Noted media critic, columnist Amita Malik dead (Lead)

February 21st, 2009 - 1:09 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 20 (IANS) Amita Malik, a veteran radio journalist, columnist and film critic, died in New Delhi Friday. She was 88 and had been ailing for the last two weeks.
Often described as the “first lady of Indian journalism”, Malik was known for her incisive interviews of celebrities, her columns on media and films, and her acerbic style.

She began as radio broadcaster in Lucknow before Independence and later moved to Delhi.

According to senior journalist Sevanti Ninan, Malik created for India the first media critic.

“She was a pioneering media critic who wrote about all the three mediums - films, television and radio,” Ninan told IANS.

She was married to All India Radio journalist and columnist Iqbal Malik from whom she separated later. The couple was childless.

She narrated colourful details of her personal life, including her strained relationship with her husband with whom she kept in touch all through her life, in her autobiography “No Holds Barred”.

In course of her career spanning nearly six decades, she interviewed both national and international celebrities like Satyajit Ray, Elia Kazan, Akira Kurosawa, Marlon Brando, David Niven and Alfred Hitchcock.

Recalling her first television interview with Alfred Hitchcock, Malik said in an autobiographical article, “I am always proud of the fact that my first interview was with Alfred Hitchcock, and that I not only survived it, but it gave me a lot of confidence.”

She was a freelancer for The Statesman which was then edited by Evan Charlton, a British journalist. She reviewed films and later interviewed celebrities for the daily.

Malik, who was born in Assam, also reported for the BBC and wrote a book on Bangladesh titled “Year of the Vulture”. Before her death, she wrote a column on television in The Pioneer.

“She also served on many national film juries and the International Film Critics Jury more than once,” Ninan said.

In the early 1970s, she was a columnist for The Hindustan Times. Though she was a freelancer all her life, she wrote for all the leading publications, including the Indian Express and the Times of India.

“I knew Amita for a long time. She set the note for film criticism in India. She crticised wherever criticism was due and was very witty,” former editor of The Khaleej Times and The Indian Express S. Nihal Singh told IANS.

Singh recalled though Malik had a very difficult life, she kept in touch with her ex-husband Iqbal Malik.

“When I was editing the Indian Express, I gave her husband a column to write. He was on the loose end. But I later came to know that she had written in her autobiography that she appreciated me for asking her ex-husband to write a column,” said Nihal Singh, who worked with her in The Statesman during the 1960s.

Later, when The Times of India stopped publishing her column, she approached Singh on whether he would carry her column in his paper. “I said I would be absolutely delighted.”

Former editor of The Statesman Kuldip Nayar, who worked with her between 1967-1975, said Malik’s death was a loss to the aesthetic world.

“When I was the editor of The Statesman, her media criticisms and reviews were the pulling point for the paper. We used to get a lot of mails for her criticisms,” Nayar told IANS.

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