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Pinning Amar Singh down

My son, who has known Amar Singh since he was a child, says that whenever he feels a little low, he goes to Youtube and watches all the many interviews that Amar Singh has given over the years.

He says that Amar Singh is always so entertaining in front of a camera, that it cheers him up to watch Singh outwitting an interviewer.


And that, let’s be honest, is what Singh does. Interviewers go to see him with long lists of carefully prepared questions and try and look stern. But they never manage to get him to say anything that he does not want to.


   Singh is now a master of the media game. He knows how to side-track journalists by reciting couplets. He has learned how to distract interviewers by suddenly making an outrageous claim that they cannot ignore. As interviewers cross question him about this claim (usually something bogus along the lines of “Sonia Gandhi has been chasing me” or “I will join the BJP under certain circumstances”), they lose control of the interview and forget the questions they had intended to ask him.


   If this does not work, Amar Singh does impersonations or tells old, interesting (but completely irrelevant) anecdotes. Interviewers know this makes for good TV so they don’t stop him. And soon their allotted time is over and the interview has to end.


   I’ve known Amar Singh since 1988, when we both lived at Calcutta. In those days he was active in Congress politics in West Bengal and his most important friend was Subrata Mukherjee. He did not know the Bachchans, the Bajajs, the Ambanis or the Sahara Parivar. (Though he was close to K K Birla and UP Chief Minister Veer Bahadur Singh whom he brought to our offices).


   I don’t think even he could have predicted his rise. He certainly never dreamt of a situation where he would be courted by top film heroines; in those days, he was thrilled to be introduced to Moon Moon Sen at a party. And nobody imagined that he would become a multi-millionaire (I reckon his net worth today --- in white money ---is in excess of Rs 500 crore. His palatial four acre “farm” in Delhi alone is worth Rs. 200 crore).


"There are still loads of Amar Singh stories and secrets in the unused tapes lying in the CNNnews 18 editing rooms!"

   I have watched him rise. I’ve seen him do the sensible thing and leave the Congress for the Samajwadi Party. I’ve seen him become the country’s most important behind-the-scenes manipulator when his old pal HD Deve Gowda was Prime Minister. I’ve watched as he persuaded Mulayam Singh not to back the Congress and watched as he pushed the country into an unnecessary election when AB Vajpayee’s government felt after a no-confidence motion.


   Not only has he made friends with the famous and the powerful, he has come to dominate their lives. There was a stage when Amitabh Bachchan would not make a move without checking with Amar Singh. Industrialist pals of his would not meet old friends if they thought Amar Singh would disapprove. Mulayam listened blindly to everything Amar Singh said to the extent his own family felt neglected.


   A few years ago, all that changed. Mulayam finally dropped him, under pressure from his brother Ramgopal and such party leaders as Azam Khan. All his other famous friends followed suit. When Amar Singh was admitted to hospital on one occasion, the ever loyal Jayaprada tearfully told the TV cameras how upset she was that his one-time friends, whom he had helped so much, did not have the grace to visit him in hospital.


   Amar Singh doesn’t really talk about all this to interviewers. He jokes, he teases, he drops hints but he never lets the truth tumble out. Every statement, no matter how spontaneous it seems, is calculated.


   When I went to interview him for Virtuosity I was determined not to let him get away with the usual poetry and evasion. To my surprise, Amar Singh was finally ready to talk.


   One by one, the stories tumbled out: why he really fell out with Jaya Bachchan, how he was humiliated by Subroto Roy and how he could never regain his old place in the Samajwadi Party now that Akhilesh was in charge: a generational charge had taken place.


   He tried the evasiveness of old: when asked about Donald Trump’s charge that he had funnelled millions of dollars to the Clintons, he weaved and he bobbed. But even there, the truth slipped through the cracks.


   We got enough for a one hour interview. One of my great regrets was having to sit with Ninay Desai, my series producer, and hack it down to fit Virtuosity’s half hour slot.


   But just so that you know: there are still loads of Amar Singh stories and secrets in the unused tapes lying in the CNNnews 18 editing rooms!




  • Pepe_Frog 07 Oct 2016

    Can you post the Hillary part with English sub titles on twitter ?

    This would create a massivebuzz in the US election season.

  • Bhaktjan 30 Aug 2016

    You have a half hour slot on tv, not the internet, upload that stuff up on youtube! Wonder why you haven't already, I am sure the idea occurred to you or at least someone from your staff must've brought it up.

  • Ramakrishna 30 Jul 2016

    Thoroughly enjoyed bthe interview. Vintage Vir Sanghvi. So happy to see you on TV, Vir Sanghvi.

Posted On: 30 Jul 2016 03:47 PM
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