Masterpiece restored

Yes, look closely at the picture & it is me, nearly 2 decades ago. This was when satellite channels first came to India, when Aaj Tak, headed by SP Singh would be aired on DD Metro.

This picture was possible only thanks to technology. Those days were of pagers (oops don’t want to sound like a dinosaur) & more VHS players. Video recorders which were attached to the television sets, like today’s DVD players or drives with stereos, etc. There were 6inches video tapes from 60 min to 3 hours that were used to record & play. Some great shows, films, videos we have seen on these VHSs. This was possible really thanks to one Pankajbhai, tiny, squeaky place on Kalbadevi main road who was introduced to me by a twitter friend Vishal.

A few months ago I tweeted if anyone knew from where & cost of getting VHS tapes converted to DVDs. It costs a lot, moreover it’s a lengthy process & conversion takes time. Vishal googled & called up, we got few contacts & we exchanged notes. While at Mahim 1 man said he charges rs 10 a minute, that was more expensive than a piece of jewellery. Coz i had nearly 10 3 hours of tapes. Since I was among the first few women journalists on tv then, it was exciting to get recordings of my work.

Mainly because most of the channels do NOT give us reporters on roll any archives or your work reel. Even if they were to put a water mark & give unlike in foreign countries, here there are few pro-employee rules in most industries, moreover the media. So it was nice, friends, family or me would record. As a result over daily news bulletin of 3 years, I have only few hours of footage. But what a splendid surprise I got.

My whole journey of getting my work converted from VHS tapes to DVDF was self- exploration. I had absolutely NO idea who all I had interviewed. As daily discipline for good mental health, I erased all memories from my brain. I don’t want to remember & sound nostalgic. I needed to see my own work.

I simply found out of this place, called Pankaj & went over with my bag full of tapes. Pankajbhai had asked if these tapes had fungus, I happily refuted & he showed me eventually the condition of those tapes. He said they all would be given an acid wash & then only he could decide whether they could be salvaged. It was 2 weeks of palpitation.

I can’t explain to readers what it is to see one’s own work, that too years later. I know my look changed on-screen every few months. On a dehati channel where most had long flowing hair that appealed to the Indian eye & mentality here was a bohemian girl who wore that attitude on her face & sleeve. Some of seniors & a older colleague felt I was a misfit, SP loved that I would walk in with a cap on my head, sneakers, short hair & spoke Bambaiya Hindi. He approved, while others burnt their…..

I had trunk full of memories, most erased from my mind, but not from the evidence-VHS tapes. Experience of a near accident off Western Ghats on old Pune highway, as driver nearly fell off to sleep over the steering wheel, one altercation outside Thackeray house where he nearly threatened me & finally apologised profusely as he learnt his son had lied about the shoot, or times of many altercations with police (I love to hate them & vice versa) …many other  nicer ones…meeting some heroes of my life -Azaruddin, or a total kid out-of-school Sachin Tendulkar who finally became capt of India, amazing creative personalities…

or lot many more dangerous ones… Brains splintered of a fireman who was sitting atop a huge fire engine, when it upturned outside Nirmal building on a sharp right turn & he was crushed underneath that weight, that gut feeling proved true-a headless body was found, while tiny, pink shavings, which were his brain were splintered around…a man who was shot at point blank under a foot-over-bridge on Bandra station & the smell of fresh blood from his wound had gone straight in my intestines. Later his 12-bullet ridden body lay like a piece of waste on a stretcher. While many a red-faced politician either snapping or walking smugly, depending on which side he was walking past our camera.

Or some of the memorable times when Datta Samant was slain & the tension thereafter, Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar as Ramdas Athavle stood taking beatings while Prakash Ambedkar sat locked in a hut, many a flood & riot…blood soaked bodies, bloody foot prints of someone wanting to live as he ran for safety at Gateway Of India….all the memories can’t all be told or recollected.

After 15 days of all these thoughts I went by with absolute tensed emotions. What was salvaged, what all can I show next generation –not mine but nieces, nephews, students-what was that I could call mine own? And I was thoroughly shocked!

A bunch of DVDs & that kind Pankajbhai had taken effort to make them look professional. He had taken stills of many of these persons I’d interviewed & made a collage of cover for these DVD jackets! Wow…I wanted to jump…my smile was from ear to ear…I thanked him profusely. And Panjakbhai said, “Sister bolo ney yeh aap ke kya kaam ka hai? Aap ne itna paisa waste kyu kiya?” I was shaking by then, waste? Yeh kya bol rahe ho. Pankajbhai was then told, “Yeh mera kaam hai sir. Meine ki hui stories hai,” “aap reporter hai? Lekin yeh sab toh itna juna hai. Aapki kaam ke vajah se shayad itna old nahi lagtey” hello…Pankajbhai come to the point…this is MY effort…he was frozen on looks, body, sehat…hmmm sigh…

Thankfully Pankajbhai began showing me as test proof the DVDs.. wait Pankajbhai…oh wow! I exclaimed. “Kaun hai yeh? Beauty queen?” Haan…she is Pamela Bordes. aah…achcha…chalo agey…

And believe me Pamela still looks a hottie. & lo behold! Her pouting lips with Red lipstick, black hair that must’ve enticed many a MP in House of Commons when she was an escort. That interview was when she had returned as a photographer, while i thought she still was perfect in front of the camera. Pamela you were something..

