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Friday, October 24, 2008

Wanted: Debonair Girls

The 'Debonair' here is not to be confused with the adult blog, but the once 'revered' monthly men's magazine. This advertisement from the November 1987 issue invites girls to pose for Debonair magazine.

[Click to enlarge]
Ad for Debonair magazine models
Show the world what you really are.

How often have you stared at yourself in a mirror - admired your beautiful features and figure - and wished you could let people see the way you really are? Now's your chance. We are looking for models for our colour photofeatures. The photographs will be shot by internationally renowed photographers like Adam Steven, Swapan Mukherjee and Chien Wien Lee. Selected models will be paid handsomely. Many of our models have launched into exciting careers in films and advertising from our pages. Why not you? Send two recent photographs (full length in a bikini and a closeup of the face) to The Editor, Debonair Publications Pvt Ltd, 41A, Dr E Moses Road, Worli, Bombay 400 018, mentioning your vital statistics, height, weight and age.

Be a Debonair girl.
Let people see the real you.

Magazines like Debonair found it difficult to get models for their pages and therefore perhaps needed to advertise to find some willing candidates.

Vinod Mehta, Editor-in-Chief, Outlook Group, commenting on the news about Playboy launching an India edition:

Despite their deep-pockets that have lured Olympic stalwarts to become Playboy bunnies, the magazine will not be able to get high class girls from India to go nude, because of the taboo attached to it. This was a problem we faced even at Debonair!
The present avatar of Debonair doesn't seem to feature any topless models and has also toned down its content. But the glory days of the magazine are long over.

A couple of interesting bits (the more interesting in bold) about Debonair magazine that I found online:

Vinod Mehta, Editor-in-Chief, Outlook Group (in an interview with
I was extremely lucky because I began my career as an editor at the age of 27. Not many people get this opportunity, and it’s a double-edged sword. I began as an editor because I met Sushil Somani who used to run Debonair and he was on the lookout for an editor. At that time and there were two homosexuals who used to run Debonair, a girlie magazine - self-professed homosexuals. When I looked at the magazine, instead of women I saw men in jock straps, and there were more pretty men in the magazine than there were pretty women!

So I had to learn how to redesign the magazine. Nobody would agree to be interviewed; nobody would agree to write for us. I had to beg people. And Pataudi was the first person I thought of because I wanted to start the Playboy interview kind of thing. Pataudi was quite big at that time and he agreed for the interview. Since no one was prepared to write for Debonair at that time, I wrote four articles under different names in the first issue just to show people how I wanted the magazine to develop. I started from there, and then we had people like Nissim Ezekiel writing for us; I discovered Iqbal Masood; Anil Dharkar started contributing regularly.

But there was always something sleazy associated with the magazine. I could put any amount of "intellectual" or what I thought was good literary material but I could not change the image of the magazine. Mr Vajypyee gave us an interview and when I met him later to thank him, he told me, "I had to keep your magazine under my pillow." That’s the day I decided to quit. In the seven years that I had been there I could not change the way the magazine was perceived. I conceded defeat.

Interestingly Mr Mehta doesn't have a single copy of the magazine that readers don't forget to remind him of whenever Outlook does a sex special.
Since, like most journalists, I don’t keep a record of any articles, I have no idea what I’ve written since my Debonair days. In fact, I do not have a single issue of Debonair.

Busybee aka Behram Contractor (in one of his columns):
Then one day we he was to become the editor of a magazine that was to be brought out on the lines of Playboy or Esquire. It was to be called Debonair.

The count did become the editor; he used to bring proofs of articles for the magazine to the Society Bar and edit them with a gold ballpoint pen. And he used to complain softly about the lack of knowledge of England of his Indian contributors.

He himself used to write: on what to wear, how to mix drinks, what after-shave lotions to use, etc. The readers did not much care and Debonair almost closed down. In those days also magazines used to close down, though not magazines of the reputation of the Illustrated Weekly and Filmfare. The count was sacked. In those days also editor got sacked, though not editors of the calibre of Vinod Mehta.

And it was this same Vinod Mehta that proprietor Sushil Somani picked on as his new editor. Mr Mehta made it more Playboy and less Esquire. Which was clever: because Debonair started acquiring an ever widering readership among males in little towns in Punjab, Haryana, UP and Bihar, and in Delhi, Monthly, the letters column would be filed with debates among readers on whether the semi-dressed girl on the centrefold in, August was better than the one in July or worse than the one in June.

Mr Mehta's office was in the middle of Claridges Press on Mint Road, next to Sacru's City Kitchen, and he sat in it with walls covered with five years of his centrefolds. That was the nearest Mr Mehta got to his pin-ups, though everybody thought he was having a ball of a time.

Mr Mehta's successor, young Anil Dharkar, got somewhat nearer the models. Occassionally he would pose with them. And sometimes his pictures would appear without the models.

His successor, Dilip Thakore, took himself, his job, and the magazine too seriously. He tried to put Debonair in a slot between Business India and Business World. In doing so, he not only lost his job but poor Sushil Somani lost his magazine.

Now, after 18 years, there is a new proprietor and an editor who was the de facto editor all these years. The circle has been complete, from the count to Adil Jussawalla.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Nostalgic! I first saw this ad, in my pre-puberty days, in one my dad's closely guarded bags. Little did he know i took more than a sneak-peak at this wonderful magazine. As the former editor rues, i never really did care for anything other than the nudes in it. POsting this comment anonymously for the sake of my dad's integrity :P