a memoir. Titled Lucknow Boy, the editor-in-chief  of the Outlook* group of magazines, recaptures his four-decade journalistic journey via Debonair, The Sunday Observer, The Indian Post,  The Independent and The Pioneer.

With trademark candour often bordering on the salacious, the twice-married but childless Mehta reveals that he fathered a child in a tryst with a Swiss girl in his 20s, and that as a young copywriter in Bombay, he posed as a prostitute’s boyfriend to get her sister married off (and was paid Rs 500 for his services).

Along the way, Mehta also slays two very holy cows of Indian journalism, Arun Shourie and Dileep Padgaonkar, revealing their hypocrisy and duplicity in the way they dealt with colleagues while grandstanding in public as suave, softspoken, scholarly men of letters.

***

By VINOD MEHTA

Over the years, Arun Shourie and I have not seen eye to eye on many issues—something I don’t regret. Shourie, as editor of the Indian Express, had broken the big Antulay story, ‘Indira Gandhi as Commerce’ [in the early 1980s].

The expose revealed that the Maharashtra chief minister, A.R. Antulay, had started an organisation called the ‘Indian Gandhi Pratibha Pratishtan’ through which he collected illicit funds from builders. The corruption scandal forced Antulay to resign.

Arun Shourie and the Express, now implacably opposed to Indira Gandhi and the Congress, had bagged a big Congress scalp. Among journalists and sections of civil society Mr Shourie was flavour of the month—or shall I say many months.

A young reporter in the Free Press Journal with friends in the Express came to see me. He said he had a story, but was not sure if a recently launched paper like the Sunday Observer had the nerve to publish it. According to him, the chief reporter and several other senior reporters in the Express were sulking because Arun Shourie had hogged all the limelight.

While they acknowledged Shourie’s contribution, much of the legwork for the scoop had been done by the Express bureau, a fact which was never acknowledged in the story. Staff morale apparently was at an all-time low.

‘Shourie and the Penthouse conspiracy’ duly appeared. ‘Penthouse’ was mentioned because Mr Shourie allegedly sat in the Express penthouse with Ramnath Goenka and wrote the expose.

It did not take long for Arun Shourie to come back. He demanded a full rebuttal in the form of an extended interview with him. ‘Your story is a complete fabrication,’ he charged.

Kumar Ketkar, then a young and pugnacious Bombay journalist, jumped into the fray. In a letter to the editor [of The Sunday Observer], he noted: ‘The self-righteous breast-beating of Shourie is a fast spreading gangrene in the profession of journalism. If not checked in time, it could acquire the dimensions of witch-hunting and Macarthyism.’

And concluded: ‘Free from any constraint of veracity, Shourie is always able to provide exclusive stories.’ The debate on our letters page continued for many weeks.

***

On 19 October 1989, The Independent published an eight-column banner headline, ‘Y.B. Chavan, not Morarji Desai, spied for the US.’ For two days the story went largely unnoticed. Except for Mid-Day which carried our Chavan report almost verbatim, the rest of the media kept away.

That did not suit the perenially insecure editor of The Times of IndiaDileep Padgaonkar.

While the other editors in the Times group were troubled by my presence, Dileep had a special and urgent reason to feel troubled. I and my team were producing an English paper every day which looked infinitely better than the paper Dileep was editing, and on many mornings it even read better.

Mr Padgaonkar’s insecurities when word got around that, at a meeting with his senior managers,[Times bossman] Samir Jain mentioned me as a possible editor of The Times of India.

Dileep and the Maharashtra Times editor, Govind Talwalkar, got together to ensure the Chavan story did not go unnoticed. In an editorial on 21 October, the Times viciously attacked me and the Independent. It went so far as to incite physical violence against me, suggesting that if it did occur, it would be my own fault.

Departing from its pompous, lofty, measured tone, the Times launched a series of vituperative onslaughts targeting me, which observers found astonishing since the two papers were ‘sister publications’. One opposition leader told the media that while the (Chavan) story was indeed objectionable, it was the Times group which created the ‘hysteria’ around it.

I hold no grudges against Dileep Padgaonkar. He is who he is. However, the man who once claimed he held ‘the second most important job in the country’ can be legitimately charged with single-handedly opening the door for the denigration and decline of the Editor as an institution.

When Dileep’s bosses asked him to bend, he crawled. Since then it has been downhill all the way for other editors.

(Lucknow Boy by Vinod Mehta, published by Penguin Viking, 325 pages, Rs 499)

Read an excerpt: Vinod Mehta on Radia tapes, Vajpayee, V.C. Shukla

Buy the book onlineIndia Plaza offer prize Rs 299

File photographOutlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta, at home in New Delhi in 2008

*Disclosures apply

***
Also readS. Nihal Singh on Arun Shourie: Right-wing pamphleteer

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

‘Lone Hindu’ Dileep Padgaonkar gets it from M.J. Akbar‘s paper

How Dileep Padgaonkar christened a Pierre Cardin model

How the Sakaal Times dream became a nightmare

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