Ram Kamal Mukherjee, remains the youngest Bollywood biographer in India. His first coffee table book on Hema Malini was published in 2005 when he was 27. He worked as a film journalist for almost two decades with various publications like The Asian Age, Stardust, Mumbai Mirror, Midday, ABP Publications and web portals. He worked as Vice President with Pritish Nandy Communications for almost four years. Later he headed Stardust film magazine as Editor-In-Chief. Currently, he working on his television show for Zee TV, waiting for his first fiction to hit the stands and also working on a couple of secretive ‘projects’. With almost a million social media followers, Mukherjee is infamously famous for his notorious articles on Bollywood superstars. In a rare tête-à-tête with Mayura Amarkant, he lets his guards off for a change and speaks about his personal life. Something which he had never shared on any platform.
Tell me something about your childhood. What were the building blocks that led you to become the person that you are today?
My childhood was nothing extraordinary, and that’s what makes it special. I lived in a joint family, with my parents, elder brother, uncle, aunt and cousins. As a kid, I was inclined towards art and literature. While most kids of my age would spend time watching Kapil Dev, I would like to either paint or watch movies. I grew up just like any other kid. Aimless and happy.
I grew up just like any other kid. Aimless and happy..
My parents never bogged me down with studies and ranks. I grew up in a protected environment. I was not interested in basketball or cricket. My relatives would tell my parents to get me admitted to boarding school. I hated maths and loved literature. I would fail in maths, on each semester. Barely score grades in class. These qualities were not counted, enough boyish in our society.
Doctor ya engineer nahin banega toh kya faida? While most of my cousins and school friends would score high marks, I would just skim through my papers. From being promoted on trial to almost getting detained in standard IV, I was definitely not ‘the’ kid in my vicinity. In addition to all my vices, the cherry on the cake was my love for cinema. I would often hear unsolicited suggestions like, ‘Future bahut bleak hai.’ My mother, like any hyperactive Bengali mum, forced me to join swimming classes, gym, cycling, computer science and what not. But eventually, my parents realized that a kid is driven by his gut. I am glad that they were rational.
Is there an incident that took place in your childhood/growing years that was a turning point in your life?
Now that you’ve asked me, I guess there were a few instances that changed the course of my life. My affinity towards Bollywood actor Hema Malini played a pivotal role. I don’t know, how and when I fell in love with Hema Malini. Being a Hindi film fanatic, I lived on her films like Seeta Aur Geeta and Sholay. My father Jaydeb Mukherjee, was a Central Government Officer, under Ministry Of Law. He was a bit lenient, while my mother was a fear zone for me. It all started with a simple incident. I wanted to write a fan mail on Hema Malini in Screen Weekly, (Indian Express Group) which was edited by Uday Tara Nayyar.
As a kid, I was not a voracious reader, so my vocabulary was weak. But that didn’t deter me from writing a letter (read verbal diarrhea) on Hema ji. Before posting the letter, I wisely decided to run it pass through Baba. Just to avoid national embarrassment. As assumed, he marked innumerable mistakes in that letter, to an extent that it almost looked like a scribble board. When I read the letter after editing, it sounded better, wiser and crisp. Incidentally, the letter was published in Screen Weekly, and subsequently few more letters were published. My school friends and some of my teachers read my byline and praised me for the same. That was the first time in my life, that someone praised me in my classroom. That was a big high for a student, who was nothing but mediocre.
I didn’t choose journalism, I would say journalism chose me.
Finally, the publication honoured me with the best letter to the editor award, and veteran columnist Ali Peter John wrote about my adulation for Hema ji. In his column he quoted, ‘Mukherjee is not just a fan, but a wise fan. That’s rare’. This was probably the turning point in my career. After my graduation, I enrolled myself in Journalism and Film Studies. Under the tutelage of professors like Dr Tapati Basu, Dr. Partha Raha, Dr. Sanjay Mukherjee, Dr. Anjan Bera and Dr. Bishnupriya Dutta, I was exposed to the world of international cinema, which was beyond Hema Malini and her movies.
Marriage keeps you young at heart. It’s almost like a wall, that waits for you to lean when your days are not good. It’s almost like a breeze that takes away your agonies faraway.
What made you choose this field as a career? When did you decide you wanted to make your passion your profession?
To be honest, I didn’t choose journalism, I would say journalism chose me. In 1999, while I was studying in University of Calcutta, West Bengal Government ran a competition across universities to select two candidates who would be able to contribute for Kolkatta Film Festival news bulletin. Fortunately, I was selected in the competition and was appointed officially to cover the festival.
I remember actor Mithun Chakraborty telling me, “Ek ta janish toh, boroi eka.” (Number one, is a lonely number). That somehow etched in my mind forever.
This opportunity helped me in understanding my inner voice and I decided to become a film journalist. I interacted with filmmakers like Mrinal Sen, Gautam Ghosh, Mani Ratnam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Majid Majidi, Aparna Sen, Revathy, Jahnu Barua, Australian filmmaker Paul Cox and feminist filmmaker Tahmineh Milani who spoke about films across the globe. I realised that cinema has its own language, and if I have to woo cinema, then I better learn the language.
During this time, I met senior journalist Drimi Chaudhuri who hired me as a freelance reporter for The Asian Age. After completion of my course in Film Studies, Journalism and TV, (I scored highest), they offered me a job. While I was pursuing my Masters In Journalism, I started working for The Asian Age.
Just like anyone else, there must have been ups and downs in your life, what were they? How did you overcome them?
I remember actor Mithun Chakraborty telling me, “Ek ta janish toh, boroi eka.” (Number one, is a lonely number). That somehow etched in my mind forever. I knew that life looks like “W”. The rise and fall are inevitable. The more you rise, the more you stand a chance to fall. Those to fear the height of success stay grounded. Professional rivalries used to hurt me as a cub reporter when I started my career in The Asian Age as Movie Correspondent. But with time and tide, I walked pass every criticism. I ignored them mostly because I was in search of good cinema. In 2003, when I moved out of Kolkata and settled in Mumbai, I realised that I am yet to live my life. It was new found freedom.
What kept you going through all the low phases of your life?
My parents and my friends in Kolkata. They never changed. I made few friends in Mumbai who stood by me, in good and bad times. I don’t know if they would appreciate me mentioning their names in this article, but they all know what they mean to me, even today. Incidentally, I married my best friend Sarbani. It’s been a decade since we are living in the maximum city as a couple, and we are blessed with a child. That’s my bucket of joy.
How different are you in your professional life from your personal life? Tell me something about your role as a husband, son, brother, friend and father.
Husband: I am a control freak, but a caring one. I am aware of my responsibilities, but I do jumble up my priorities at times. I am not the best husband, but neither I am the worst.
Son: Guess a decent one. Being the youngest in the family, overly pampered. I have been my father’s pet and loved him the most. I respect and adore my Ma for all the sacrifices she made in her own life to give us enough attention and time. I adore her for the sleepless nights each time I had a viral attack.
I believe in God. I think I share a cordial relationship. He tolerates me more than I do.
Brother: Being blessed with an elder brother who is selfless and caring. Krishna Kamal is the best brother in the world. His silence has been my strength. His unspoken words have been my motivation. He is simple, and that’s the most difficult quality a man can achieve in today’s time. On the contrary, I think, I have not been a great sibling to my brother.
Friend: Being a Virgo, that’s my best quality. You can never be at loss if you have me as your friend.
Father: I am not sure about that, but I know for a fact that Rian is the best son, I could have asked for from Almighty. He is the driving force of our life.
I respect and adore my Ma for all the sacrifices she made in her own life to give us enough attention and time. I adore her for the sleepless nights each time I had a viral attack.
Who were your professional gurus in the field of journalism?
Well, I have always maintained that my sojourn in film journalism wouldn’t have been possible without Udaya Tara Nayar, Ali Peter John, Hema Malini, Partha Raha, Drimi Chaudhuri, Farah Choudhury, Tikli Basu, Nari Hira, Sonali K Jaffar, Ashwin Varde, Meenal Baghel and Sarita Tanwar. They have all taught me various aspects of journalism. My colleagues Jaya Biswas taught me how to make pages, Dipannita trained me in subbing text, Dhaval Roy taught me the simplicity of language, Shashank Samant taught me various idioms of world cinema, Chandrima Pal helped me in understanding the world of digital media, hope I am not forgetting anyone special.
