He Rewrote The Rulebook: Amit Khanna On Pradeep Guha

Pradeep’s biggest contribution was his mentorship, says Amit Khanna, Writer & Filmmaker

Pradeep Guha was above cliches. From the time I first met him through a common friend, about four decades ago, Pradeep touched Indian media like no one before him. Mumbai born, St. Xavier’s educated could have been typical ‘Bhadra Lok.” He chose to be much more. He rewrote the rulebook whatever he did.

What we take for granted today, especially media- page three models, celebrities, media marketing look and feel of a publication. Beauty pageants, award shows, lavish parties, films and ad campaigns, he did it bigger and better than anyone before. Pradeep was the fountainhead of these more concepts. He redefined space selling into fine art. It was Pradeep who took India to the Cannes Lions. He also brought Ad Asia to India. He led several Industry organizations at some point or the other. He was one of the architects of the vast empire of the Times India Group. Never before a Media Executive exercised such power and outreach as Pradeep did. Seldom will any in the future.

Living a heady life, Pradeep had swag and chutzpah. But he also had his heart in the right place. He had started his career as a left-leaning young man but crossed over to business without losing sight of the first principles of egalitarianism. There are thousands of people who will remember him for that one gentle push, one little help or one introduction from him which altered their course. A man who demanded and received fierce loyalty, Pradeep’s shoulder was there for anyone to cry on. From the humble doorman at TOI Building to the highest names in Politics, Business, Films, Television, Advertising Fashion, Sport, Management and Journalism. Pradeep was often the first port of call. A crisis manager extraordinaire, Pradeep was a great explorer of the mindscape. Pradeep also possessed another quality- he never transgressed boundaries of ethics and relationships which is something one cannot say for many in these turbulent times.

Pradeep’s biggest contribution though was his mentorship. The number of people eulogizing him today is a testimony. There are dozens of Beauty Queens, many film stars and media professionals whom Pradeep moulded. From celebrating the sesquicentennial celebrations of Times of India or the countless Filmfare Awards, Miss Fermina and other conferences and summits which he pioneered. From Bennet Coleman, he moved to Zee and professionalized the largely family-run business. Meanwhile, he produced the sensitive ‘Fiza” starring Karishma Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan and Jaya Bachchan. He later turned into an entrepreneur when he took over the struggling 9 X TV channels. He set up a celebrity brand company. In spite of a hectic professional life, Pradeep was always there to share a friend’s joy or sorrow. A call, an email or a letter would often come unexpected and made many memories.

Right through the eighties and nineties, Pradeep and I (often with his charming wife Papia) would meet every alternate day. He was elated when baby Sanket entered Papia and his life. I could see the transformation of a hard-boiled executive into a doting father. Unfortunately, our professional preoccupations made our meeting less frequent but the warmth and comradery remained till the end. He helped me launch Plus Channel in 1989. We were there for each other always. The last time I met Pradeep was at my book launch was in December 2019. We had spoken a few weeks ago ruing that we had not met for over a year. I was in Delhi and had Covid and then broken back. He had promised to look me up soon. That was not to be.

For me, Pradeep Guha will remain there somewhere in the crevices of my mind. Some people are forever. Pradeep is one of that rare breeds.

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