MF Hussain when he 1st designed a chair for Living Room, the owner Jehangir Negree…who i met recently when Hussain died…Hussain i’d interviewed few times, Bal Thackeray many a time –exclusive interviews, Ali Sardar Jaffery, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Amitabh Bachchan, Lata Mangeshkar, quite a few PMs, CMs, Ajit kerkar, Ratan Tata… the time I tracked down Nadeem in London while he was named as main accused, Arun Gawli, other gangsters who were finished…many a beauty queen…

More over the one lone heroine –Sheela Kini. Chhagan Bhujbal had called me to his official bungalow, B-3 opp Mantralay & introduced me to this frail lady sitting absolutely scared to bits. She had written a letter to Bhujbal, who had moved into NCP, opposition leader. He was going to shake the Sena-BJP govt the next day with her plea..her husband was bumped off by Raj Thackeray’s friend Suman Shah….that is one special interview I will also remember…that lady was a true unsung HERO.

The thoughts also went back to this frame. It was monsoons (when I’m the happiest) & I was returning from Khadkee after 2 stories & had stopped over in Khandala…it was pouring & Ghulam was just released…that’s when I did a rain, wet story on ‘Aati kya Khandala” this is a frame frozen from the PTC of that time… J

Imagine all that work converted today, saved, restored & transferred on a DVD, my heirlooms…while at a flick on youtube you get to see the world…

 

Prelude?

I decided to get on to this blogspot stuff (don’t ask me the nitty-gritties) as one news story of mine (mera number akhir mein aya) made more news than I’d ever imagined!

On March 25, 2006, the newspaper i work in, DNA (Daily News & Analysis-latter half is often missing) published-along with some other newspapers- that the Mahrashtra govt had once again given a green signal to the Peddar road flyover.

RECAP – Yeah i didn’t much care for government’s decision, coz we-as in Bombayites-had seen it five years ago how the govt declared we needed a flyover at Peddar road in order to curb traffic & promptly left it in limbo. immediately after the announcement, India’s Nightingale, Bharat Ratna, as in Lata Mangeshkar-urf-Lata ‘didi’ screamed stop press! She was upset, the traffic noise & air pollution was causing her pain and she would lose her voice if the darn flyover came across her flat!

Well, meanwhile we had a flyover across Mohd Ali Road, as in the lovely JJ flyover was built with scores of cars flying on it. Sadly the faint voices of majority Muslims were silenced with city’s need for flyover & development. There were political parties that also brought in religion and nationalism as an argument against the Muslims. Muslims silenced their fears and opted for hope of a better & smoother future. That was only partially true, except that now when u fly across the bridge at JJ, one can say ‘salam walekum’ to all the residents & ask what’s cooking in their homes!

A similar story or more nearer is the example of residents staying across the Sion flyover. Most can jump into their houses if they attempted…new feat, say wot?

But here we had a lady whose voice is most precious to us, no doubt, but that’s a separate issue. She threatened she would lose her voice due to a flyover. So our state govt had got into action…which is? Just sit back and let the events unfold. Somewhere along BJP had made to believe that the Democratic Front govt would not get re-elected in 2004. But they did..so once again the same CM, Vilasrao Deshmukh and the newly appointed state public works minister gave a green signal to this impending project. Meanwhile, Lata’s sister Asha threatened to settle down in Dubai. She told this to Times of India & then she did a U-turn and coolly denied it.

Phew! Now cut to the present- On March 25, I was asked by my editor to get the reaction of Lata Mangeshkar “come what may, I don’t care by evening i want it.” He asked me to pick my note book & rush to her residence at Prabhu Kunj. My heart just sank & making a face I turned away. I was NO cub reporter that I was being asked to go to Mangeshkar’s house…then i just called the one & only Indu who i just bank on for anything to do with films… If i’m blunt..Indu’s icing on the cake! She was like..”u know me na neeta, I’m not in sync with Lata types…” (I just luv her) but she suggested I go to her boss’s cabin & take the screen world book which have all the names & nos of film personalities.

Now begins my true story…At 4:17:48 pm, I called on 2351…landline of the Mangeshkars..the younger sister Usha answered. After I introduced myself she just rattled off like a Dombivili fast local…she merely voiced her angst & ire at the minister who had taunted the ‘BIG people.’ She was interrupted twice by her ‘didi.’ I finally overheard her saying “stop this banter i will only talk to the person.” She said “namaskar !” & for a full second i was voiceless…tongue-tied & struggled to speak..she immediately said “me Lata Mangeshkar boltey,” in her girlish voice. (can’t blame the men to melt).

Till that moment i was expecting things like “sorry I can’t talk,” “why have you called us to bother us,” etc, etc. I was even prepared for ‘didi’ to change her voice, (as she’s known to change her voice & say “lata didi is not at home”)….I NEVER imagined that the nightingale/singing queen would talk to me directly!

