" Simply Shekhar' has the potential of turning around Zee's fortunes " : Shekhar Suman

Shekhar Suman is back and with a bang. His Simply Shekhar opened to healthy reviews from all quarters. Simply Shekhar also marks Suman's debut as producer. Not one to move slow and steady, Suman's next offering as producer- a Bond like action thriller series XYZ, premieres on Zee in October. Suman's comeback movie Chor Machaye Shor is ready for release while his theatre company The Silhouette Theatre Company is ready with its second play that also has him in the starring role.

For somebody whose life moves at such a frantic pace, Suman is unusually prompt in finding time for the media. In a tete-a tete with indiantelevision.com correspondent
Amar, Suman talks about his new role as producer. Work and time pressures notwithstanding, Suman's style remains unchanged over the years - devil-may-care & tongue-in-cheek.

What made Shekhar Suman the actor turn producer?

The urge to produce programmes I believe in with utmost creative freedom. Of course, the final call on the product is that of the channel but as producer, I still am in a significant position of authority to do things my way.

Simply Shekhar has a live audience. Then why isn't there any interactivity with the audience?

A show like this is not meant to be interactive. This is not a talk show. The audience is there simply because performing in front of a live audience only enhances the performance. Otherwise, why is performing in theatre not interactive?

What made you go for Zee?

Why, are they lepers? See, Shekhar Suman has his own viewership. If 200 people watched me on Movers n Shakers, the same 200 will watch me on any other channel. I believe there is something called a person's loyalty and something called the programme's loyalty. If KBC was on any other channel, it would have been just as successful, because of Amitabh Bachchan.

Besides, I took it as a challenge to be on Zee because this programme has the potential to bring a turnaround as far as Zee's position is concerned.

How has Zee contributed to your show on the creative front?

Well, the entire show has been put together in ten days. This would not have been possible without the collective efforts of the team at Zee and the directors TV Vinod and Sushant. So, Zee's contribution has been there at every step. Besides, I have been given complete creative freedom.

What is your arrangement with In-house productions?

I have sub contracted the show to them.

If 'KBC' was on any other channel, it would have been just as successful, because of Amitabh Bachchan"

In the first couple of episodes of Simply Shekhar, you took a lot of pot shots at Pakistan. Did that have anything to do with Bal Thackerey's presence on the show?

No. I believe somebody has to stand up and call Musharraf's bluff. He is a dubious person who says different things to our PM and to the Bush administration. What I said, basically reflected the Indian public's angst against him for being hypocritical.

But will the same apply to our PM?

Well, if need be, yes.

Doesn't the 10:30 pm slot jeopardize the show's prospects? After all, this was the slot that killed M&S. And if it had to be at 10:30 pm, should it not have been a daily to compete with KSBKBT?

No. See in the last two years, viewership patterns have changed and the 10:30 pm slot has got decent viewership. Besides, Movers n Shakers would start even later at 10:40 pm. Then, there were other issues with Movers n Shakers, for instance in the later stages it did not get enough attention from the channel. As far as I'm concerned, the 10:30 pm slot is just fine.

(Regarding KSBKT) No, I didn't feel the need to make it a daily because we are not competing with KSBKBT. Like I've said, my show will have a dedicated viewership that will remain unaffected by competition. In fact, KSBKBT will now have to compete with Simply Shekhar.

One area where your show seems to be lacklustre is in the sets …

I don't agree. On what basis, do people call it tacky - just because it does not have iron and steel furniture? The entire idea was to give the sets a homely feel. I've had it designed the way I would like my house to be done up.

You seem to be getting into the I-me-myself mode. Recently you came down very heavily on Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai.

No, actually I was just asked by The Times Of India to speak either for or against the concept of a match-making reality show. I had no idea that it was in the context of Kahin Na Kahin Koi Hai. But yes, I do oppose the concept because I believe the Indian audience is not ready for reality shows. The choice of a life partner is an extremely important and private decision that can't be messed with in front of the camera. In the west, reality shows have worked but our culture is different and the sensibilities of the Indian public will not take to such shows.

In any case, where do we go from here? Today, we have commercialised a novel institution like marriage. Next, we might hear of a reality show where people are supposed to make love in public. All this is simply ridiculous.

My show will have a dedicated viewership that will remain unaffected by competition. In fact, 'KSBKBT' will have now have to compete with 'Simply Shekhar'

What is your production set-up like? Which are the other shows you are coming up with?

Well, right now I operate from home and do not have my own production set-up. While Simply Shekhar has been sub-contracted to In house Productions, another action thriller XYZ that will go on air on Zee from October is being co-produced by me along with Harish Ghai and Wizcraft. XYZ has a very Bond-like feel to it, with a lot of sledge hammer thrown into it. X is me, Y is the female protagonist, Yamini, while Z is a dog, Zombie. Together we go about solving cases.

Last year you had said you wanted to concentrate on movies. What happened?

I never said I would be concentrating on movies. I had merely said that I was being offered movies and would be taking them up. The best phase for an actor is when he is doing well in all three media - films, TV and theatre. I am experiencing that phase currently and would be a fool if I decided to quit TV.

How do you intend to balance acting and production?

See, I am essentially an actor and will always remain so. As producer, all I need to do is plan things and delegate responsibilities which I can manage without letting my acting assignments getting affected.

What excites you as an artiste at this stage?

An artiste lives for the moment. I don't know what will excite me tomorrow. Today, I'm writing the lyrics for a music video. Tomorrow, I might just want to write a script.

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