Gautam Bhattacharya,one of India’s finest journalists was raised in the early sixties in downtown Chennai.Gautam was born in Kolkata and lived with the family at Motilal Nehru Road ,a stone’s throw from Deshapriya Park.But the family moved out to MGRLand in the midsixties where Gautam effectively spent his childhood.Father,a Senior Accounts Officer with the Central Government,had a transferrable job .Service compulsions led him to travel extensively all over India.Yet he took time off to initiate Gautam in the field of games and sports.
Those were the days of great Ramnathan Krishnan.The senior Krishnan after taking India to the Davis Cup Challenge Round in 1966 had assumed an iconic status in the city.Krishnan had come down to play in the local tennis court opposite where the Bhattacharyas’ lived.Wideeyed (he still claims he is )and completely starstruck Gautam found in krishnan his first sporting hero!The virus gripped him so much that the family took no time to discover , irrespective of the academic brightness the little boy had shown sports would be his chosen field of endeavour.The family shifted its base to downtown South Kolkata ,following another job transfer.But it only fuelled the little boy’s ambition further–of becoming a leading sportsman !
The task was cut out clearly -Represent Mohun Bagan in Football Or Cricket for India.
Gautam completed his schooling from one of Kolkata’s heritage schools–Ballygunge Govt High School.For gradution he choose St Xavier’s ,an institution which had always caught his fancy even at the school.
He was to appear for the most important test of his life,The Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management entrance examination in January’83.Seven days before the examination,when the preparation was in full swing he landed himself an interview with the then Telegraph Editor M J Akbar .What followed was to shape his life forever.As he was asked to join the same day.
The IISWBM exam went for a toss.But the decision,as the future indicated wasn;t such a costly miss !
What do they have in common ? Well,they have all been exclusively interviewed at some given point of time in their lives by one Gautam Bhattacharya !
In a twenty nine year long career Gautam has so often created a stir —- produced major exclusive interviews or international scoops that there is simply no parallel in Bengali journalism.Even at the all India level ,his stories and articles are given so much importance that on any given day there are English sports journalists,all over India waiting eagerly to get a translation of what he has reported in today’s ABP !
He also had the rare journalistic experience of chasing Princess Diana along with the paparazzi in downtown Lahore .Was threatened by The D gang inside Dawood’s cabin at Sharjah.Was threatened by the bookies in a betting infected Karachi.Is the only Indian journalist who holds the distiction of holding a century partnership with Sunil Gavaskar.His candid face to face with The ex Bangladesh President Mohammad Ershad at Dhaka and an interview with the author in exile ,ever controversial Taslima Nasreen almost brought about a political crisis in Bangladesh.His interview with Imran khan in ‘The Sunday’ magazine created so much stir (as it had criticised the then Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto) that the Pakistan Assembly discussed at length and had decided to ban the magazine in Pakistan.
His super exclusive story of Greg Chappell’s e mail to the Board against Sourav Ganguly was to change the fortunes of Indian Cricket completely. ‘Times of India ‘,supposedly a competitor had termed the story ;The mother of all exclusives. He went on to win an All India Journalists’ award for the same.Gautam,incidentally is also the only Bengali journalist to have the distinction of his stories getting carried reprinted by the legendary Wisden.Viv Richards possibly gave Gautam the most candid interviews he has ever given.In one of these interviews Viv had taken a dig at Bradman and was so brutally frank that it fetched Gautam the’ Interview of the year’ award.Previously as back as in 1993 another of his Viv interviews made waves at the international level.
Viv admitted during the course of that sensational one on one that he indeed was the father of Neena Gupta’s child!The conversation, duly translated was published in some of the British newspapers. In another instance, in 1990, English tabloids had reproduced Gautam’s intimate conversation with Peter Graf,the father of Steffi Graf.At the same Wimbledon,Gautam managed to get Jimmy Connors’ exclusive one on one.A feat, till date no one has repeated in India.
Now please add up the experience of covering six Cricket World Cups.A staggering number of test series,One day internationals,cricket tours all over the world.Of covering Wimbledon and the US Open.Of interviewing all the top Bollywood stars.Of being’ Desh’ Patrika’s youngest columnist to do a hugely popular column for the magazine for seven consecutive years.
To him also goes the credit of authoring 19 books most of which went on to become huge box office hits. For quite a few popular journalists the authors’ hat has not been equally productive.But with Gautam, that has not happened Every year,.before the start of the Kolkata Book Fair ,thousands eagerly await his new release!
Isn’t that a journalistic experience of a lifetime !
Gautam is one of those rare journalists who has never ever ventured out of 6,Prafulla Sarkar Street.He has heard the famous song many a times’,Who knows what happens tomorrow’.
Yet he says,he feels completely at home here and can’t think of a life beyond Mr Aveek Sarkar the Chief Editor of ABP.Mr Sarkar has always been extremely supportive and the biggest guiding influence in his career.
He had joined the organization way back in 1983,January as a Trainee Journalist with The Telegraph and six months later got an offer from Ananda Bazar Patrika to join them.From 1985 onwards,his career has been on the upswing.He was de facto the number two in Sports department when he accepted a challenge to temporarily move out of Sports and redesign his career as the Head of Saturday Special Patrika.
For the last fourteen years Gautam has been at the helm of Patrika and from 2002 handles a dual responsibility of also managing Sports.Even after quitting the Sports Department ,Gautam was asked to contribute regularly and kept on covering all the majors for the paper including Cricket World Cups.The offer to head the Sports Department,as far as he was concerned was not Godsent that way.But someone,who was always keen to pursue professional challenges,he accepted the bait.
Today he also performs as a Sports Analyst with Star Ananda. A role which has made him connect more directly with his thousands and thousands of supporters .For all practical purposes it opened up another window in his already colourful journalistic life…
Journalism was nowhere in Gautam’s radar once stepped onto his teens. Rather he fancied a Bank officer’s job which would allow him to play football for Mohun Bagan or Cricket for India.Please remember the era in which he grew up,a banker’s job was considered ideal for sportspersons. He started off well as a sportsman but ended pretty early with the realization that he was good but not good enough for India!
While he was only seventeen,Gautam was representing Dakshin Kalikata Sansad in the Senior Division Cricket League.He played League Cricket for another four years before giving it up altogether.The cricketing career which began with Ballygunge Govt High School at the Summer School Cricket in Eden Gardens ended when he was only 21.Remarkable that many begin their career at 21!In football he played upto third division for Sarat Samity.But clearly,he had showed much more promise in Cricket as a wicketkeeper batsman
In the later years Gautam did turn out for Office and the East Zone Journalists’ Team at the All India J K Bose Trophy.For the journalist team he recorded a dream he wanted to achieve from his childhood days Of getting an unbeaten hundred at the Eden Gardens.The opponent bowling attack comprised of the formidable Subroto Guha,Samar Chakraborty and Soumen Kundu.As a captain he led them to victory at Chandigarh.”An away series win is always more refreshing than a home series victory,”he was to quip after receiving the All India J K Bose trophy from Navjyot Singh Sidhu.
But if you asked him,what so far has constituted the biggest thrill in his twentysix year old journalistic career ,he would invariably talk about recording a century partnership at Cape Town in 1992.
Gautam scored 70 and the batsman at the other end,as normal as it has been all his life went on to get a hundred.The opponents were the formidable South African Journalists .And Gautam’s partner at he other end was the legendary Sunil Gavaskar!Till date Gautam maintains he is ready to forego all his exclusives for the same experience.
Gautam ,even away from the office desk top leads a very hectic social life.He was the President of the Calcutta Sports Journalists’ Club for two years and had a highly successful stint.Currently,He is the Vice President of CLT (Children’s Little theatre).But outside office what will henceforth take up most of his time will be a post with the Dakshin Kalikata Sansad (DKS) .He is going to take over as the Cultural and Social Secretary of the club .And the brief is to enhance the image and profile of this growing Deshapriya Park based club.
Gautam lives at his Salt Lake residence with wife Raya ,an extremely wellknown anchor and their daughter Lahoma who is currently in the eleventh standard..