It was the dawn of the new millennium, and a website added another word (though presently much maligned) to the Indian public’s vocabulary, sting operation. Then came (though not entirely unexpected) the witch hunt. Tehelka managed to put the pieces back together and came up with a tabloid-sized weekly. Then there was “a rumour doing the rounds that the magazine is dying.” Whether it was because of the truth behind the rumour or the limitations of the existing format, Tehelka has attempted yet another phoenix act, this time as a magazine.
I was going somewhere in an autorickshaw, when I noticed a little girl at a traffic light trying to sell a magazine with the Tehelka masthead, but the size looked different. Before I could get a closer look, the lights turned green. Then came a mail from Shivam announcing the transition. I picked up a copy in Shillong (where I had gone for a little break) and on my return to Delhi asked my newspaper vendor to deliver a copy on my doorstep every week. Though for a official subscription I would have paid only Rs 200 a year, then the copies would’ve arrived late – a compromise I’m not willing to make. Even though it might be the end of the next week that I pick up the copy to read.
One thing is for sure with the new Tehelka – it is by far the best designed of all of the mainstream weekly newsmagazines. The blue-grey theme looks sophisticated. Liberties have been taken regarding the layout and there’s considerable white space play like I have seen in some of the newspaper supplements published from London (I read them at the British Library in Bhopal). Even Frontline made an attempt towards this direction (but the magazine somehow fails to sustain my interest).
And page one is not the usual contents and the printline, but ‘In Cold Blood’ – excerpts from an in-the-face interview. I first thought that some pages were missing.
Flip through a few pages and there are some innovations. One is ‘Ask?’ and the experts will answer. There have been similar initiatives in the newspapers, but I didn’t notice one in a newsmagazine. Though there are the mandatory (and sleazy) agony aunt/uncle columns in the other magazines.
The next is what I liked the best – ‘Whatever Happened To…’ – which traces the present status of stories which had once hogged the headlines. Stories like the Purulia Arms Drop, Kashmir Sex Scandal, Imrana… a good attempt at recalling important happenings which a so easy to forget where everything is breaking news.
Other pages do not reveal much of a departure from the Tehelka that I’ve known since the last three-and-a-half years. The necessary eye-candy corner is there towards the end (one of the reasons why I read magazines from rear-to-front).
Though I had expected a revival in the new format, I was a little disappointed (but just). Had expected a more vibrant Tehelka. But the chilli has given way to the crow. Even the printing is a bit gloomy like Ram Gopal Varma’s frames.
The good thing is that the new size makes it handier to read and the price at Rs 10 a copy is far lesser than the other weeklies of the genre. Though I wouldn’t like Tehelka to come up with a stupid sex survey issue, I want it to be able to turn a casual reader to a concerned reader, who wouldn’t just flip through stories which deserve to be read.
The space given to the news of the week is limited to just a page. Atleast two pages would do a little justice to someone who has been away for the madness of ‘breaking news’ or someone who wants to know which amongst the hundreds of ‘breaking stories’ are actually worth the airtime (And the ones which remained unbroken). Excuse my peevishness towards today’s television news, I just cannot help it.
Tehelka has also launched a Hindi website – tehelkahindi.com – which promises to raise the bar of Hindi journalism. Hope it does and would some at least promise to do the same to our 24-hours news channels.