How was your experience in Pritish Nandy Communications?
It was one of my best years. I enjoyed every moment I shared with Pritish Nandy, Pallab Bhattacharya, Ishita Nandy, Dinar Kadam, late Bobbie Ghosh and of course Rangita Nandy. It was a fun space. I was on the other side of the fence. I enjoyed the creative process of moviemaking. Worked on various kinds of projects in PNC, and with time my responsibility and role extended. I worked on various projects as Chief Media Strategist and helped Rangita in script doctoring. Pritish Nandy is a charmer and a wordsmith. I miss those intellectual addas, biryani and cutlet sessions with him. Rangita was fun. Everyone scared my pants off when I decided to quit Mumbai Mirror and join PNC. They warned me that I won’t be able to survive a demon called Rangita Nandy. Fortunately, I not only survived for almost half a decade in PNC but also became one of the closest confidantes of Rangita. Till date.
Pritish Nandy is a charmer and a wordsmith. I miss those intellectual addas, biryani and cutlet sessions with him.
Do you believe in God? What is your relationship with God?
I believe in God. I think I share a cordial relationship. He tolerates me more than I do.
Who are your role models? What qualities of your role models did you apply in your real life?
My parents and my wife. It might be shocking to read this because in India not too many husbands would acknowledge their life partner as their role model. My parents have taught me whatever I am today. It’s their dedication, guidance and grooming that I am a civilised human being, fit to stay in a society. That’s not an easy task, no longer.
My wife Sarbani is a fighter. She has been my strongest pillar. Unconditional love and sacrifice make her the quintessential ‘bahu‘, but at the same time, she is head strong and a working woman who takes her own decisions, and mostly wise ones. We had our fights and fall outs, but that made us stronger and wiser.
Apart from these souls, I have another role model. But that’s a secret. The moment I share the name, the person will disappear like a genie. So, I’d better take it to my grave.
It might be shocking to read this because in India not too many husbands would acknowledge their life partner as their role model.
Whom do you turn to in times of adversities?
I used to take a lot of advice from my teacher Sutapa Saha when I was a kid. When you are a kid, you try and figure someone else apart from your parents with whom you can share your thoughts. She was like an elder sister, who would hear me out. My father was my constant adviser. He was more like a pal and never made me feel low. Now, I seek advice from Sarbani. She is my biggest critic also.
What is your mantra of life?
Live and let live.
Is there something you would like to tell the readers? A message that would help them achieve the acme of success just like you did?
No one likes gyan. They are smart enough to figure their own good. Don’t underestimate the power of a common man!!
What does marriage mean to you?
Marriage is an extension of friendship. I don’t think that it’s just about two people living under the same roof, without any love or attraction. Definitely, we don’t behave like a teenybopper any longer, but that doesn’t stop us from an occasional hug or a kiss in public. Marriage keeps you young at heart. It’s almost like a wall, that waits for you to lean when your days are not good. It’s almost like a breeze that takes away your agonies faraway.
What’s your future plan?
Que sera sera… why plan when life is so beautiful? The surprises are the best recipes of life. Right now, I am working on a television show with Rajshree Ojha for her banner Artecom. I am also waiting for the release of my first fiction, a collection of short stories – Long Island Iced Tea.
—As told to Mayura Amarkant
I continue to be awestruck, my interaction with Ram Kamal was an unforgettable experience…is there a question or a message that you wish to convey to him? Let me know in the comments section. Don’t forget to like and share this post if it touched your heart.
This is the 12th interview in the #StayInspired series. Here are the rest:
- #StayInspired – 1: Dreams keep people alive
- #StayInspired: Marriage is a warm & intimate cocoon
- #StayInspired: Born today, 4 Inspiring people
- #StayInspired: When I was 13, my grandma wanted to marry me off
- #StayInspired: God rejected my death
- #StayInspired: Meet the Dhoni of Indian Corp Comm & PR
- #StayInspired: He is the original TaxiMan of India.
- #StayInspired: The ‘Vamana’ of Alternative Medicine
- #StayInspired: Making Indian education ‘student-friendly’: Meet the new-age Lord Macaulay