If I speak about editors who have changed the course of my career as a journalist, then I have very short list. But this list would be incomplete if I don’t mention this Editor from Calcutta.
Even though I was just a couple of years into the profession, he didn’t think twice before handing me my first big promotion. He doted on my reporting skills and thanks to him, I frequently started getting onto the front page of the entertainment supplement – a tradition that continued for a long time.
He was a pillar of support in the early stages of my career.
I won’t be able to mention his name as he is no more, but nevertheless, I will tell you a sordid story about him. His story has got a lot of semblance to what is happening to Pahlaj Nihalani these days.
This man was hired by a leading publication and he founded an entertainment supplement that started mapping the page three culture in Calcutta for the first time. High on entertainment content and coupled with extensive party coverage, the supplement virtually existed in a monopoly for at least two years.
The monopoly got created because the market leaders, cocked a snook at the party coverage and underestimated the power of the entertainment supplement that created a dedicated space for society, entertainment and lifestyle content. After one year, when the competition finally woke up to the damage, the Editor was virtually ruling over the segment with every big and small actor, party-goer, celebrity, social climbers and models queuing outside his office for coverage.
Those were days when party or entertainment coverage in newspaper supplements was not paid for.
Enormous ‘power’ was handed over to the Editor on a platter. The whole town loved him. Everybody fell over everybody to invite him at parties. The socialites were ready to do anything to get onto the pages of the supplement. They were ready to give an arm and a leg to get their photos published on the party pages.
His mobile wouldn’t stop ringing. It rang in an interval of five minutes on an average.
The Editor loved the attention and basked in it too.
Imagine the whole town wanting your phone number. Imagine every actor, actress in B-town waiting patiently to receive a text message. Imagine leading actors and actresses cancelling important shoots and press conferences just because they want to meet you. Crazy stuff.
Suddenly, after a few years, the whole scenario took a you-turn.
He was asked to leave. He quietly collected his belongings and left. He had to abandon the official car and took a taxi home.
For a few months after that incident he remained at home and drank himself numb almost every other day. Once in a while, he would call me in a drunken stupor to rant.
There was one thing that refused to sink into him … how nobody called him after a week.
I still remember what he had say during one of those ranting sessions. “Previously I had to charge my phone twice each day. Now, my phone battery lasts for two days.”
The comment was meant to be a joke but I got what he had to say.
Why am I suddenly remembering him? Because Pahlaj Nihalani reminds me of him. Whatever happened to him, will happen to Pahlaj Nihalani too. Reality will hit him far too brutally than it hit my ex-boss. I have seen the consequences, so I emphathize with Pahlaj saab already.
There was a time when Bollywood celebrated the accession of Pahlaj Nihalani as the king of the Censor Board.
Just like my ex-Editor, Pahlaj Nihalani is at a position where he is affecting the life of a lot of powerful people. In fact, he has sweeping powers over all filmmakers in Bollywood.
Everybody wants to meet him, talk to him. When he throws a party, he is never short on celebrities.
There are too many filmmakers who are pleading with him and trying to convince him. If he refuses to budge from his stand, then costly commercial films (with crores gone into production) lose money for delay in release. If he says ‘no’, then God forbid! The producers and director will be seen running helter skelter just because he has said ‘no’. There are some producers and directors who are thanking their stars just because he has said a ‘yes’.
Why only his colleagues and contemporaries? His actions have also started affecting his children because they too work with film production houses to earn their living. I shudder to think what they are feeling about it.
Basically Pahlaj Nihalani is the most important person today, just like my ex-boss. He is the ‘toast’ of B-town, just like him.
But Pahlaj Nihalani is only an employee. He gets his salary and he will have to vacate the hotseat one day. May be, one day, he will be told to leave.
Just like my editor, perhaps he might have to leave his official car behind and take a taxi back home.
One day, reality will strike him hard.
Things might get grave because more and more people have started hating him. The list of prominent people, who think he doesn’t belong to the film fraternity, is growing by the day. Some of these prominent people are quite powerful too. They would hate to see him as part of the Indian film fraternity even in future. I am not making this up, there are public statements out there.
There will come a day when his phone will stop ringing. Forget about returning calls, there will be a day when people won’t receive his calls.
The same fraternity which created him, will outcast him from every award function, from every party, from every celebration and every project that he craves to be a part of. Maybe, prominent politicians too would avoid meeting him.
Those will be days when he won’t need to charge his phone.
I feel pity for him. I feel bad that he will be going through that hell.
I pray to God to give him strength and health to deal with the loneliness, depression and the nagging feeling that nobody loves him anymore.
Hence, I have sympathy for Pahlaj Nihalani.
I will say a silent prayer for him. Will you?