“Neelesh Misra has changed course so many times, he’s like the river Brahmaputra,” said author and journalist Rahul Pandita, introducing his colleague and friend at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Most know Misra as the voice behind the popular radio show Yaadon Ka IdiotBox with Neelesh Misra which features inspirational stories written by him, and interspersed with hit romantic numbers of the day.
But before becoming a storyteller on radio, Misra had straddled several other professions. Now he has branched out from radio and started a rural newspaper. But Misra started off as a journalist, with a stint at Hindustan Times as well. He covered everything from the Kargil war to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to India’s insurgency lands – for which he even received a Ramnath Goenka Award for Excellence in Journalism. “But then this feeling started to rise in me that I wanted to do something else,” Misra said. “And so he just moved to Bombay and started a band,” added Pandita.
The band called Band Called Nine became India’s first writer-led band. “Someone gave me some money and told me that non-Bollywood music won’t work unless you launch an album. I suggested that let’s have a storytelling band instead,” Misra said. “The person said: ‘It’s a great idea, but it won’t work.’ That is one phrase that I’ve heard only too many times ever since.” It was after listening to one such act by the band that a radio producer approached him for a show. “I had no experience of being a radio presenter, but I agreed to a night slot,” he said. That decision would change the course of his life.
Watch: Storyteller-lyricist Neelesh Misra in conversation with HT
“I hadn’t realized how popular the show had become until listeners started calling in and telling us how the show had inspired them, given them hope, even changed their life,” he said, narrating an anecdote about a woman in a disastrous relationship who got the courage to break up and move on after listening to Misra’s stories on the show. In between it all, he also managed to pen the lyrics for some hit Bollywood numbers, such as Jaadu Hai Nasha Hai (Jism), Lamha Lamha (Gangster) and Kya Mujhe Pyaar Hai (Woh Lamha). “At one time, I became an expert at writing hit songs for really bad movies, such as Bepanah Pyaar Hai for Krishna Cottage,” he laughed.
After having dabbled in it all, he has now moved out of Bombay and started India’s biggest rural newspaper Gaon Connection. “I did miss journalism while I was in Bombay. That was part of the reason I started Gaon Connection. And somewhere, the hunger to write as a reporter, to travel as a reporter, still remains,” Misra told us later during a Facebook Live. Life for Misra seems to have come full circle. For the time being at least – until he moves on to his next adventure.
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