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King of gossip

He’s had top Bollywood stars running for cover. Nari Hira reveals why he’s the undisputed high-priest of tabloids.

india Updated: Dec 05, 2009 20:09 IST
Hiren Kotwani

Nari Hira, the owner of the Mumbai-based Magna Publishing Co. Ltd, pioneered the trend of tabloid journalism in India with the monthly magazine Stardust. And earned himself more foes than friends from the industry.

Point this out to him and he laughs, “It doesn’t bother me. I’ve never buried a juicy story for the sake of friendship.” With Stardust, he needed a peg that would set it apart. Competition was keen with several movie glossies jostling for space. But with its monthly ‘exposes’, Hira turned Stardust into the highest-selling film magazine. Today, he says, we have so many ‘me toos’ along the lines of Stardust, and that includes daily entertainment supplements and channels as well. “So if Shah Rukh Khan bans my magazine, he now has other voices to air his views,” he says.

“The stars today don’t need us as badly as we need them. But to our credit, we’ve kept the bridges open and continue to get interviews with all the top names, month after month, thanks to the individual rapport our reporters have built with these stars over the years,” he says.
He recently launched another magazine, Star Week. There’s a possibility that he may be starting an afternoon paper too. Even though he has a movie coming out in a few weeks, Accident On Hill Road, Nari Hira’s heart still beats for magazines and their scoops. He gives us his take on several tinsel stars whom he took on in the pages of his glossies down the decades.

Accident On Hill Road is inspired by a hollywood film’
Accident On Hill Road is inspired by a Hollywood film but it’s not a blatant copy. We’ve gone the legal way and officially bought the rights. I can’t reveal the name because the film is a thriller, but it’s earned acclaim and won many awards abroad. We’ve acknowledged it in the opening credits. It’s not as if there’s a dearth of original scripts. But this subject appealed to me hugely and I felt it could be adapted for an Indian audience.

‘Nishi Prem carried the Mithun-Sridevi marriage story without telling me’
When Nishi Prem was the editor of Stardust, she was friendly with Mithun Chakraborthy. He confided in her that he had married Sridevi. She carried the story a month later, without telling me about it. Mithun lambasted Nishi for not keeping the information confidential in the next issue of Stardust. He also banned the magazine.

‘Anupam Kher, who slapped my reporter, is a friend now’
Anupam Kher slapped one of our journalists, Troy Robeiro, after we printed a story of him and Mamta Kulkarni’s sister, Mithila. We stood by the story and our reporter. And we banned him for five years. Today, he’s a very good friend. He’s working in my next film, Apartment.

‘I told Amitabh Bachchan I’d wanted his film to flop’

During the Emergency, we used to have meetings at a Hotel Nataraj. At these gatherings, copies of Stardust with passages marked out were passed around. Lots of threats were made at that time. Once, a gun was held to someone’s head because of an article that was printed.

It was around this time that one evening Amitabh Bachchan marched into my house in London, without so much as a by your leave. Angry words were exchanged. We realised that there were other people involved too, people like V C Shukla, the then Information and Broadcasting Minister, who had said that he’d hang me in a public square. Bachchan insisted he’d had nothing to do with what Shukla had said. He said it was a question of bureaucrats overstepping their boundaries.
As Bachchan was leaving, he told me to keep what had just happened to myself. I did. But then he blurted it all out to my editor, Prochi Badshah. When I reminded him about our silence pact, he told me to forget about it.

Then, after he had an accident on the sets of Coolie, we wrote an item on him. We met after he recovered. I told him I had wanted his films to flop, I certainly didn’t want him to die. He found that amusing.

‘Mamta Kulkarni cover was our biggest hit’

The cover featuring Mamta Kulkarni with a pair of hands covering her bare breasts created a real flutter, but it was


biggest hit ever. It’s remembered even today.