19 February, 2012

An Interview with Anish Trivedi

The best way to introduce Anish Trivedi would be to pull up his bio from his Twitter account @Anish_Trivedi (see below). I've known Anish for the last year or so, only through Twitter, and what really impressed me, besides his approachability and the fact that he is always there to help, is that he can take a joke on himself as well as make one (especially on a public platform), and for me that says a lot about a person. 

Seeing how multitalented Anish is, I requested him to answer a few questions for my readers so that we can get to know him and also share some of the knowledge he has acquired over the years;
Hello Anish. Thank you very much for taking out the time to answer our interview questions. Jumping straight in, as mentioned above, you have worked/participated in many fields (education, VJ, theater, radio, business, investment banking, writer), what has been the most satisfying work professionally and personally?

I began as an investment banker, something I did for 15 years, and I’d be kidding myself if I weren’t to admit that the financial compensation you get in that industry is hard to beat. But I found that wasn’t enough for me after a while, and I needed to be doing something I enjoyed. At a time when radio didn’t exist in India, we founded Banyan Tree, a company that’s been at the forefront of cutting edge radio, whether in terms of programming or platforms. I’m very proud of the fact that we were the first Indian company to do internet radio for the Indian diaspora, the first to do satellite radio, the first to do mobile radio. On the personal front, I’d say it’s my first play, Still Single, and my first novel, Call Me Dan, that make me glad I do what I do.

You were one of the very first Video Jockeys (VJs) that this country had. Now, music channels are filled with either film adverts or teenage dramas or reality shows and negligible music. Do you miss the good-old-days or has TV just progressed with time and represents the present society?

When Meghna and I started hosting Mangta Hai on Channel V, there was nothing like it on Indian television. We took the request show format and turned it on its head. Unfortunately, music channels now don’t bother about the music, preferring to compete with every other station with formats that range from soap operas to reality shows. I’d hate to think that this is all we want as a viewing audience. I think it’s more representative of the laziness that creeps into a programming team. Family drama does well on a GEC format, so let’s do teen drama on music television. Reality shows rock, so let’s forget about rock ‘n’ roll. And unfortunately, it’s getting to be that way on radio too.

I came to know you through Twitter. You are also one of the few hands-on celebrities on Twitter that interacts with his/her followers. Why this interest in Twitter? Is it a business tool, or just a personal pastime, or as some people say, simply waste of time?

I had to set up a Twitter account in 2010 because I was a part of an international online tasting panel choosing the cask that would be Glenfiddich’s Vintage Reserve that year. We were scattered across the world, but put our tasting notes up on Twitter in real time. I let it languish for a long while after that, but then found myself drawn into conversations with people like you, about topics as diverse as political inaction and single malt whisky. I’ve never met most of the people with whom I interact, and I probably never will. But they offer me a point of view that’s different, and one that I thoroughly enjoy receiving. But the day you get me tweeting about my personal life or what I had for breakfast, please, shoot me.

You've written a piece of fiction called Call Me Dan which to me is a humorous look at the changing lifestyles of India. Where did the want to write a book originate and where did the idea for the character of Dan come from? Also, can we expect some new literary works from you in the future?

Call Me Dan came from just that changing lifestyle that we’re seeing in India today. Like Gautam, the protagonist in the novel, there is an entire generation that is earning more money than its parents ever did, is spending it in places like bars where its parents would never dream of entering, and yet goes home every night to the value systems of a traditional middle class upbringing in India. There is a huge dichotomy in the lives of kids today. My parents’ generation may have been the first to live in a free India, but it’s this generation today that is really embracing freedom, both economic and social. I write about contemporary India, the one in which you and I live. Gautam, and Dan, are the guys who are this generation, and that’s why I like them, and the women they date.

The next novel has been slow in starting, only because it’s sometimes difficult to balance running a business and taking the time off to go and write. But I know what, and about whom, I want to write. So if I spend less time this year doing online interviews (he said, with a straight face), I’m hoping to start writing the damned thing soon.

We would love to know a little bit about your "origins". Where were you born, your childhood, your life in a paragraph or two?

I used to begin by saying I was born a poor black child, but Steve Martin stole that line and used it in a movie. Less interestingly, I grew up in Mumbai in a good Gujarati family. Parents who neither drank, smoked or allowed meat to cross their threshold. By the standards of wealth we see in this country today, I guess we’d be classified middle class, but then in those days we were all middle class because the government taxed away all our money. Twelve years of school at Cathedral where I learnt to write, run and play rugby. Economics and international relations at the University of Southern California, where I learnt that not all Americans are as ignorant as the international press makes them out to be, that I will never understand baseball but I love American football, and that Jack Daniels and I are never going to be friends.

