Burjor Khurshedji Karanjia
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A film man's life without the gossip! by V. GANGADHAR The Hindu
B.K. Karanjia (1918-2012) was a family-loving gentleman. He had two daughters - Routton and Delshad - and son Yuzud.
Despite having been the editor of two of India's leading film publications, Filmfare and Screen, he kept away from gossip. He spent his holidays at this grandpa's home in Quetta, school and college days in Bombay and a brief stint with the Indian Civil service. He had an upper middleclass Parsi life in the country His favourite persons included grandpa Burjorji, and his male servant, Sikander. He almost lost his virginity to a Colaba call girl. Later, he converted this incident into a short story.
The Karanjia family moved to India from Quetta after Partition. He had named his south Mumbai residence as 'Quetta Terrace', which stood a short distance away from the historic Jinnah House. Karanjia's elder brother, Russy K Karanjia, also a well-known journalist, edited a scandal-based political tabloid, Blitz, which, for years, was India’s biggest-selling periodical.
Karanjia moved to Pune in 2007. He was staying in a flat at Sopan Baug.
He would never watch television. He was a loner and would prefer to read a lot.
He was active till his early 90s. He practiced yoga and was in a fairly good health. He didn't suffer from any chronic ailments
Expectations from life
But he always knew what he wanted from life. He fought his way to join the much-coveted Indian Civil Service but resigned his post when he was asked to work with the Supplies Department. His heart lay elsewhere; writing came to him naturally and easily. He was put off by mainstream journalism with its sole focus on politics and opted for film journalism because he was interested in cinema as an art form. So we had a film journalist and editor who was a fan of Lawrence Durrell, not an easy writer to appreciate.
Karanjia avoided film parties and had a strong distaste for them. After doing stints as a reporter, he went on to become the editor of Filmfare, Screen, Cine Voice, Movie Times and authored several books on the entertainment industry.
With his first two ventures, Cinevoice and Movietimes, Karanjia made the mistake of investing his own money and losing most of it, realising in the process that most film makers lacked honesty and integrity. But the magazines had good editorial content and Karanjia took heart from the phenomenal success of the Film Stars Nite and a Film Stars cricket match, which he organised successfully to raise money for national causes.
Here was an editor who was ready to forego his pay and perks and settle matters with his own hands (sometimes with help from his wife) during moments of financial crisis. Everyone including film stars appreciated the editorial content of Cinevoice and later Movietimes. Madhubala offered to work free in a film which could be produced by some friends of Karanjia but the offer could not be put into action. The Beauteous star used to charge Rs. two lakhs per film in those days
Finally, an offer from the Times for editing Filmfare came as a relief to Karanjia, though it meant leaving Godrej Ltd., for whom he was doing public relations. But then, once a journalist, always a journalist. The next 18 years were tension free. The Times group, one of the best in the country, paid the editors well, offered them facilities like the art department, research and reference section and of course sumptuous daily lunches. Karanjia wrote fondly of his Filmfare days and his friendship with professional editors like Sham Lal, Nanporia and Khushwant Singh. He seems to have ignored the individual egos of these gentlemen, some of whom fought desperately to possess the much-sought-after key to the managerial toilets which was often discussed in the The Times of India corridors. Karanjia in his memoirs also tends to gloss over the controversies over the Filmfare Annual awards. Many ex-staffers of the Times and many from the film fraternity have made the charge that these were rigged. Well, Karanjia does not pretend to be an investigative journalist.
Karanjia was the founder of the government-owned Film Finance Corporation. He later became the NFDC chairman and set a precedent to finance high quality, low-budget movies for new and talented filmmakers, instead of doling out aid to big filmmakers or banners. The FFC ushered the art film movement in most parts of India (it had already begun in Bengal). it was later renamed the National Films Development Corporation (NFDC).
But Karanjia does speak strongly about his tenure as Chairman, Film Finance Corporation and how he and other members resigned during the Emergency protesting the interference from Information and Broadcasting Minister, Vidya Charan Shukla. This is a fascinating account.