If a chaiwala boy grows up to become a Prime Minister of a great country, Bollywood has another example of a ricksha-wala rising up to become one of the most sought after and celebrated PROs of Bollywood – the largest film industry in the world.
The WORLD BOOK OF RECORDS (UK) has announced an exclusive honour to Raju Kariya as the BEST Bollywood PR of the Millenium. Kariya has been honoured for his outstanding contribution in Cultural and Entertainment cause by the Indo-British Cultural Forum, UK.
“I don’t consider it as an award… I consider it as a blessing from the Bollywood industry. The true beneficiary of this award is all the media of the Filmy Town in India,” says Raju Kariya, the humble, non-assuming PR who has been in the film industry for over 40 years having achieved a milestone of handling Press Relations for 900 film mahurats and over 500 films released.
Raju Kariya recounts his struggle in Bombay, friendship with struggling actors who are superstars of the present generation and narrates the highs and lows of his journey in Bollywood to Filmy Town:
If media had not supported me all along, I could never have made it to this level. Just imagine that at one call, the entire filmy town’s media – the print and electronic media and photographers who present themselves to attend and cover the event. This is so special…. It makes my client happy, the stars happy and I derive my happiness from this gesture of my loved press persons.
I was a star-struck boy who studied only up to 7th standard in Gujarati medium and landed up in Bombay only to face rebuke from his close relatives. From that day I made up my mind never to step into any of my relatives house and I would create new relatives myself in Bollywood.
YEVATMAL BOY BECOMES JEETENDRA’S FAN
Since my childhood I have been a Jeetendra’s fan. I came to Mumbai in 1975 from Yevatmal in Maharashtra and was a hard core Jeetendra fan. I have watched his film ‘Farz’ exactly 100 times and at that instance I have tattooed Jeetendra’s name on my forearm.
BEGIN’S LIFE IN BOMBAY AS AN AUTORICKSHAW DRIVER
It was at that time that when I called my friend working for ONGC – Raju Dhavle who came to pick me from Bandra station and insisted me to stay at his house. Dhavle’s younger brother used to drive auto rickshaw, so he suggested that during night hours I could drive the auto and make some money for my existence in Bombay.
FRIENDS WITH STRUGGLERS WHO ARE SUPERSTARS NOW
It so happened that during that period Aditya Pancholi, Govinda and Sumeet Sehgal were strugglers in Bollywood and having no vehicle, used to hire my auto for going to shootings. There I befriended Junior Artist supplier and hence I could also work as an ‘extra” during the hours these struggling actors performed their role on the sets. So it was a double bonanza for me – the auto meter was ticking at one side waiting for the actors to finish their shoots and on the other side I made quick money standing in the crowd scenes.
QUICK TO REALIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF MEDIA
It was there that I noticed that stars like Dharmendra, Dev Anand, Vinod Khanna and even Dilip Kumar get up and greet the press – media persons and I was awestruck to see such greats heap such respect for the media persons and greet them positively.
It was during that time that I learnt from the production guys that it is the PRO of the film who intimates and invites the press persons to come and cover the shooting of the greats of Bollywood. That day I was educated about what a PRO is and how he co-ordinates between the film stars and the media persons. At this point, it stuck me that this is an easy job giving decent money as well as an opportunity to hob-nob with the stars.
SUPPORT FROM JAUHAR, MITHILESH SINHA, JYOTI VENKATESH
I began taking down phone numbers of media persons and would like to specially mention that Z A Jauhar saab of Mayapuri, Sharad Rai (Movie Jagat), S. Khan (writer of Khiladi), Mithilesh Sinha who is now with Navbharat Times who supported me and also suggested tips to increase my contacts with the press.
Z A Jauhar told me not to worry about my less education and realizing that I was proficient only in Gujarati he recommended me to begin with Ramesh Jhaveri of Mumbai Samachar who created the press release in Gujarati which was then translated to hindi by Jauhar saab from which Jyoti Venkatesh translated into English. Thus now I could have one writeup translated in several languages.
PIONEERING THE INNOVATIVE STRATEGY
One day prior to calling the media for on location coverage, the previous evening I managed to rope in a journalist to cover the On-Location shooting and prepare the shooting report which was kept ready alongwith photographs of the movie stills (those days we had Black and White pics) to keep the packets ready for distributing the media persons coming the next day. This was never heard of those times. Here the media persons too lapped it up instantly…
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2…