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By: Prestline, Jerin and Shyama
Interviewing the Interviewer John Brittas!
John Brittas, the renowned journalist and managing director of Kairali TV, is known for his hard-hitting interviews that makes the readers grip the edge of their seat till the very end. His interview show titled, JB Junction, is one of a kind that aims to delve deeper into the various issues that affect us by directly posing the questions to the people at the crux of the matter. He conducts an excellent homework before going on air and is defined by His unquenchable curiosity. He is quite restless until he receives an answer and the viewers travel along a roller coaster in a topsyturvy ride and finally the cat is let out of the bag. Hence it is with immense privilege that the magazine committee to arrange an interview with this eminent personality at Holiday Inn, Vytilla thanks to the efforts by Professors Saji George and Susan Mathew. Happy reading all!
Prestline: At a time where everyone wants to be doctors and Engineers, what encouraged you to be a journalist?
It was never like I decided from when I was in mothers womb that I wanted to be a journalist!! During my PG days when two of my friends applied for a sub editors job, I asked them to fill his name too and they even gave his false signature, Lucky or Unlucky I cleared the interview and was overnight a journalist. And then the life in Delhi, that had huge influence.From there the current will take you anywhere, go with the float!
Shyama: Only few people succeed in their life as in with the profession that they wanted, how do you see your success?
Am I successful??(laughs)
I never felt anything, some feel that I am very arrogant person. Yes I have achieved something and I am heading a channel, but above all this what I cherish is my experiences. I had the luck to be physically present in some of the incidents that literally changed India and even the world.This is something that I will call as my balance sheet, like BabriMasjid, Bagdad War, the last days of Saddham Hussain. Many were accidents, I never understood its seriousness then.Halfway through only could I understand the risk involved. For example, it was not easy to reach Baghdad,we reached the then peaceful Syrian capital of Damascus and from there to Baghdad there are no official flights. It is a flight prohibited zone. But there are some flights that are used through smuggling and as we were waiting in the airport, they would come and call if there is anyone to Baghdad. The ticket was the size of a lottery and there is no seatbelt, airhostess and somehow we reached. Then only did my heart ask was this actually necessary.
So as I was saying life has many accidental and coincidental incidents waiting for you and the net effect has only helped us to groom and gave lot of windows to the world. Every new meeting is an opportunity, learning ground. Now I am able to understand what the people infront of me actually think about me.
If I turn back, rather than the glamour of the profession , I stress on the incidents that helped me imbibe more knowledge and exposure. I will call this my asset.
Jerin: Any memorable interview?
The interview with the Sultan of Sharjah was very different as him being the supreme ruler, he never allowed interviews and he thought that Indian media was arrogant. They instructed that there should not be any permutations and combinations. So I had to give him the status and respect that a ruler should get as my purpose was also the interview. So I had to be obedient and gentle, the way I really am!(laughs)
There are many other interviews that called in unwanted attention and criticism. The Faris Abooker interview, may be a little older for your memory and the recent interview with Gail Tredwell who wrote a book against Mata Amritanandamayi. These were trending in youtube.
Many other interviews also created huge controversies. The interview with Prithviraj(laughs), Ananya’s interview. After all these it elevated to another level. Maybe Prithviraj is thinking that I purposely did this and people jokingly even say he was paralysed for weeks after the interview.
Anyway all this happens, completely unexpected , nut one thing, if I take up an interview, I genuinely and honestly take al the effort to study my subject. And do the essential homework. During an interview we must not cut a sorry figure.I should be clear about the factual data.Who,what, why ,the mannerism, everything has to be studied. Extensive research on the interviewee is essential.That gives lot of confidence. Just like the experience of going for football match after warmup and directly from your bed. It makes a lot of positive difference.It is a cerebral exercise, packing yourself with lots of information.
For example, Mr. Oommen Chandy, someone I know very well from the past 25 years and his family. And still I taled about himto his family, driver inorder to reassure my knowledge. An interesting question that I asked him was not really necessary for me because because facing the question is also is an answer at times. I asked him why do you do a carefully careless pat to your perfectly combed hair and he laughed f lot. But it is actually an inside talk of the Congressmen who tease him about this. So we must actually ask the minutest questions as well.
So every interview is special and without any standards of measurement we must study very well about our interviewees.
Prestline: Are all your questions prepared or spontaneous?
Well there are the prepared original questions and the supplementary questions that com from his answers. They arise from the reaction of the first question and usually they would generate lot of interest in viewers. Lets take Mr. Mohanlal, he will say that all movies are fun but one had a small issue. Now from that I must ask him which movie Lal and he will say the movie and then ask him about the issue/incident and he will say an issue with director and finally we get to the person!
So the supplementary questions will lead to lot of revelations.We must always have the presence of mind to ask such questions., need to be sharp. Think that the viewers are more intelligent than us because for every answer the viewer will automatically have some questions in mind. I should never disappoint my viewers.That decided my success as an interviewer.
At times I such questions had led me to trouble as if affects some peoples sensibility. This does not have a retake! And if your tongue fails, its gone.
Shyama: So have people ever told you to edit or remove certain elements?
Certainly yes. Usually I try to make them so comfortable that they will speak about many things and finally they will feel guilty and ask us to remove. Nowadays I yield unlike in the past as I don’t want to call in a quarrel. Some even tell us before the interview that they need a chance to correct if they said something wrong. Normally I am against it. Some say the situation made them weak so I give up lately.(laughs).
Jerin: How do you overcome criticism?
People will use profane language! They write hate mail and all. Usually I never take unknown calls as that’s safe. The people who genuinely want to contact us will find a way.
Prestline: How do you manage all this when you are this busy?
Busy and me(laughs). I am jobless. Well actually I am quite busy and travelling around, but lot of people say you can be more creative and meaningful only when you are busy. The best literature works of famous writers would have come when they were busy. Its not lie sitting under the shade and thinking, it will never happen. For your exam if you get a lot of study leave, you will never learn instead if its short you will study. Life is like that.
You must understand that you, me Obama , Modi and Trump has 24 hours. Anybody can do anything. How we prioritize things will make the difference.
Try an exercise that we used to do. Well everyday only 5% will be useful the rest 95% will be us spending time talking over and over again and kill time.
Shyama: We are management students and you are managing one of Kerala’s leading television channels, how is John Brittas as a manager?
Not very good I will say, I may seem very tough but actually I am a benevolent person and I cannot show someone the door just because their performance is upto the mark. I know there is a family waiting at home. So am I going against what you are are learning, I don’t know. But that is my way.
Jerin: You are a very private person, could you tell us about your personal life, likes, etc?
Sure, I am settled in Delhi and I live with my wife and two children who study there. So my life is basically in the air travelling back and forth. Well I love spending time with friends, eating traditional Kerala food, and would also want to be a farmer, basically a very normal person like all of you.
On a lighter note, he also asked us about the moment with Mr Salimkumar and Father Francis Manavalan during the Kathir award!, about courses in our college, rural camp, etc. He also shared that he likes to try his luck in acting and a new movie where he plays himself is about to release.