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Being touted as India’s youngest biographer, award winning entertainment journalist and a successful television producer, Ram Kamal Mukherjee speaks exclusively to Nation Next on what keeps him motivated…
In your last interview you had mentioned that you don’t miss journalism anymore. But it seems that you are still in love with Bollywood. Isn’t that a bit contradictory?
I know what you mean to say. Look, I don’t miss journalism because there is hardly any freedom left. So, I opted to write books instead, because that gives you creative freedom. I have worked with publications like Stardust, The Asian Age, Mumbai Mirror and Midday. All these publications had the guts to call a spade a spade, which I don’t think any other publication had. I was never asked to drop stories on a particular star or director because he or she was a paid-media client. I worked with best of the editors, and learnt a lot. These days most publications are run by CEOs and marketing wizards, who have zilch knowledge about journalism.
So do you subscribe to Arnab Goswami kind of journalism? You think what Republic TV is doing to garner TRP is the right move?
I remember being a guest at Arnab Goswami’s show once, when I was working as Assistant Editor in Mumbai Mirror. I had interacted with him briefly before the show and strangely he had allowed me to speak in his show (Laughs). On a serious note, I think Arnab knows his job and his BARC (Broadcast Audience Research) ratings clearly indicate that his channel is way ahead of any other news channel. That also gives a clear perspective on what people are watching these days.
How come you have never tried working for a news channel?
Long back, my dear friend Rajeev Masand wanted me to join a news channel when he was setting up his news channel. I admire the kind of work TV reporters do, but somehow I felt that the magic of journalism was in print media. Maybe, I was a bit archaic in my thoughts, but then I am traditional when it comes to journalism. Once in a while I miss journalism when I see my colleagues interviewing Majid Majidi or Brad Pitt! Otherwise, everyone speaks the same.
So, are you an old school journalist?
It’s better to be old school, than being from ‘no’ school of journalism!
How honest will be your biography on Hema Malini - ‘Hema Malini: Beyond the dream girl’?
I think as honest as one can get. Not to forget, Hema Malini is a lady and I have to be careful while writing about her life. It’s a passionate project for me, because she has such vast repertoire of work in the field of art, music, dance, cinema, social and politics. To capture all the moods and moments of life is a difficult task. I am also happy that one of India’s leading publishing houses like HarperCollins agreed to release this book.
You have been the most successful entertainment journalist from your era, with maximum breaking stories on Bollywood and running a parallel career of a successful author. How did you balance between the two?
Multi-tasking is something, which we learn from our mother. I have seen my mother managing everything so effortlessly. I guess that helped me. I am a story teller, so I always wanted to tell something. So, when I used to have free time, I used to write stories. I don’t know if I was the most successful entertainment journalist or not, but I was definitely focused on whatever I did.
Are you planning to write another fiction after Long Island Iced Tea?
Yes, I have already started writing a fiction. It’s based on early 18th century Bengal. But it’s too early to talk about it. I am also planning to pen my experience in Jaipur as a producer of a TV show, and I have tentatively titled it as ‘Pizza and Italian Job.’
Why are you not making any feature film?
Well, you will be surprised to know that I always wanted to produce feature films. In fact, I worked passionately on two prestigious projects recently, but unfortunately my investors faced issues after demonetisation and the films never took off. That was a major setback for me, because I had invested almost a year in these projects. I have realised that I should only work with genuine investors and financers who have the bandwidth to stand by a project through thick and thin. Most of these newbie investors pretend to be art connoisseurs who end up being frauds.
Would you like to name them?
(Laughs) No. I am saving them for my book on Bollywood, which I will be penning soon.
You are extremely active on social media and most of the stars and celebrities are following you. How do you manage to keep up with the pace?
That’s a task. I am on almost all social media sites, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Roposo. I keep posting interesting content for my followers and avoid giving ‘gyaan’. Today’s generation hates ‘gyaan’, they have stopped reading beyond 140 characters, so you need to keep up with the trend. In fact, I want to write a series of short stories not more than 140 characters. That would a big challenge.
