Ram Kamal Mukherjee, India’s youngest biographer who penned his first book on Hema Malini (Diva Unveiled, Magna Books) at the age of 26. He has been the Editor-in-chief of India’s leading film magazine Stardust. Worked as Vice President with India’s first corporate production Pritish Nandy Communications. Worked as assistant editor with Mumbai Mirror (Times Of India) and contributed as columnist with The Asian Age, ABP and Mid-Day. He launched his first fiction “Long Island Iced Tea” (Leadstart Publishing), and recently turned Producer with his television series Bin Kuch Kahe for Zee TV. Awarded with “Best Author” and “Best Journalist” in the past, Ram Kamal shares his experience with us, ‘uncensored’.
My childhood was ordinary, and that probably makes it so special today. Born in a traditional North Kolkata family, I grew up with my elder brother Krishna and my cousins Somnath and Bratati. We lived in a joint family, in our ancestral bungalow in the bylanes of Amherst Street. I was the youngest in the family, and probably the most pampered too. My father Jaydeb Mukherjee worked as Legal Advisor to Ministry Of Law, with the Central Government. Being a student of law, he wanted me to study Arts, and I guess that’s how my inclination towards the subject grew stronger.
As a kid, I was mischievous, and often got spanked by my teachers at school and by my mom (Roma Mukherjee) at home.
I remember I wanted to be a teacher as a kid. So I asked my father to get me a blackboard, chalk and duster so that I could teach. As mentioned that I was the pampered kid in the family, he bought me everything on the same day. But there was a slight problem. I didn’t realize I needed students to become a teacher. So I almost bullied my brother Krishna and my cousin Bratati to be my students. This ‘game’ continued for a year or so, until one fine day my mother spanked me. Actually, I used to get punished at school for not completing my homework. So to replay the ‘act’ at home, I punished my students (my brother and sister). When my mom spotted me doing that to my elders, she spanked me so hard that I realized my mistake.
Oh yes! I used to stay in an accommodation provided by my publisher Nari Hira, during my early days with Stardust in 2003. It was a typical “chawl” where most of the trainee bachelor journalists and marketing team would stay. During those days, I started mingling with strangers and non-filmy people. I realized that everyone has their own story. So, after my work, I would write stories of people I met. My neighbor, 70 year old Angelia (name changed) stayed alone, and she would often bake a cake or make something interesting for me. She reminded me of Jenifer Kendell from Aparna Sen’s 36 Chowringhee Lane. She was such an interesting lady. In my book, somewhere they are all mentioned in some way or the other. But I would like to give the entire credit of Long Island Iced Tea to my “chawl” buddy Swarup Nanda (founder of Leadstart Publishing) and my college buddy turned life partner Sarbani. I had lost all my stories, but eventually they both managed to unearth them, (only eight stories were found out of 13 odd stories I had written over these many years), and took initiative in publishing the book.
I guess, I am a story teller. This trait I inherited from my grandmother, Jyotsna Debi. When we were kids, our grandmother (dadi) would tell us stories of Ramayan, Mahabharat and Upanishads. Everyday afternoon would be our story telling sessions. At night my mom would narrate the English fables and dad would tell me the stories of dacoits from Arabian Nights. So, I guess it was a mix of all factors, which eventually led me to tell my stories.
I don’t think that there could be any comparison between telling a story through a book and telling a story through a serial. My foray into television as Producer happened due to Rajshree Ojha. I worked with her as an associate in achieving her vision. Bin Kuch Kahe was developed by Rajshree, and the story has been written by Satyam Kumud Tripathy, while the screenplay and dialogues are by Atul Dubey and Sameer Satija. I would often give my creative inputs to better the plot or bring some sort of variation in the given framework. I know I am a good story teller, but then who wants to watch a story in a serial?
Behind the scenes stories could actually be a nice trigger point for my next fiction. So I am saving them all for my next book. I have tentatively titled it as “Pizzas and Italian Job in Jaipur”. Don’t ask me why? It’s a long story. This will be my next fiction on how I lived those eight precious months of my life with complete strangers in a city, which was never in my bucket list!
Reading is interconnected with writing. It’s like a telecommunication service. Unless you have incoming calls, you will not be able to justify the outgoing calls. So, in order to cater something new to the readers, you need to read contemporary literature. Language is like a river, it evolves with time.
I prefer reading Indian authors like Amitava Ghosh, Amish Tripathy and Chetan Bhagat and biographies. I like to read lucid text, and not a subscriber of ornamental English. I don’t think that anyone can better the art of ornamental English after William Shakespeare and Michael Madhusudan Dutt.
Nothing! If people can read and write, then I assume they have a functional brain. So that means, they can think. If they can think, then they can judge. And that’s all you need to understand your social and moral duties. I don’t think that any author or filmmaker can change the society, that’s a big farce. At best, we can hold mirror to the society.
My mentor is my experience. I have learnt from everyone. From my grandparents to my three year old son Rian. I have learnt from a rickshaw puller to Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. My mentors changed as per my requirement. If you ask me specifically, then I would like to mention a few names which I had never had an opportunity in the past.
My first teacher Miss Margaret, for teaching me, its pronunciation and not “pronounciation”. The basic art of speaking the language right.
My second teacher Nivedita Dhar, for teaching me Shakespeare and few hundreds of English poems. She was the one who taught me how to eat with a fork and spoon in a restaurant.
My third teacher Sutapa, for making me fall in love with my mother language, Bengali. For inspiring me to write in that language. She was the one who introduced me to the world of journalism.
My father who allowed me to fly like a bird. Loved me unconditionally and guided me like an angel to achieve whatever I have till date. He still remains the brightest star in my sky.
My mother, who stood like the Rock of Gibraltar with my dad, hand in hand and made us believe that everything is possible if you have your intension sacrosanct.
My wife, who is an epitome of patience and love. She has sacrificed a lot as a human being in a decade long relationship with me as a married couple. I have seen her smiling through the toughest time. When everyone deserted me, she stood like an Oasis.
Finally, Hema Malini. She will remain my guiding force for life. I have learnt discipline and dedication from her. I have learnt passion and urge of achievement from her. She is a dream come true for me. With her, I share the ultimate guru-shishya relationship.
My vision is very unclear, and that’s my vision. I keep walking for newer destination. Recently I met a fellow journalist at a private screening, and he sarcastically added that “I don’t like to change tracks like others”. I smiled and wished him luck. But if you ask me, I would say, that each time I have changed track in my life, I started my journey from scratch.
I also feel that it’s only human to change tracks, otherwise it’s too robotic. I don’t plan my future, because that’s something which I am yet to see. But I definitely draw inspiration from my past. I feel that past is what you have, to change your future.