Malini Agarwal is a popular DJ at 94.3 Radio One, a Bollywood reporter at the BBC Asian Network and a columnist with the Mid Day daily. Malini is famously known as the ‘Gossip Girl of Mumbai’ and made it big with her blog MissMalini.com – the place where all Bollywood gossip is published first with in-depth reports and pictures.
The blog has a big fan base with people around the world visiting not only the blog itself, but also keeping up to date on Twitter and Facebook.
I had the opportunity to interview Malini on her successful career as a popular blogger and a few other interesting topics. Enjoy the interview…
Chris: Malini, first of all I would like to thank you for taking some time off for this interview! Well, MissMalini.com is a blog you created and it has become a success story! But there are so many blogs on the net… Especially Bollywood is a topic discussed on many online platforms! When and why did you start the blog? And why did you choose Bollywood as one of the main topics?
Malini: My pleasure Chris! I started this blog on a whim 2 years ago when my friend Karan Wadhera suggested I do what Perez Hilton does with Hollywood gossip for Bollywood in India. I used to write a gossip column and do my radio show at the time and really love writing so figured why not? I never realized just how much I would begin to enjoy it. Now I can’t sleep if I don’t I blog everyday… (laughs) I chose Bollywood because I’m kinda in the middle of that whole space and lifestyle in Bombay. The radio show, my column in Mid Day, being a party animal, all lends itself to being in the right place at the right time to get the best gossip! Like you said there are SO many Bollywood blogs but very few with a personal opinion and genuine take on things – and not to sound snobbish but their writing skills are pretty horrendous lol!
Chris: So tell me about the beginnings of MissMailinil.com! Was it tough to keep the blog up to date and get insight stories?
Malini: Initially I would blog about stories I read on the net or in the paper but since people already knew me as a gossip columnist for a local tabloid they were more than happy to be featured online as well. Since new media is exploding the blog grew pretty rapidly on its own all I had to do was blog everyday which I tried to do as much as possible. Once you spend enough time on the Bombay Page 3 circuit you make enough connections to get the scoop or hear it first! It works both ways, they get free publicity I get great content!
Chris: Did you get any support from friends or colleagues to keep the blog running? Many people lose their interest in blogging and good efforts come to an early end…
Malini: A few people have been critical in making this blog a success. Karan Wadhera as I said has always been the biggest believer in my skills, my boyfriend Nowshad is amazingly supportive and helps me write food reviews now since he’s such a foodie, all my friends were very encouraging and boosted my confidence big time. On the tech/design support side I got some great advice and help off Twitter from Preshit Deorukhkar who now hosts & handles the backend for my blog and Dinesh Lalvani gave me a lot of free design input and advice. Vivek Shinde designed the MissMalini avataar you see everywhere, Sheetal Sudhir just created some awesome Flip Video artwork for my customized video cameras and now I’m afraid I’m going to leave some names out and people will get upset!
Chris: ‘Miss Malini’ is the name of the blog… What’s the story behind the name? How did you finalize the name and what were the other names on your mind?
Malini: So it’s actually pretty simple. My name is Malini and I didn’t want to try to use something too fancy or cheesy or trite. I pretty much threw out MissMalini in our initial brainstorm and it stuck. Unfortunately there is a South Indian movie of the same name on Wikipedia! So far it seems to be working. Now when I see people socially they all refer to me as “Miss Malini” I like it!
A running joke of course with all my friends is what will I do when I get married? Change it to Mrs. Malini? Yup I’ve heard SO many people crack that joke as if they are the first person to have ever thought of it, I just grin and bear it.
Chris: Did you have any other blogs as inspiring examples before you started MissMalini.com?
Malini: Yes, PerezHilton.com. He’s an eccentric gossip blogger in Hollywood and is pretty much what I modelled my blog on. I also decided to follow in the footsteps of The Truman Show and Ed TV and started documenting all the fun things that happen in my life! People love reality TV right? I have an amazingly fun life in Mumbai, true story! (smiles)
Chris: Bollywood is one main topic on the blog. What else do you cover on the site? And how do you select your stories for publication?
Malini: I cover Bombay nightlife, food reviews, good books, stuff happening on TV, shows I like to watch, good causes, theatre, travel and random things that I come across in my life that catch my attention. Everything from an awesome site called postsecret.com to 500pencils.socialdesigner.com dedicated to pencils of every imaginable colour, how cool is that right? I publish whatever I find interesting assuming only that if its good enough for me its good enough for you! (laughs)
Chris: How many stories do you publish per day?
Malini: I try to publish at least 2 per day but when I get time I go nuts and go up to 5-10, there have been times I’ve bailed on dinner plans with friends just so I can go home and blog!
Chris: You’re based in Mumbai and Bollywood gossip must be all around the city? Is it an advantage for you to be based in Mumbai and to get all the latest stories before anyone else? Is it the secret behind the success story of MissMalini.com?
Malini: Absolutely, it helps a great deal to live in the city. You have better access to events, stories and stars here than anywhere else. Also it makes the whole thing a lot more legitimate than some random person writing about Bollywood from far far away! I think the secret to my success is in the fact that I really LOVE writing my blog. I love cropping the pictures, editing the videos and coming up with new innovations. I do it all myself because I enjoy the whole process and to be honest have a little OCD so am a perfectionist about these things!
Chris: Well, Bollywood might be next to your door, but getting through to the right events and people is not easy! How did you get into the Bollywood circles and made sure that you won’t miss any of the big news?
Malini: You’d be amazed at how the PR machinery works in Mumbai. I’ve blogged about it often and it basically boils down to this. If you are an influential writer (print or online) the PR agencies will seek you out and invite you to everything to make sure you cover it. Eventually of course you make your own friends/connections and now I feel quite at home at these events and enjoy them very much. I’ve made some of my best friends bumping into them randomly at a party now and again. It is also important to write about the things that people are doing/watching/curious about – even if it isn’t necessarily always something you’d be into yourself.
Chris: Would you call any of the Bollywood stars good friends of yours? I assume that you have “close relationships” with some of the big names, as you know them for a “long time” due to your work for different media and your own blog?
Malini: I guess some of them are my friends. They are all basically regular people at some point in their lives right? I try to be as professional as possible with them and keep our personal relationships separate from work, which is why I’m not going to name any here! But I’m always very impressed with those who seem so down to earth and are nice to everyone even though they are so rich and famous, it’s nice. I’ve seen the reverse too, wannabes with tons of attitude! No matter what you do or who you are it never hurts to be nice!
Chris: Did any of the Bollywood stars help you to promote your blog? What tools do you use to promote MissMalini.com?
Malini: Yes they did, sometimes because they enjoyed a story – like Sonam Kapoor – or because they appeared on my radio show and I took videos of them hosting with me – like Imran Khan, Rahul Khanna, there’s a whole list on my blog! I use Facebook, Twitter and my excellent social skills to promote my blog… (laughs) I am an internet junkie which is a brilliant and somewhat unique combination with Bollywood gossip!
Which blog entries were the “crowd pullers” on MissMalini.com? Were there any special stories around these blog entries and the reactions on them?
Malini: There is a list of most popular stories on my blog which reflects everything from a story I did about “Once Upon A Time in Mumbai” well before its release to a Lakme Fashion Week after party where Shah Rukh Khan was just inches away – and I had my camera handy! It’s hard to tell what catches peoples fancy but obviously the Bollywood blogs get the most hits followed by my photo blogs on Goa and anything that I do in a slightly different style. Also it’s great when a blog about Shiny Ahuja being on Bigg Boss unexpectedly stirs up so many comments!
Chris: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
Malini: I enjoy the whole process and even when I’ve spent hours doing it I don’t feel tired or like I’ve been working all day. Plus whenever someone comes up and says that they love my blog it makes me want to do it even more because it’s totally my baby you know?
Chris: What are you plans for the future of MissMalini.com?
Malini: I plan to make MissMalini.com bigger and better! More stories, better technology, gossip blasts (like on Gossip Girl!), even cooler prizes (like the customized Flip Videos I’m giving away next!) and more exclusive coverage. You’ll get all the updates on my Facebook Page facebook.com/missmaliniblog and @MissMalini on Twitter! (smiles)
Chris: You are a very interesting person with an interesting and successful career. But who is Malini? What’s the story behind the story? Many readers will be interested to know more about your background! Where do you and your parents hail from? Where did you grow up?
Malini: So I’m a diplobrat. I was born in Allahabad – like the Big B! But because my father was with the Indian Foreign Service I grew up in American/International school all over the world starting from India, Somalia, Lebanon, Germany, Greece, Ivory Coast, Bulgaria and Back. Hence the slightly confused accent! But I swear it’s not because my cousin went to Dubai Duty Free and now I have an accent lol, sorry old joke. So I lived in Delhi for 6 years, went to the British School and Delhi University, studied English Literature, became a professional dancer with Ronica and The Planets for Sukhbir, MTV Pepsi Dance Connections, Channel [v] awards and loads of Indie pop stars – so much fun – and then in the year 2000 I moved to Mumbai and have been here ever since; dabbling in everything from voiceover’s, radio, internet, writing, dancing, running a social network called Friday Club and now blogging!
Chris: When did you realise your passion for music and how did you start your career as a DJ cum RJ?
Malini: I’ve always loved music and how it transforms any situation. I was working with mtvindia.com running the romance channel online when I heard about private radio stations opening in Mumbai and a friend at work told me about an audition at WIN 94.6, I went and got the job and eventually moved to GO 92.5 FM which is now 94.3 Radio One. Radio totally changed my life and Rajeev I still owe you one for that! I fell in love with the medium and it’s still my favourite thing to do. I’ve been on the air for 7 years now! (smiles)
Chris: Please tell us more about your other hobbies and interest? What things do you do to relax? Is blogging one part of relaxing?
Malini: Blogging is like air now so I do it at work, at home even from my Blackberry in the car! I also love to play pool and for the longest time would be at Ghetto every night showing off my skills. I’m a little rusty now. I also love to read. Tom Robbins is my favourite author, it used to be Stephen King! And I love partying, dancing & socializing, which is why I started Friday Club 5 years ago.
Chris: Finally I would like to give you a chance to send out a message to everyone reading this interview!
Malini: My message to you is simple. Do what you love and you’ll be great at it. xoxo