You have been working in and around the entertainment industry for quite a long time. Any anecdotes that you can share, with or without names?

You mean like going on the road for a radio documentary with Jethro Tull and drinking with Ian Anderson? And having him sing snatches of Thick As A Brick in a Bangalore bar to a young lady who went on to win an international beauty contest and then become an actress, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more? Or the newsreader who forgot to switch off her body mic while she did a cameraman in the green room? Now, really! How could I possibly have such stories?

Now, adding to your many talents is that you are also a playwright. Recently, you started work/performance on another Play that you have written. Tell us a little something about the Play and where can one get to see it. Also, do you think theater is a dying art in India or does it still have a strong hold on society?

I wrote my first play, Still Single, because of a bet. I was told then that all I wrote were newspaper columns and that I knew nothing about what went into the creative process of theatre. So I decided to write the play. Seventeen rewrites later, we put it on stage. Had it not done well, I’d probably have slunk off and gone back to propping up bars, but it did do well so a year later, I wrote my next play, One Small Day. And most recently, we opened my third play, Famous Last Words.

Famous Last Words is a black comedy about an author who hasn’t written anything for the past 5 years, and ends up depending on his ex-wife to help him get his life back in place. Of course the only place he’d like it to be is the nearest bar. And no, there is no autobiographical element in it.

Theatre in India? It’s not quite dying, but it certainly needs life support. There are no theatres. In any other part of the world, you’d write a play, book a theatre, and do shows for many months. Here, you try and get one weekend at the NCPA, finally do after a year of trying, and then sit down to write your play. Thinking of it as a career option? Don’t.

As I run a travel blog, I can't help but ask for your favourite places in the world and why they are so special?

Ah, Scotland for sure. Apart from the fact that I love single malt whisky, it’s a place I’ve been going to for the past 15 years, and one I try to visit at least once a year. I fell in love with it the first time down in Argyll, and I think it’s just the raw nature of the land that draws me to it. Well, yes, that and a steady supply of damned fine whisky.

Whisky and Cigar, more so "Good" Whisky and Cigar have always been special for you. When and how did this love affair start? What tips would you give to first-timers who want to enjoy these finer things in life? 

I got lucky. Most kids start out with rum and cola or beer in their teens. I only started drinking, really, when I went to university. And instead of beginning at the bottom, my eye, and my palate, latched onto a bottle of Glenfiddich, which was pretty much the only single malt you could buy in the US in those days. And 32 years later, I’m still drinking it. I drink beer, wine and vodka as well, but it almost always comes down to good malt for me. Cigars too. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I enjoy cigars, and have for coming on a couple of decades now.

I’ve always said that there’s no such thing as a bad whisky. It’s just that there are some that are better. If you’re starting out, drink the best you can. Life’s too short to waste on something that’s not worth it. Try different whiskies, from different regions and with different finishes, to see what you like. The same with cigars.

And ignore the snobs. You will be surrounded by know-it-alls who will tell you there is only one brand of cigar you should smoke, or that you’re drinking the wrong whisky. Be polite. Don’t tell them where to stick it. But just do what you enjoy. And spit in their glass when they’re not looking.

This next one is probably the most clich├ęd question, but still, if you were to tell the younger generation one thing that you have learnt from your life, what would it be?

Follow your dreams for sure. But make sure you have enough money to pay the rent and feed the kids before you do. Passion doesn’t pay the bills. And at some point, your parents won’t either.

Since this is a film blog, we cannot let you go without telling us your top 3 favourite films? Just to make it easy, we would like 3 International (English/Non-English) films and 3 Indian Films please?
International- On The Waterfront, Scent Of A Woman, Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
Indian- Aradhana, Mera Naam Joker, Sahib Biwi Aur Gulam.

Thank you, once again, Anish for taking out precious time from your schedule to answer the above questions. I look forward to having numerous more fun conversations over Twitter and hopefully meeting you in real someday.

I strongly encourage everyone on Twitter (no matter where you are from) to follow @Anish_Trivedi.


  1. Thanks for making me aware of such a great personality. :)

  2. Even I was unaware about many of these facts about Anish Trivedi. Thank you kindly for your time Sir :)

    1. I thought the same thing the more I interacted with him.

  3. Really enjoyed reading that interview Raghav. Thanks for putting it together.

    "Follow your dreams for sure. But make sure you have enough money to pay the rent and feed the kids before you do. Passion doesn’t pay the bills. And at some point, your parents won’t either." - sound advice! :)

    1. Thanks Dan. A rather interesting person isn't he?