Posts Tagged ‘Stardust’

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?

Enter: The queen bee of Bombay film journalists

4 October 2011

Anju Mahendroo (in picture), the colourful actress who once boasted of an off-field partnership with cricket legend Gary Sobers, is to play the role of the gossip columnist Devyani Chaubal in The Dirty Picture, based on southern sleaze queen Silk Smitha‘s life.

Devyani Chaubal wrote the saucy Frankly Speaking column in the now-defunct film magazine Star & Style, mixing insider knowledge with insinuations in bitchy Hinglish prose, a style emulated by several of her contemporaries, including Shobha De.

According to Mumbai Mirror, it was Anju herself who suggested to the movie’s director that her character should be based on Devyani.

“I told Milan Luthria that I knew Devyani at a personal level and it would be easier for me to base my character on her.

“In one scene, Vidya Balan [who plays Silk Smitha] comes up to me and asks ‘Who are you?’

“When I introduce myself, she shoots back, ‘Oh so you are the one who writes all the nasty things about me’.

“And then I answer back, ‘Well, it’s better to be written about than not’.”

Read the full article: Anju turns controversial journo

View a sample of Devyani’s writing: here

Also read: For some journos, acting is second string in bow

Finally, Karnataka gets an ‘acting’ chief minister

Vir Sanghvi & Barkha Dutt: “We were targeted”

27 January 2011

Society, the monthly lifestyle magazine of the Magna group owned by Nari Hira, has a cover story on Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt in its January 2011 issue.

For the first time, the two journalists most affected by the Niira Radia tapes, appear on the same platform.

In his 3-page interview, Sanghvi states:

“I am told by one of the publications that received the tapes that they came neatly marked and sub-divided. Barkha Dutt’s conversations were first and mine were second. So, we were not collateral damage. The intention of the leaker was to target us.”

In her one-page interview, Dutt states:

“I can’t comment on why the leakage has been so selective. But clearly, the conversations have been cherry picked and, in the interests of transparency, I think all 5,000-plus conversations should now be made public.”

Both journalists speak on the life-lessons from Radiagate. And, like in their TV appearances following the controversy, Sanghvi appears the more remorseful of the two.

Sanghvi says:

“I think the important thing for all of us to realise is that no matter whether we are well-known or successful, the truth is that we are nothing without the faith of our readers and our viewers. At the end of the day, if we cannot explain our own actions, then we cannot expect them to take us seriously when we comment on the actions of others…. All of us in the media are what our readers and viewers have made us. Without them, we are nothing.”

Dutt says:

“My viewers don’t need to be disheartened. The way the story has been presented is so caricatured and distorted that it is made to look in a certain way. I am still the same journalist that I always was. I strongly object to the way these stories have been written.”

Also read: Barkha Dutt tarred by pure malice: Khushwant Singh

When Rajdeep Sardesai got it left, right and centre

Is it really so difficult to say, sorry, maaf karo?

The media, the message, and the messengers

7 April 2010

The Booker Prize winning author Arundhati Roy‘s 31-page, 19,556-word essay “Walking with the comrades” in Outlook magazine*, has produced a fast and succinct response from the journalistic Twitterati after Tuesday’s dastardly ambush of paramilitary forces by said comrades.

From top, NDTV English group editor Barkha Dutt, Pioneer senior editor Kanchan Gupta, Indian Express columnist Tavleen Singh, former Stardust editor Shobhaa De, and London based freelance writer, Salil Tripathi.  Tripathi also has a finely argued critique of Roy’s piece in The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the adman turned magazine editor turned columnist Anil Thakraney offers this take on his Facebook status update.

* Disclosures apply

Screenshots: courtesy Twitter

Jug Suraiya takes on the mighty Big B

19 June 2009

jug-suraiya amitabh_bachchan

The reverberations of Amitabh Bachchan‘s blog comments on the Academy Award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire are now being felt in the “cesspool” of Indian journalism.

In his reaction to the movie, Bachchan wrote in January:

“If SM projects India as [a] third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations.”

That prompted a column in The Times of India by its in-house satirist Jug Suraiya on March 2.

Suraiya wrote that the reason people like Bachchan were angry with SM was not because it showed the world how pitifully poor India was, but because it revealed how culpable all of us were in the “continuance of poverty”.

“The real Slumdog divide is not between the haves and the have-nots; it’s between the hopers and the hope-nots: those who hope to cure the disease of poverty by first of all recognising its reality, and those who, dismissing it as a hopeless case, would bury it alive by pretending it didn’t exist.”

All very harmless, boilerplate stuff, but a month later, on April 3, Bachchan chose to respond to Suraiya with a long rejoinder that attacked the journalist.

I accuse the journalist Jug Suraiya of failing his professional ethical code of conduct by means of wilful error in the collection of facts…. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself, not only as a professional journalist, but as a human being too. Mere opinion and ill-supported prejudice are contemptible in both species.

“My blog did not ‘spark off the current round of controversy on India’s poverty’… Nor am I ashamed of anything about my country. I may be highly critical in judgement, as any citizen of any nation should be, of the society to which I hold allegiance. In this light, I do not find that material poverty in India is ‘a terrible family secret’ as Jug Suraiya alleges.”

Now, Suriaya has hit back in the latest issue of Magna Carta, the in-house newsletter of the Magna group of publications, which had carried Bachchan’s rejoinder.

(Magna owns the movie magazine Stardust, which led a 15-year-long boycott of Bachchan at the prime of his career.)