You have recently launched your website in Kolkata? Tell us something about it.
This website has been developed by Chandan Manna from Kolkata. This young enterprising kid from Kolkata worked for almost 12 months on this project. Initially, the project was conceived by Amit Ganguly and Aritra Das under their banner, later they parted ways and my website was completed by Chandan. I am planning to use this platform to release blogs, videos and short films. The website was launched by Bengal’s youth icon Dev.
Recently you hosted an exclusive chat with Bengali superstar Dev and Rukmini for their film Chaamp at Blue Room in Twitter head quarter. So are you planning to do your own chat show?
I am grateful to Dev, Rukmini, Twitter India and Amit Ganguly for the gesture. It came like a surprise to me, because I guess when Planet Marathi (the organisers) asked me to come on board for the chat I was a bit skeptical, because I have not faced camera for many years. It was actually my wife Sarbani’s birthday the day they wanted to do the chat show. So, initially I refused to host the show initially. But when my good old friend Dev called me from Kolkata and requested to join them for the exclusive trailer launch of his maiden venture Chaamp as producer. I couldn’t refuse. Dev is one of the finest souls, I have come across in recent times. And I am genuinely fond of Rukmini, the leading lady of the film. After Rituparna and Koel Mullick, I think Rukmini is one of the most kind-hearted souls. She will be a superstar, mark my words.
The show was viewed by millions of viewers and I got fabulous response from people. One of the most senior film critics personally called me and asked me to start my own TV chat show. Some producers have shown interest, but I am planning to do something unique, let’s see.
In the TV show Bin Kuch Kahe on Zee TV, for which you’re the co-producer, who are your favourite actors?
None. I don’t believe in partiality. I think Shamata Anchan, Rashmi Somvasnhi, Nirwana Shawney, Archana Mittal make for a fantastic Kohli family, while Madhu Chandhock, Bharat Pahuja, Shivam Sood and Nikhil Sabharwal makes for every charming Sharma family, Sameer Arora and Bharat Sharma also have extended family members who are yet to appear in the show. And of course, the wonder kind Krish Chauhan, who worked equally hard along with all other actors.
Will you be making any other serial with your co-producer Rajshree Ojha?
Of course! We keep joking internally, that she is my girlfriend! Rajshree is more than a friend, probably one of my closest. We fight; we don’t talk for weeks, like any friend would. But she knows that I am just a phone call away, and I know that if I call her she will not disappoint me. Currently we are working on two projects, one I will be spear heading and another she will be spear heading. We would like to go back to Zee TV with all our projects, because we had a fabulous experience with them.
Rajshree is a filmmaker; would it be ideal if you produce a film for her?
(Laughs) Ameen! Fingers crossed. I want to make a Bengali film with her. It’s one of the finest scripts I have read in recent times. We have locked the cast and technical team. But, everyone scares me by saying, “Don’t make a Bengali film, there is no market.” But that’s exactly why I want to make a film. Hopefully, soon I will be able to announce the film officially. Currently, I am looking at a distributor.
Is it true that you are planning to produce short films under your banner?
I am finalising script for a series of short films, which I am planning to produce. They will be a mix of all genres, romance, thriller and drama. I think we have new platforms like Voot, Hotstar, Eros Now, Alt Balaji apart from bigwigs like Netflix and Amazon. I think we are getting a lot of interesting subjects thanks to these platforms. My partners Aritra Das and Sarbani are also working on Bengali and Marathi content.
But don’t you think all makers are going a bit overbore with sex and violence in short films?
I agree. But I think we are mature audience and there is a room for all. I am sure certain section of audience like to watch erotica and there is no harm. But yes, I know what exactly you are trying to address. I think in the name of content, a lot of shit is floating around.
You think absence of censorship is the reason of excessive sex and violence in short films?
That’s untrue. I condemn censorship. We are a mature nation and censorship should be an ‘in-built’ system instead of some ‘foreign’ body telling us what to do and what not.