Saturday, March 08, 2008

I’m curious. Yellow.

In my childhood and youth, I never could understand why RK Karanjia’s “Free, Frank & Fearless” Blitz – the tabloid weekly that invented stings, investigative exposés, scoops – even April Fool hoaxes – way, way before Tehlka – and Google respectively, DF Karaka’s Current and Baburao Patel’s Filmindia were called “yellow” journals. I used to read – at least browse through – all of them. I was too naïve to realise that the term referred to journalism that exploited, distorted or exaggerated the news to create sensation and lure readers, scandal-mongering being one of the favourite ruse in use. If this description is true, I guess all newspapers of today including The (erstwhile) Grand Old Lady of Bori Bunder qualify for inclusion as of now. I recall that I used to read Filmindia (later replaced by the political magazine, Mother India) at the house of my aunty who used to stay in Nowroji Street which is quite close to where I now stay. My cousins were quite keen on Hindi movies and used to get Screen which was principally a trade weekly as well. I’m sure I didn’t understand the point of the (what was then considered) naughty Filmindia stuff but still persisted in reading it. Recently, at,9171,772751,00.html?promoid=googlep, I found an excerpt from his Q&A column. Here are a few examples of his wit and witticisms:

Q. Are there any raw-film manufacturers in India?
A. No. But we have directors who expose the film and make it look more raw than ever before.

Q. I hear bad rumors about Director Shantaram. Every man from Poona and Bombay says that Shantaram has done such & such a thing. I am sure that he is not a person to do such a thing. I think that Mr. Shantaram is aware of his fame and would not have done that thing. So you must tell the public that Shantaram is innocent by publishing his innocence in the next issue.
A. And I must also publish my innocence about what you are talking.

Q. Please tell me, which is the easiest way to get a job in a film company?
A. Get hold of the most attractive girl in your town and bring her to a film studio. . . . The other way is rather roundabout.

According to Bhawana Somaaya Baburao Patel (née Patil), the self-taught son of a well-known lawyer, was “the most hated and also the most sought-after journalist in show business”. She writes: “It was said that Baburao’s column made and broke careers. Filmmakers dreaded his acid reviews of their films, for his comments invariably proved true at the box-office.” Dev Anand reiterates Somaaya’s verdict on Patel’s power and influence. Prithviraj Kapoor whom Baburao called one of the “uncouth brawny Pathans who think they can make it as actors" and saw no place for him in the film industry proved him wrong. So did V Shantaram whose Navrang (1959) Baburao panned as “mental masturbation of a senile soul” but which turned out to be a big box office hit. In retrospect, Patel’s comments in the excerpts quoted above seem trite and tame and jaundiced. His language seems stilted and jaded. Maybe because I’m trying to apply today’s standards to a journalist from the past.

By the way, I found another gem of his cited at

Q. Why do you have two wives?
A. What is going of your father? Ram Jethmalani when asked by a person personally whether his first wife is happy despite his having a second wife. He answered – Yes my first wife is happier than your only wife.