Tag Archives: Blitz

India’s first woman journalist Vidya Munshi, RIP

sans serif records the demise of Vidya Munshi, arguably India’s first woman journalist, in Calcutta on Monday, 7 July 2014.  She was 94 years old.

Born in Bombay, she worked in several newspapers and magazines, including a ten-year stint with Russy Karanjia‘s Blitz.

A 2006 profile of Ms Munshi in The Telegraph, Calcutta, noted:

“At that time (1952-62), she was the Calcutta correspondent of Blitz, a Bombay weekly critical of government policies and excelling in investigative journalism.

“One of her ‘scoops’ was on two Canadian pilots who were to fly from Hong Kong with gold and drop it on an island in the Sunderbans, which was then to be smuggled into Calcutta.

“Another of her major stories that made headlines was on the Chinakuri mine disaster in Asansol where hundreds of miners were killed; the famous playwright and actor Utpal Dutt went on to script the tragedy into a chilling play, Angar.”

Also read: India’s first woman photo-journalist, Homai Vyarawalla

India’s first television news presenter: Pratima Puri


Sudheendra Kulkarni ends his ‘Express’ column

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Sudheendra Kulkarni, the former left-leaning Sunday Observer and Blitz journalist who became a close aide of former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee and BJP president L.K. Advani, has ended his column in The Indian Express.

Kulkarni, who was jailed for his alleged role in the cash-for-votes scandal and wrote a book on Mahatma Gandhi and the internet upon his release, writes in his farewell piece:

“I always tried to use this valued space to write what I believed in, and on issues of concern and interest to society.

“Although I have long ceased to be a Marxist, there is one maxim of Karl Marx which continues to hold a sway over my mind, and which consciously or subconsciously dictated, each time I sat down to write my column, that I should take this communication with my readers seriously.

“Ideas, Marx says, become “a material force as soon as they have gripped the masses”. And they grip the masses if they are radical (which, to me today, means if they are truthful in the Gandhian sense of Truth).

“To be radical,” Marx adds, “is to grasp the root of the matter. But for man the root is man himself.” Man-making, in the words of Swami Vivekananda, is the mission of all education—and journalism is nothing if it does not regard itself as an educator of society.

“I sincerely attempted through this column to accomplish two things. Firstly, I tried in my own very modest way to participate in the ongoing battle of ideas in Indian society, believing both that good ideas are what India desperately needs and good ideas are what ultimately will triumph.

“Secondly, with the hope that spurs every goal-oriented social-political activist who has access to some media space, I hoped that my words could influence some positive change somewhere in our society, even though this hope is increasingly giving way to the realisation that Gandhiji was right in exhorting that one can influence change in the world only after creating the desired change in oneself.”

Photograph: courtesy NDTV

Read the full article: Thank you

Also read: Do journalists make good politicians?

It isn’t easy to tell tales of even dead Editors

Outlook* editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta, in the letters’ pages of the weekly newsmagazine:


In my Delhi Diary (Mar 21), I made some references to the late R.K. Karanjia, former editor of Blitz and one of India’s most respected journalists, and Col Gaddafi. I withdraw those remarks unreservedly and apologise to Russy’s family for any unintended hurt caused.

Vinod Mehta

There is, however, no “clarification” on the other editor mentioned in the diary, Ayub Syed, the late editor of Current.

Also read: Why an editor took two empty suitcases to Libya

* Disclosures apply

Why an editor took two empty suitcases to Libya

There is little doubt, as the Niira Radia tapes showed, that journalistic integrity in India is at an all-time low—despite the manifold increase in salaries—especially since the liberalisation process began in 1991 and the notional capital of the media moved from Bombay to Delhi.

Whispers of editors who own power plants and mines, of reporters who are joint venture partners in shopping complexes and apartment blocks, of honchos who buy helicopters, fix arms deals, etc, are now so common that it barely registers on the shock-o-meter these days.

Worse, the epidemic has spread far and wide, from beyond Bombay and Delhi to the hinterland, to the State capitals and big cities, where journalists, cutting across language barriers, have mastered the art of “monetising” their positions and visiting cards.

But, no names!

Working under the Khushwant Singh motto that dead men can’t sue, and using the ongoing eruption in the Middle East as the peg, Outlook editor-in-chief Vinod Mehta drops a couple of names in the latest issue of the weekly newsmagazine:

“Now that Muammar Gaddafi is the flavour of the month, let me recount the story of two flamboyant Indian editors, R.K. Karanjia (Blitz) and Ayub Syed (Current) who, alas, are no longer with us. Both made annual visits to Gaddafi’s tent in Tripoli.

“Ayub, who could be disarmingly candid, once mentioned to me that he was off to Libya to meet the great leader. “I never forget to take two empty suitcases with me when I meet him and on the way back I always stay for one day at Zurich.”

“Russi was much more cunning and made no such admission, but he also went on his annual pilgrimage and came back loaded. At that time these were the only two journalists/editors who had direct contact with Gaddafi.

“Incidentally, it was one of these gentlemen who came back with the offer Gaddafi made to Indira Gandhi: sell me the bomb technology and India will never be short of oil.

“One afternoon Ayub was buying me lunch. He looked relaxed and seemed in no hurry to get back to the office. I was. When I asked him to call for the bill, he said, “What is your hurry? For the next two weeks I have no work. My issues are full of The Green Book.” (This was a Gaddafi-authored manual on how to run a country undergoing a perpetual people’s revolution). And then he laughed uproariously.”

Also read: Russy K. Karanjia: rest in peace

Sudheendra Kulkarni: ‘A creative, courageous, commited editor’


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