Anil Thakraney: Remembering Devyani Chaubal

20 Jul,2012

By Anil Thakraney


I was much too young when the kickass film journalist, Ms Devyani Chaubal, was in her prime. So I have no personal opinions to offer on her. The name cropped up in the wake of Rajesh Khanna’s death, not just because she was very close to the star, some even credit her for playing a part in his meteoric rise.


An ancient BBC documentary on Rajesh Khanna has surfaced on the internet, and it’s a must-watch. Devi (as Devyani was called) has been interviewed in the film, and it’s easy to see she was one hell of a feisty lady. No wonder the Hindi film world of the sixties and the seventies loathed and respected her at the same time.


Devyani Chaubal in the BBC Documentary posted on YouTube. Source: Pavitra66

This got me interested in Devi, and I spoke to a couple of people who knew her, and also read up on her modus operandi. And I must say I am left very impressed. For those who may not know, Devi was a hot film gossip-writer employed with the magazine, Star & Style. Her fortnightly column called ‘Frankly Speaking’ was immensely popular and it was quite acerbic. Because of her superb connections in the movie biz, and her close proximity to stars, their secretaries and their chamchas, Devi would fish out red hot goss and then lace it with her own acidic views. More often than not she used to be accurate with her stuff, and this is why movie stars used to dread her columns. She could make or break both, careers and relationships. In fact, her juicy notes on Hema Malini and Dharmendra’s torrid affair didn’t leave the latter very amused. The ‘He-Man’, after downing some Patiala pegs, went after Devi and rained a few punches.


So what emboldened Devi? I suppose there must have been many reasons. One, her own fiery temperament and the devil-may-care attitude. Secondly, the full backing from her publishers and her editor. Also, Devi came from a wealthy family and the fear of losing her job may not have played on her mind at all. As a bonus, her dad was a well-known barrister, therefore legal notices from movie stars (and there were plenty) would have had no effect on her.


Devi passed away in 1995 and I must say there hasn’t been a filmi journalist like her since. What you get these days is convenient ‘leaks’ doled out by the stars’ agents and sometimes the stars themselves. Film reporters have become sub-servient, and not wanting to rub stars the wrong way seems to have become the credo. Part of the problem is the media boom. With so many media options now available, the film industry can block out an ‘inconvenient’ journalist without batting an eyelid, and the show goes on.


This means we’ll never get to see someone like Devi again. This is great news for the movie stars, but it’s a loss for the desi media.


P S: Here’s some dope on Khanna which no one’s spoken about. It tells you the man had a sense of humour too. On the eve of the release of Bachchan’s huge film called Shakti (1982), Rajesh Khanna was overheard making a snide remark. He said: “Wow, such a long queue outside movie halls for the man! Didn’t know Dilipsaab is such a crowd puller even at this age.” Haha. Rest in peace.


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11 responses to “Anil Thakraney: Remembering Devyani Chaubal”

  1. Amit says:

    Deviyani chaubal also wrote an autobiography…. I am unable to recollect the name or find it on net. It would be great fun to read it and also enlightening us on the working style of bollywood in hey days. Please share the title and the publishers name it any of you know about it.

  2. sanjay says:

    what about Rajesh Khanna making producers drink out of his whisky glass as a mark of submission, before he heard their scripts?

  3. Asli Jat says:

    It was actually me who uploaded this documentary on Rajesh Khanna and I am glad that it has also spurned an interest in Devi, she
    definitely deserves more credit & recognition.

    After ‘Star & Style’ closed she actually revived the ‘Frankly Speaking’ column in ‘Movie magazine in her last few years.

  4. Puja says:

    Thanks for posting this..incidentally my husband and I had the same discussion after watching this BBC ‘must watch’ doc.There will not be another bindaas journo like Devi for exactly the reasons you mentioned. It is indeed our loss.
    Watching her was like watching someone from today’s sensibility transported back in time. She was so ahead of her time..and so much fun to unlike today’s reporting which is nothing but kiss ass limpid reporting. BTw, did anyone notice how Mrs. Tina Ambani’s mention has been missing from the media as one of Rajesh Khanna’s affairs. I guess no one wants to rub Mr. Ambani the wrong way!

    • Raj Sharma says:

      Devi stood tall, no doubt. But if you want to see the real star scorching try Babu Rao Patel who preceded Devi.

  5. Soman says:

    Devyani was a bitch…..

    • AAG says:

      She was and that’s what she wanted to be 🙂 A hard-working woman, who tried her best to get accurate information (sometimes it was not v. accurate of course :)). She had a great sense of humor, and in some ways she was a pioneer. In an interview she once said the following of Bombay film stars: They are slightly better looking than the rest of us, significantly less intelligent, and far more wealthy 🙂 She said this in Marathi using the right words that made it sound extremely funny too!

      She died too young 🙁 Rest in peace Devyani Chaubal!

  6. muskaan says:

    The very same reason, as you mention in your article, got me researching Devi on the net.
    I’m still a bit dazed as to how the filmi people & their chamchas let her get close in the first place ! Your logic may seem to hold…

    Yes, it is tragic that there is noone now who has the gumption to be forthright & nonpartisan in their reportage; uncaring about pandering to whims & egos.

    Definitely did not hear of the ‘Shakti’ comment ;-)) Thanks for sharing the same.

    Good article.

    • Mallika_shetty_2000 says:

      Your article brought a smile Anil coz I was lookin up Devi after watchin the BBC film..she does seem like a unique character who lived by her rules..

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