Subscription Subscription
Home > Mumbai > Mumbai News > Article > Wasnt emulating Playboy by having Protima Bedi streaking for debut cover

'Wasn't emulating Playboy by having Protima Bedi streaking for debut cover'

Updated on: 29 September,2017 08:50 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Hemal Ashar |

Rita Mehta, daughter of the legendary Russi Karanjia, tells mid-day how Cine Blitz came up with the idea of having model-dancer Protima Bedi streak on the debut cover of Cine Blitz

'Wasn't emulating Playboy by having Protima Bedi streaking for debut cover'

The idea behind model and dancer Protima Bedi's controversial debut cover of the magazine Cine Blitz, where she was pictured streaking on Juhu beach, was not to emulate Playboy, says Rita Mehta, the former owner and publisher of the magazine. Rita is the daughter of the late Russi Karanjia, the honcho of magazine. When the publication was to be launched in 1974, they needed to create a blitzkrieg of sorts. Since a product, especially the first one, is judged by its cover, the idea was to "get an actress to streak," said Rita, who was just back from journalism school in England then.

Rita Mehta
Rita Mehta

Bringing in Bedi
Rita, who now divides her time between Mumbai and Dubai now added, "The idea was to create a splash. We were coming in quite late into a market which had a lot of competition, so how were we going to attract the buyer and reader?" Rita adds, "We thought of Protima Bedi because she was such an open-thinking lady, certainly way ahead of her time."

Also read: This invite-only Playboy Club in Mumbai is frequented by Bollywood celebs

"I asked her, would you do it? And she said, yes, why not? I did not expect an answer like, 'why not?' So, that was that then. We shot the streaking scene twice. Tyeb Badshah was the photographer. We also shot very early morning on the streets at Flora Fountain, which were eerily quiet at that hour," said Rita.

'Worked like magic'
"We shot the streaking scene at Juhu Beach. In the end, we used the beach scene for the cover. It worked like magic and that issue, which was a thick one, was a sell out. There was no talk of emulating Playboy then, but I guess people may have thought that we were; I can't say for sure."

Also read: Hugh Hefner dies, leaves behind a controversial and undying legacy

Rita, who is also the former owner and publisher of Cine Blitz, said about Hugh Hefner and Playboy, "A lot depends on the kind of owner a product has. The Blitz ran in my father Russi Karanjia's name. After his death, there was no Karanjia, no Blitz. In that way, it would be interesting to see how Playboy fares now. It was Hugh Hefner's image of an old man with beautiful women draped over him that kept it going," said Rita.

Also read: Sherlyn Chopra, who posed nude for Playboy, reacts to Hugh Hefner's death

I was utterly desperate to get out of advertising, I pleaded with Susheel to give me just six months with Debonair…I was hired. Salary? Rs 2,500 a month, plus a reasonable entertainment allowance. I was given a free hand to perform major surgery on the magazine with one condition: The seminude female 'centre spreads' would stay, and the semi-nude males would go. I agreed to the terms immediately...

Vinod Mehta
Vinod Mehta

While the odds seemed stacked against me, I had one slice of unexpected luck. The art director turned out to be a prodigy, even though he was deaf and dumb. To call MG Moinuddin talented would be an understatement... A couple of hours after talking to him, I knew I had a genuine professional to assist me. Unlike Moinuddin, I had read no books on design. Nevertheless, I recognised at once that Debonair needed a completely new look. Accordingly, I spent hours at the American Library at Churchgate plundering back issues of Esquire and the New Yorker and anything else I could lay my hands on. Close to my flat existed a lending library named Shemaroo... The owners reserved for me in dirty brown envelopes copies of Playboy and Penthouse.

Also read - Hugh Hefner dead: Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton mourn demise of Playboy founder

Any page whose design seemed striking, I photocopied. Soon, I accumulated sundry pages of neatly laid-out edit matter... Meanwhile, Moinuddin was collecting his own cuttings. We were a team.

Susheel Somani had mandated the inclusion of two nudes: the more ambitious, domestic centre spread and the syndicated foreign variety purchased from King Features for R40. I had decided early on to lift the concept of the one-to-one interview from Playboy. The rest of the magazine I would fill with upmarket literary, social and cultural stuff, plus an exhaustive reviews section. The design for the reviews section I copied mostly from the two British Sunday papers. Even before I sat on the chair, I accepted an inescapable reality: the Indian nudes in Debonair would be abominable. Cheap is a better word. Hippies, film extras, whores, out-of-work cabaret dancers and occasionally, girlfriends of photographers. We paid the princely sum of Rs 250 as model fee. And got what we paid for. This core deficiency I planned to compensate for with an 'intellectual' features section — highbrow, radical, lively and written, hopefully, by the best and the brightest...

In planning and commissioning the first issue, I faced a major hurdle. No one was prepared to contribute to Debonair. The early exit of the previous editor and the induction of one who had to his credit just two dubious paperbacks, one of which eulogized prostitutes, did not inspire confidence. The writers I contacted fobbed me off with let-me-see-your-first-issue excuses. I was left with no option but to write the entire issue under various pseudonyms. A junior copywriter I had hired at Jaisons pitched in with one article. I dispatched a begging letter to Tiger Pataudi to which, surprisingly, I got a positive reply. Once the main interview was fixed, the features were relatively easy to put together. 'The Woman I Fantasised About', the last page diary 'Psst . . .' which I logged under Gikki (a family pet name), 'The New Morality' . . . all came from a single pen. Mine.

In April 1974, when the first issue under my editorship hit the stands, the verdict 'not bad' did not displease me or the owners. Moinuddin had produced the first drawing board, conceived and designed publication in India with flair, style, coherence and a visual neatness never seen before. The use of large quotes and blurbs, the extensive utilization of free space, screen on text, clearly designated sections, five-letter drops, mini illustrations to provide relief, graphics, new copy font, pleased the reader's eye. Panna Jain, the country's foremost designer at the time, said to me, 'Fantastic. But I wish it wasn't a nude magazine.'

Also read: Playboy magazine founder, Hugh Hefner dies at the age of 91

Enter Ruskin Bond. Just as I joined Debonair, we started serializing Ruskin's novella The Sensualist. The Sensualist was a departure for Mr Bond, as he modestly explains: 'Just now and then I let my hair down and indulge in a little gentle ribaldry, but you can relax... I am not about to offer you a plateful of porn...'

The Sensualist turned into a cause célèbre. It was to India what the Lady Chatterley's Lover case was to Britain... In court, along with Ruskin, we produced doyens like Mulk Raj Anand, Vijay Tendulkar and Nissim Ezekiel to defend the literary merit of the novella. Mr Bond and The Sensualist got an honourable acquittal and Debonair got some honourable publicity as a publication which offered 'literature' as well as nude women.

With permission from Vinod Mehta's Lucknow Boy, published by Penguin.

Also view - Photos: 20 Playboy mates pose in different kinds of lingerie
Photos: 20 Playboy mates pose in different kinds of lingerie

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK