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Monday, January 22, 2001

Former IAF officer eyes Hollywood
By Peeyush Agnihotri

Fortitude and perseverance. These two words aptly describe the career trajectory of 33-year-old former Flying Officer Navdeep Malhotra.

Eight-years ago when this sortie-happy officer with the Indian Air Force was "yanked off the air" after he lost his left eye in a car crash, his world came hurtling down. But then soldiers are made of sterner stuff.

When the going got tough, this alumnus of the Panjab University’s Geology department got going. He sought pre-mature discharge from the Air Force and joined two-years’ accessory designing course with NIFT, New Delhi. Besides this, he also started dabbling in computer graphics.

Today, he is the art director with Mahazine, described as the world’s first multi-media magazine on CD-ROM that was launched in September 2000. Even during the student days he had his way with cartoons, sketches and caricatures. Only this time the mouse replaced the pencil. "Dot.coms are going bust, but with increased PC penetration, such e-zines are here to stay," Navdeep says.


Ex-Flying Officer Navdeep Malhotra "The concept is new and we like to call the magazine on CD ROM a Mahazine, as it is "bigger and better than an ordinary magazine. It is basically like having four or five magazines on a single CD," he says.

"The job of an art director is both challenging and stimulating. Though on one hand it has to be seen that the issues do not become monotonous or repetitive, yet on the other hand conformity and continuity has to be maintained. To work for an e-zine as an art director means that you have to be IT-savvy, creative, arty and conversant with journalism all rolled in one," he says.

"Chandigarh holds a special place of importance for the company because the city is second only to the metros, as far as PC penetration in homes goes. Almost anyone who has a computer with multimedia kit can subscribe to the e-zine," he says. Already the product is getting good reviews and the circulation is picking up.

"Till broadband comes in, the future is bright for this product as each page takes a lot of time to open up on the Net, otherwise. This can be browsed offline and is thus a better bet," says Navdeep.

"Browsing a virtual magazine is a different kind of experience as the reader becomes engrossed with the article he is accessing. With dynamic graphics, multimedia, animation and flash, it transforms a reader and gives him what the low-bandwidth Net connection cannot give. Further, the advertisements are interactive," he adds.

This e-zine, a monthly, costs Rs 100 per issue though annual subscription is for Rs 900. Content wise, with serials, book reviews, photo-features and write-ups on almost everything under the sun (save politics), the product has something for everyone. "Right now, Mahazine is not posted on the Net but with the broadband coming in we may archive old issues," Navdeep says.

So, what next? "Maybe, a stint in Hollywood," he says sounding emphatic. When he was studying rocks, no one knew he would fly jets. And when he was flying those machines, who could imagine that he would design stuff on CDs one day. Today, when he’s doing precisely that who knows he may wander off to Hollywood, actually. Amen!

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