Friday, 11 June 2021

Sridevi and Aamir Khan led the revamp of MOVIE magazine back in 1989: Editor Dinesh Raheja reflects on Top Ten Bestsellers

After an online chat with pioneering film magazine editor Dinesh Raheja, who helmed MOVIE magazine with such erudite and informed precision, topped with skillful visual story-telling, here's looking back at the best Bollywood film magazine covers of ALL time! In fact, for my money's worth, the best film magazine India ever produced; MOVIE. 

A fan favourite of Indian cinema buffs, it was also a magazine all Mumbai film stars willingly picked up and made time for - especially if/when they knew it might be a potential cover shoot with a novel twist.  

Celebrities went to the MOVIE magazine office to chat with fans (not to beat up writers, cough cough Dharmendra! Saif Ali Khan!! - we remember all!!!). They experimented with looks, they stripped down for controversial covers, they spoke at length about sensitive matters, they knew they wouldn't be misquoted and they knew they wouldn't have to deal with amateurs boring them with inane q's about alleged affairs, speculative dalliances or anything that made for an ill-mannered retinue of queries. 

MOVIE magazine was fun, informative, it had a bird's eye view of where the audience was heading, it heard the rhythm from the pulse of the cine-going nation. It let Madhuri Dixit know that Juhi Chawla was breathing down her neck with four hits in a row including the box-office triumph of Darr and an award-winning turn at Hum Hai Rahi Pyar Ke. But what really set the tone and alerted all that chirpy Chawla had reached the pinnacle, a whopping majority of votes as a fan-favourite in MOVIE magazine's annual opinion poll issue. The people had spoken; there was a new Queen of Bollywood in 1994. 

In fact, the annual opinion poll issue was the most anticipated edition of the year - no less than an award  for any star, if they topped the pyramid with the highest percentage of votes. The special editions were collector's items, the photo essays were no less than modern art. The late greats - Gautam da, Jagdish Mali - famed Indian photographers all contributed and put their stamp on the magazine with glossy portraits of the most beautiful faces of Indian cinema; the legends, the taste-makers, the movers, the shakers. 

Before remakes were popular, it brought Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna together for an Anand reunion - in print. When an unbecoming tragedy occurred with the death of 19-year-old Divya Bharti, they pulled together a commemorative issue that was both respectful and factual - editing out all speculation and deleting all bat-s*** conspiracy theories. The team had a refreshing take for film journalism in India, facts, not just biased opinions, informed reportage, not just reams of gossip columns.   

When the magazine dwindled down with the unceremonious exit of Raheja (and Jitender Kothari), a rich chapter of Bollywood history closed; the recorders of cinematic history and news were muted (albeit temporarily as all the writers and editors found new platforms later on). 

For a nostalgic jog down memory lane, here's a retrospective of the Top Ten bestselling MOVIE magazine issues. 

Starting off with simply the best of Bollywood; Sridevi and Aamir Khan in the 1989 revamp issue that set the template for the decade to come;

Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna reunited - what a coup! 

Above Left: Pooja Bhatt painted by Ana Singh for MOVIE magazine's March 1995 cover - a cover that got many in so much trouble!  
Above Right: Annie Leibovitz shot Demi Moore nude - but covered in a painted three-piece suit, published in August 1993. 

The boys of Bollywood; Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt and Chunky Pandey

Death of a Dream; Divya Bharti

"We rarely used stock pics and I would be present to ensure that pics were executed as I had visualised them. The photographers I worked regularly were Jagdish Mali, Rakesh Shrestha and Gautam Rajadhakshya,"  Dinesh Raheja

The most polished and sophisticated sex symbol of the 1990s in Bollywood; Urmila Matondkar. She may not have invented the pout; but she perfected it.

The enfant terrible of Hindi cinema; the easily misled Sanjay Dutt

All hail the uncrowned Queen of Bollywood and box-office; Sridevi.

"Sridevi in a golden turban - in fact I did six to seven covers with Sridevi and all were runaway successes!"

The girl next door went for bold in a career-defining year; Juhi Chawla's sexiest avatar for a magazine

The smile that lit the screens; insuppressible Madhuri Dixit, the gauche ingenue to the sophisticate leading lady.

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