Sunday, September 26, 2010

‘Times have changed’

Hamish McDonald’s previous book — An Unauthorised Biography published in 1998 — The Polyester Prince: The Rise Of Dhirubhai Ambani met with legal resistance from Reliance Industries. Its Indian publisher HarperCollins withdrew from the project. It was published by Australian publisher Allen & Unwin, but was denied permission for sale in India. So the lack of opposition to his new book Ambani & Sons has intrigued McDonald and everybody else. Especially since the book draws heavily from the old one. It is equally controversial, including errors such as a Kashmir-less map of India. BW’s Rajeev Dubey met McDonald in Delhi. Excerpts from the interview:

How sure are you the new book won’t meet with Reliance’s resistance?
There were injunctions, not a ban. They took objection to a number of passages. It was a company application, not in the name of Dhirubhai Ambani. We’ve had no communication, and there was no response to my messages to the brothers asking if they wanted to talk about the update. Now Roli Books has actually published it, and brought it out in the shops and, so far, there is no legal activity from Reliance or either of the brothers. It may be early days, but the signals Roli Books is getting are that times have changed. The Ambanis are much more sanguine about criticism.

Did Roli check with the Ambanis before publishing this book?
Not at all. Roli studied the book closely. Had their lawyers run through the book.

Tell us about the attempts you made to get the Ambani side of the story.
In the previous version, I had had some interviews and contacts with the Ambanis — father, and mostly with Anil. I had met Mukesh rather formally. I asked Dhirubhai (in 1995) that I wanted to write a book about the rise of Reliance. I suppose he was both flattered and alarmed. I said I would show him the manuscripts if he wanted to argue any of the points. That I would hear what he said, but the author’s right would be mine. He said that would be fair. As I got closer to the controversies such as the Isle of Mann companies, the access to the circle of friends and Reliance was cut off. I rang up Dhirubhai’s secretary, and he said the wish was that the book should not come out.

Full report here Businessworld

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