Thursday, November 25, 2021

Bees saal pehle: a journalistic anniversary

(Guilty yet again of putting something on Facebook and neglecting to share it here. A short nostalgia post about November 23, 2001) 

From the archives: 20 years ago on November 23 I technically became a “journalist” by joining India Today’s 24-hour website TheNewspaperToday – after a very intimidating interview with the then-ferocious-but-now-puppy-dog-like Sudeep Chakravarti (and an HR fellow who shall remain unnamed here but whose glinting spectacles put me in mind of The Efficient Baxter in PG Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle books). This wasn’t my first job (I had worked for over two years for Encyclopaedia Britannica and got many bylines on their website, apart from writing occasional pieces for the first iteration of Tehelka, CafeDilli, The Statesman and a few other publications), but it was my first experience of being in a newsroom-like environment – though I spent most of my initial weeks at The NewspaperToday on the 2 AM to 10 AM graveyard shift, almost alone in the big Videocon Towers office.
Many stories to be told about my stint there (which included being part of the original team for the afternoon tabloid Today, launched from the same office after the website wrapped up), but for now: the two images below are reminders of the boilerplate film “reviews” I was doing for The Statesman around the same period. (Including one dated Nov 23, 2001.) There were even three pieces on a single weekend, after watching previews of all those films – Cats and Dogs, Kiss of the Dragon and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – at the stinky little auditorium at Mahadev Road. (I was disdainful about these sorts of 400-word reviews even back then, but I remember being pleased with a line I used in the Captain Corelli piece: “These men come across more as troupe than troop.”) 
Though Sudeep and my other bosses didn’t get to know this, I continued moonlighting for The Statesman for a few months despite being chained to the India Today Group – the byline I used was the not-spectacularly-imaginative “JA Singh”, and I assume the reason I was never caught was because no one other than the Statesman’s desk guys (and maybe not even them) read those pieces…

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