‘Times of India’s film critic Nikhat Kazmi lost a bitter battle with cancer on Friday morning.Narayani Ganesh, her longtime colleague and Editor of The Speaking Tree pays her a tribute.
When I went up to Nikhat in her cubby hole on the third floor with the proposal that she write for the new ‘happy’ Sunday newspaper that was to launch soon, she didn’t bat an eyelid. “Sure,” she said, smiling. “How many words do you want and what’s the deadline?” And so the very first issue of the Sunday Speaking Tree on February 28, 2010, was launched with Nikhat’s story as its lead.
In ‘Reel Soup For The Soul’ she effortlessly walked the reader through deep spiritual insights that ran like subterranean streams beneath the plots in recently released films like Avatar, The Dark Knight, My Name Is Khan and Three Idiots. And the last issue of that year, on December 26, once again had Nikhat sharing her views on why we are no longer shy of admitting shades of grey in our celluloid heroes. She called it ‘Nothing Absolute,’– referring to films like Dabangg, Rajneeti, Raavan, The Immortal, Inception and Wall Street 2 whose protagonists, unlike conventional ‘good boy’ heroes, revealed negative streaks. ‘
‘Nikhat Kazmi might have grown to become an iconic film critic through the columns of The Times of India but to most of us in the Times family, the taciturn lady from Allahabad was an ever-obliging colleague. She would happily pitch in with stories or editorials on entertainment, drawing on her daunting reserve of information from having seen thousands of films and interacted with as many creative people from the industry.
From reporter and special correspondent to head of The Sunday Times of India (STOI), Delhi Times and more recently the Newspaper In Education edition of TOI, her versatility as writer and editorial leader has never been in question.
A colleague who was a rookie foreign affairs desk person when Nikhat was leading STOI recollects one Saturday night when she failed to make the designated page despite the deadline drawing dangerously close. Unable to deliver, she went to Nikhat and confessed, wringing her hands in despair.
“Nikhat was so cool,” she remembers. “All she said was, ‘Show me the page. Here, put this picture there; cut four lines from here, shorten that heading…’ Lo and behold, it was all done in a matter of minutes. She could have yelled at me or something, but she didn’t.”
Always elegantly turned out, she would acknowledge your greeting with a nod, her kohl-lined eyes creasing into a smile that would vanish just as soon as it appeared, as she focused on work at hand. Her trademark attire was those neatly starched chikan-worked kurtas and churidars and long skirts when she was not the lady in black.
We’ll miss you Nikhat.’Critic Nikhat Kazmi Times of India