'They (Sony) did not live up to their promises' : Shekhar Suman

Shekhar Suman served a shocker to the television industry by announcing yesterday that he was bidding au revoir to Sony Entertainment Television's talk show Movers & Shakers, a programme which helped build up his personna. For more than three years, Shekhar has grilled and nailed celebrity guests in a jocular manner, while aping and mimicking famous (or is it infamous) personalities like Laloo Prasad Yadav on a show which has come to be very closely identified with him and Sony Entertainment.

Indiantelevision.com's Harsha Khot spoke to Suman after his announcement on why he chose to quit and what now for Shekhar.

Excerpts from the interview:

Why did you quit?

I quit yesterday and have told them about it. In fact they were going to invest in the new sets (for the show) and since I had already made up my mind I thought it was better to do it before they sunk in money. Also it would be unethical for me to walk out when the sets are ready.

You just can't make an actor sit around. Though we share a beautiful relationship, they had been promising me a lot of things but did not live up to their promises. They kept delaying the new format of the show. They fixed a date and even then nothing was done. I am an actor first, and then an anchor.

Are you expecting any reaction from Sony Entertainment's side since you have a five year contract with it? Do you think there is a possibility of a suit?

I am prepared for whatever the channel may choose to do. But I don't think there is any possibility of them suing me because both of us have an exit clause which says that either of us can move out of the project after every term. It is a five-term contract signed for Rs 24 crores (Rs 240 million) which has to be renewed at the end of February every year.

It's so sad that a show which is so closely identified with Sony had to come to an end the way it has. It has very strong brand associations with Sony. Mention Sony and the first show that comes to mind is Movers & Shakers. But I did not have a choice. I had waited too long. It's so sad that Sony has slipped to No 3. Zee TV has got its act together and is focusing on what it must do right. So must Sony.

We already are in June so hasn't the contract for this term already been signed?

No, in fact it was supposed to be signed in March, but then there was further dilly-dallying about the new format. It was supposed to be signed after finalising the new format, which was postponed to 2 May after I was to return from the US. But even then it was not ready. I gave them time till 2 June, but even now there are no signs of any firm decision. All this dilly-dallying indicated that they wanted to kill the show which I would not have allowed them to do. The traffic has to be two ways. It seemed as though it was only I who was interested in driving and not they. My team was getting demoralised.

Were there any problems at the production outfit, Inhouse Productions?

No the problem mainly was from the channel. There was a lot of confusion, they were not able to decide properly. I didn't want to be a part of the resulting chaos so I stayed away.

The show was supposed to be launched in a newer and more interactive format wasn't it? Then why quit now?

Yes it was supposed to start from 4 May. I was in America for sometime and I was told the show would be shot in its new format after I flew back. But when I returned, things were still undecided and there was a lot of vagueness, whether one particular idea or another one would bring in enough audiences and all that.

I believe that the show itself has enough audiences as a lot of people were attached to the show. Everyone right from the prime minister, to chief ministers to other ministers like Sushma Swaraj love the show. Laloo Prasad Yadav hugged me and told me he loves my impersonation of him. So does Rabri Devi. Everywhere I went people would tell me how much they liked Movers & Shakers - be it in the US, the UK, Tanzania, the Middle East or the Far East.

Add to that there was a lot of confusion in the channel after the success of KBC (gameshow Kaun Banega Crorepati) on Star Plus. Nobody knew exactly what was happening in the company. Since I didn't want to get into office politics, I stayed away. Many new programmes were introduced, timings were changed.

Movers & Shakers was shifted from 10 to 10:40 pm and I wasn't even told about it till they had already decided the time slot. I asked them why was this being done and they did not have an answer. I was told that it would be shifted back to its original timing of 10:00 pm but instead the aired time was pushed further to 10:50 pm. Ever since the programme went on air three years ago the show has been getting good ratings, it had ratings of 12 TRPs then. Even now, three years later, the show is getting a TRP of 5-6 despite everything, which means it is doing pretty well.

Then again Sony was losing its identity, it was heading towards becoming a me-too channel. There was a new programming head.

Who owns the show?

Movers & Shakers is my idea. I mentioned a stand-up comedy act to Mani (Aiyar - Inhouse Productions promoter) and he liked it. His COO Sailesh Dave added elements like the band, the interviews and made it more like the Jay Leno show. Most people like the stand-up comedy act which is essentially my idea. I will have to see what I do with it now. All the channels have been approaching me to do something. I have been flooded with calls ever since the news broke out that I was quitting.

Otherwise, what was it like working on Movers & Shakers?

It has been a very good experience working with Sony Entertainment on Movers & Shakers. TheMovers & Shakers programming team at Sony Entertainment was fabulous to work with.

Are you working on any other project?

Not right now I am not taking any projects. I am cleaning up my slate. Remember, I quit Jab Khelo, Sab Khelo a short time back. I won't be doing much television but I will not leave it completely. I am doing a film with David Dhawan and am concentrating on my production company.

About your production company: are there any projects that you are working on?

Yes. We have Dil Chahta Hain on Sabe TV. There is one more serial that will be aired on Sahara TV in the coming month. There were two more serials but both had to be called off because of problems at the channel's end.

Are you going to act in any of the serials that you will be producing?

Yes there is one serial that I am working on. It is about a guy and a lot of kids. It's quite similar toThe Sound of Music.

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