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His USP is creativity

Drawn by the tranquillity of rain-washed Kochi, Pritish Nandy takes a break to complete his latest book of poems. PRIYADARSSHINI SHARMA in an informal chat with him.

SPORTING THAT familiar shaven head, goatee beard, a pierced ear and an odd pair of sideburns, Pritish Nandy, a Rajya Sabha MP and Padmashri awardee is in Kochi to finish his latest book of poems, `Conversation with the Devil at Midnight.' Says, the former journalist, "I am putting finishing touches to the book and needed three days off from everything to focus on it and complete it and that is why I am here. This is my second visit to the city after a hiatus of 20 years."

Pritish Nandy with a chequered career, which spans almost four decades of dabbling in `creativity' as he puts it, says, "One of the most critical and personally satisfying period in my life that is missing, is my years as a poet. I serendipitously entered it at the age of 16 in Kolkata after which I spent an entire decade trying to make a living out of it, but failed. Though I won much acclaim, got three to four doctorates and PhDs conferred, without even people knowing that I have not done my graduation, went on to get a Padmashri too, but I did not get a job. Dabbling in some advertising, copywriting and creative consultancy to corporate houses, drawing a front-page cartoon for The Telegraph for three years, being the poetry editor of the Weekly, but none of this helped me to make a livelihood. Finally I decided to give it all up and take the Bhabha award, which was an offer at that time to go to Lisbon, build a ship, and sail down to Kochi in India. The year was 1982.

"It was at this juncture that I met a man, not known to me, in the aircraft returning to Kolkata, who was to arrest the drift in my life. Finding that I was jobless, he offered me a job as head of his publishing company. And that is how I came into the media. I undertook the task of reviving the Weekly and got some amazing results. But my restlessness did not allow me to pursue it for more than a decade and I put in my papers.

"After poetry and print I moved on to electronic journalism, to start India's first signature talk show named after the host. We ran it successfully for a year and a half, until a minister who made a critical statement and its unedited version was played in Parliament by none other than the present Prime Minister, and proved a threat to the ruling Government, and I was shown the way out of Doordarshan. From then on I have begun to make movies."

Though hailing from a very orthodox Bengali parentage, Nandy is an out-and-out nonconformist. "Non conformism is a way of life with me. I question everything and believe that each individual has a right to his or her own personal viewpoint."

Coming from a Shiv Sena MP, Nandy does not always toe the line. "An individual, to whichever political party he may belong, has the right to perceive things and articulate them somewhat different from the official line, if the case so be. This has obviously not made me popular but has kept me independent as a journalist." Proud to be a part of the media, the intrepid journalist says, "Media is the most redeeming face of India." And as a vocal parliamentarian, he attends the House religiously and says in no uncertain terms, "No, no troops to Iraq, definitely."

His latest pre-occupation is the successful Pritish Nandy Communications, (PNC), whose `Kaante' and `Jhankaar Beats' have been great entertainers. Lined up with four new releases for the next four months with his `Mumbai Matinee,' `Hazaro Khwaishein Aisi,' `Struggler' and `Chameli,' Nandy calls the shots but says categorically, "I am a non-executive chairman of the company. I am not a businessman, my one and only role in life through all these different phases is creativity. Professionals run the business end of PNC. If out of difference the board still listens to me it is only their goodness. `Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam' is a big project and the speculative media, which is their job, keeps assigning roles to various film stars but I have just finalised Aishwarya Rai in the lead with Deepa Mehta as director."

Four children from three marriages, Nandy finds nothing more enchanting, magical, clever and wise as a woman. "I have a deep and abiding sense of respect for women." and marriage to him is " sharing this wonderful experience of living with someone who is as wide-eyed as I am about life. I have total enchantment towards it. Like Alice, this world is a Wonderland for me, and cynicism has no place in my scheme of things." Spiritualism is still suspect for this man who at no point in his life has felt "any reason to go beyond what I see to draw solace and strength from it. But I am ready to experience a spiritual moment. I have an open mind towards it."

Kerala is special in very many ways to Nandy, for he has chosen to come here to unwind and let the "unspoilt environs" recharge his creativity.

"This State is getting industrialised without the ugly side to it. In fact, I plan to look at some locations close by, for shoots. I do not believe in overseas shooting at all, unless the story demands."

Boredom, he says, is the reason for the occasional changes in style of his beard, a style statement he made 15 years ago, and probably it is boredom, which drives him to be creative in more unique ways than one. In fact creativity is his USP.

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