Regaining my composure i re-introduced myself. After a small pause she chatted & told me how life would become painful with the flyover. I asked her if i could I publish this & attribute to her (quote) & she said “You must write. All people need to come forward and take stand on this, no one individual can do anything. I will talk to the chief minister but we will have to bring a stay order on this flyover & we will need to consult our lawyer first.”

She even asked me if i had spoken to her lawyer Mohan Jaykar (yaya same…husband of Smita Jaykar). I told her that he was on some case in the Supreme Court & he wasn’t answering my phone, but i had smsd him. Ms Mangeshkar then asked me to pass on her message to her lawyer. I asked her if she wanted Mohan’s number, and she promptly said, “Me kashala karu tyana phone, tyana sanga mala phhone karayala.” (Why should i call, ask him to call me). This call with Lata didi lasted for 5.13 minutes. After which i spoke to Veena Singhal (president of Peddar Rd Residents’ Assn) & Milind Deora for their reactions.

On March 26, DNA carried Lata Mangeshkar’s news on the front page. But wait, Subhash K Jha, the most trusted lieutenant of the Bollywood world also had a scoop…Lata didi told him she would leave Mumbai city & go if the flyover came up. Meanwhile i smsd mr Jaykar & informed “that Lataji wanted him to speak to her.” Next four days were a roller coaster ride for Mr Jha & Yours truly. People insinuated things about me. Accused me of fabricating the quotes & story…but i liked the true Bombay spirit shown by listeners. People said, “Didi we will help you pack your bags.”

Sorry…this letting out one’s ire has NOTHING to do with her singing, talent & god given talent. NO one has doubted all of it. I’m distressed that of the lack of bond that the person showed as regards to the city that made her successful & gave her everything. Sad that many elite people in this city are selfish & don’t wish to give back anything to Bombay. Hello, weren’t these the very people who will criticise the likes of Medha Patkar??? Accused her of stalling projects & rest of the elite are quiet on Lata?

As the reactions began coming in regarding Lata Mangeshkar’s news, madam suddenly got an attack of amnesia, so typical Bollywood…she put ‘Henna’ to shame! She just sent out faxes from her true friend, politician’s office…outright denying she spoke to any media person! Outrageous… yes considering that it was none other than the Bharat ratna who has lied…she has stature, respect, was on a pedestal in all the eyes of all Indians….but why after four days deny something that did happen?

i’m a journalist. I had a few questions…why did She not fax, instead of using Raj Thackeray’s off? A billionairess doesn’t have a fax machine? Is she being supported by the politican in this issue that concerns thousands of Mumbaikars?? No one wrote about this but the letter has been stored by many of my colleagues…

I’m paid as a journo to report truthfully & i’m committed to it. I have a job & i’m clear i will report correctly rather than publish half truths for the sake of keeping good relations with anyone. i retrieved my call list from the computer & got a print out. Our sweet tele operator, Raju…He saved my reputation! And my notes…well, my dirty old habit of writing down while the person talks has helped me tremendously. I spoke to few lawyers who said hand-written notes are admitted & even sent to handwriting expert. As a rule i save my notes for at least 7 years.

My bosses didn’t bat an eyelid, altho the reporter was already rolling her big fat eyes at me saying she was just alerting me that ‘didi’ was going on record to deny her conversation with me…hahahaha..what should i say?? Her politician friend’s close aides asked me why i had published an article depicting her wrongly, how could Lata didi lie?

Excuse me? What does it take for some big personality to lie? I strongly believe that it takes a lot to speak the truth! I asked, “Why? Isn’t Lata a liar? She is if she feigns ignorance of speaking to me even after giving me an interview.” Its a matter of my reputation, credibility & reportage. Her denial simply means she has labelised & maligned me for reporting truly…oh the next thing i know is I’ve insulted a Bharat ratna…didi…how could i bitch about her? How have i spoken such ill of such a great personality…Some gossip that was spread -i’m happy.

I want to kick ass…one needs guts & courage to stand up for what one believes in & sadly NOT all humans have it. We have time & again seen how renowned & highly talented people have screwed their reputation publicly..whether it is owning up to an alleged murder of an ordinary citizen/an affair, financial/professional problems or simply sticking to what one has said. A social/environmental/political issue is not everybody’s cup of tea. More so the issue here is to do with Mumbai city’s project.

Can development can be stalled for one person? Do we forget the project-affected people in our poor rural areas that are left homeless & without any rehabilitation? And here we Bombayites suffer day-in-&-day-out waiting for minutes to get a clear road from Lotus cinema onwards down Haji Ali uptil Kemp’s Corner. All because there is no flyover…Peddar road is where the rich people live- including the one who objected…

The story did create waves in the city…i got many a friend & peer calling me up & congratulating me…some colleagues bitched & sniggered, my bosses were proud of me…but really speaking the interview with Lata was something that just happened by fluke. It was sheer timing of the news…just that ‘didi’ & her fans, devout ones especially should realise that this is my job & profession. I love news & can smell it ahead….