If you’ve been reading Lounge religiously over the last few weeks you’ve probably noticed a subtle new trend. One that is quite apparent if you go back and read the last few First Cut editions written by yours truly and his worthy colleagues.
Invisible man: In Mr India, Shekhar Kapur (centre) gave India its first popular celluloid superhero.
Spotted it? No? Take a few moments to think about it.
And your time is up. The celebrity game show anchor will now make cheesy, suspense-inducing small talk.
The subtle new trend is this: Over the last few months, we’ve been introducing new elements in your favourite weekend magazine quite frequently. We’ve kicked off two new columns, a travel blog that was last heard from somewhere deep in the Peruvian jungle and great online content to support our stories.
You could say that the mice are at play while Priya Ramani is away. But what we’re trying to do is to make sure that every weekend, when you pick up your copy of Lounge, there is an element of surprise. A gentle dose of the unexpected, if you will.
The Japanese have a name for this process of constant change for the better — or continuous improvement, as they call it in factories — Kaizen. The underlying philosophy of Kaizen is that by making small, meaningful changes on a continuous basis, you end up improving a process and eliminating waste. Eventually you manufacture a better product that drives Ford and General Motors to bankruptcy.
Perhaps the most crucial stage in a Kaizen exercise is to measure the improvement — check if the tinkering and tweaking is working. In our case, that feedback begins with you, our reader. Our Kaizen office loves receiving your feedback and can be contacted via the email address right at the end of this piece. So, when you are done “Lounging” this weekend, drop us a line. We are total feedback junkies here (especially if it’s positive. Wink. Nudge).
And, with that exhortation we present the latest in our little innovations: the Lounge Profile cover story.
Individual profiles are not entirely new elements to Lounge or to other newspapers. We’ve always had fun, informal snapshots of business leaders in our Business Lounge section. And your local evening tabloid probably carries half a dozen profiles a month.
The Lounge Profile, however, has loftier ambitions. No half-hour interviews on the telephone or rewritten press releases will do here. No sir. Our intrepid profilers will engage their subjects deeply, painting vivid portraits and filling in missing pieces.
Or, at least that’s the plan.
Giving very public personalities new facets is not easy. It demands hours of reporting, followed by meticulous drafting and fact checking. Which is why you won’t see me doing any of them any time soon. I am not really the hard-working type.
Thankfully, my colleague Sanjukta Sharma notched up several interviews, dozens of phone calls, pored over more than one thick film reference book, and, God forbid, commuted twice between Dadar and Juhu. All to develop her delightful profile of the enigmatic film-maker Shekhar Kapur — Second coming on Page L12 is our inaugural Lounge Profile.
In the 1980s, all the Hindi movie cassettes that were exported to the Gulf came with advertisements spliced in throughout the tape. And the crop of advertisements was always the same: Vicco Vajradanti, Zandu Balm, Aseel Ghee, Harry’s Collection…and Digjam Suitings.
I distinctly remember, as a plump little NRI child, watching Shekhar Kapur in one Digjam ad applying toenail polish on a female model’s feet. In another one he made her breakfast in bed. At the time, I wondered why a dashing, bearded man did such things to placate his woman. A year-and-a-half into marriage I have no such lingering questions (Shoba Narayan has more advice on feet and women on Page L6).
Incidentally, two weekends ago, I was invited to a 1980s Bollywood theme costume party. The missus dressed up as a nurse in spotless white: Hema Malini in Satte pe Satta (1984). I was too lazy to rent anything from Maganlal Dresswala and instead went in all brown (open-necked shirt, T-shirt, trousers) with a moustache and a copy of Kathy Lette’s best-seller, How To Kill Your Husband. Surely, you can figure out who I was playing.
So many invitees wanted to be Kapur’s Mr India (1987) that the organizers had to run a reservation list of characters to prevent overlaps.
But of course there is much, much more to Kapur than his Digjam ads and the ever popular Mr India. Turn to our Profile to find out. Watch out for some precious sepia-tinted photographs of Kapur in his beardless youth.
And now, till next time, it is time for one more Japanese word: Sayonara.
Priya Ramani is away till August. Catch up on her travels at Blogs.livemint.com
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