In a letter addressed to the Magna group’s proprietor Nari Hira, Jug Suraiya writes:

“The newsletter said there was an ‘eerie silence’ from the press to Bachchan’s rejoinder. This is not quite true. The Guardian newspaper, which Bachchan had cited along with my column, has I am told done a detialed rejoinder to his rejoinder.

“In my case, I did not choose so much to maintain an ‘eerie silence’ as to exercise my option of fastidious disdain: I hold Bachchan beneath my contempt and shall not dignify him with an answer to his rantings (which, I am told, are written for him by an ex-journalist hack).”

Suraiya recounts meeting Bachchan years ago in Calcutta. He says he greatly enjoyed his performances and complimented him on them.

“Since then, of course, he has become an international celebrity who uses his iconic status to endose any and all products from gutka paan masala to cement, cars to suiting. There is a word for such indiscriminate commercial promiscuity. I leave it to you to figure out what it is.

“This together with his much-publicised ritualised religiosity makes him an object of scorn for me, all the more so in that he is, regettably, a role model for so many people of all ages, in India and elsewhere.”

Photograph: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: How Big B has pushed India to a regressive low

Before the slumdogs, the mahout millionaire

Vir Sanghvi lashes out at Mint “censorship”

21 January 2009

It’s all happening at Mint, the business daily launched by the Hindustan Times barely two years ago.

Founder-editor Raju Narisetti left under a cloud of rumours at the turn of the year. And now, star-columnist Vir Sanghvi, a former editor of HT, has ended his column in Lounge, the Saturday magazine of Mint, with a piece on his website that hits out at the fledgling paper and its new editor, Sukumar Ranganathan.

“I will not write for a publication that censors its columnists and denies them the right to free speech while writing long, impassioned pieces about the freedom to criticize others from the Prime Minister downwards. All of us exhibit double standards to some degree. But Mint‘s hypocrisy takes my breath away.”

Sanghvi’s dispute with Mint apparently arose after Lounge did not carry his “Pursuits” column last week on business journalism in the aftermath of the Satyam fraud.

Reason: it took a swipe at Mint for the manner in which it covered the drama surrounding NewsX, a start-up TV channel that Sanghvi headed till he quit before its launch.

“I believe that the ability to carry criticism of yourself is the mark of a competent editor and a confident publication. Sadly, the new editor of Mint—after Raju’s departure—does not appear to share this view. He refused to carry the article,” writes Sanghvi, while showering praise on Priya Ramani, the editor of Lounge.

Sanghvi’s website also carries the original article which Lounge did not carry. It contains these paragraphs on Mint‘s coverage of the NewsX episode, which ironically appeared in Raju Narisetti’s tenure.

“Easily the worst was Mint—-ironic because I am a columnist—-which managed to get basic details wrong, running biased and inaccurate reports and then following them up with a series of wildly speculative (always attributed to “a source close to the situation”) stories which (long after I had left and other NewsX issues were being featured) nearly always demonstrated a total misunderstanding of the situation.

“As Mint is not a newspaper that carries much news and specializes in thoughtful, analytical reports, these lapses were surprising. One theory  is that the paper likes running Stardust-type media-gossip stores which are either of no consequence (the Delhi Press Club elections ) or just wrong (Pradeep Guha to join Big TV), in the hope that people will talk about them. When NewsX was eventually sold, Mint which had identified the wrong suitors, failed again as Exchange4Media scooped the story.

“But at least it proves one thing. When journos get it wrong, we even get media stories wrong!”

Also read: How come media did not spot Satyam fraud?

Pseudonymous author spells finis to Mint editor?

VIR SANGHVI: Does the Indian reader care for integrity?

Wife-beater? Freeloader? Menace to society?

11 May 2008

Restaurants are now suing newspapers for bad reviews claiming “defamation” and loss of business. But how should authors respond to bad reviews? Should they just be thankful for the publicity? Should they get into a slanging match with the reviewer and hope for the best?

Should they, as Shobhaa De, the author of “Superstar India” has done, get personal?

De’s latest book has got a poor review in India’s leading English magazines, India Today and Outlook. India Today‘s reviewer tore into the book calling it “the worst thing she has written” and said its subtitle “From Incredible to Unstoppable” made him wonder if it was commissioned by the ministry of tourism. Outlook‘s reviewer called it “quite mediocre” and said it read like a “teenager’s diary”. Etcetera.

But De, former editor of the film magazine Stardust (and the shortlived Celebrity), and the woman who has worn titles such as Sultana of Scuttlebutt and “Maharani of Muck” with aplomb, goes below the belt in response.

In an interview with Arathi Menon of Deccan Herald today, De is asked of the unkind reviews that have greeted the book in India. Her response?

“The particular review you are referring to (in a leading magazine) is a personal attack on me. The person who wrote it is a wife-beater; a freeloader; a frustrated has-been and a menace to society. There are other ratings that have already put the book on the best-seller list. So do I really care about that interview?”

As the pioneer of bitchy page 3 journalism, Shobhaa De of course doesn’t name the reviewer or the publication, but if the reviewer/s had given a good review of the book, would De have been enlightening the world with such vengeance in public?

Is the reviewer’s past or present relevant to the debate at all? Or should she be answering the criticism of the reviewer?

Photograph: courtesy Newsline, Pakistan

Read the India Today review here: De turns into night

Read Shobhaa De’s interview here: 60 years young

Also read: Singer Sonu Nigam accuses reviewer Subhash K. Jha of “sexual assault”

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