Television

"I say what the common man wants me to say. Too bad if it hurts people, because I have validated facts"

Simply being himself is his job. People love him --- or hate him, depending on which side you may belong to --- for his honest and satirical self. From being called the badshah of bullshit to bakwas to blah-blah, the king of kitsch is always looking at something new to do. But that is Shekhar Suman. He does manage to bring out the best – or the worst, some say - in celebrities. But he does grill them on whichever show and whatever channel he is on.

Today, he may be one of the highest paid TV artistes in India, but a decade back he was just a struggling actor trying to make it big in Bollywood. Sounds like a rags to riches story? This rather talkative Sagittarian (Birthday: 7 December, 1962), who studied in Delhi, however, is sure in a hurry making up for lost time having fingers in many a pie, including planning to stage a comeback in Hindi films and starting movie and TV production houses, Daffodil & Dreams and Seven Thirty Ltd.

P Srivastava caught up with the Indian version of Jay Leno. Or at least that’s the way Suman was referred to when he appeared on Sony TV’s Movers & Shakers that even had the irrepressible Laloo Prasad Yadav, the current railways minister, tuning in to watch the programme. Excerpts:

 

'Pol Khol' was successful in bringing out the true colours of contradictions of the last elections. What's up next?

Going beyond politics, the show would now expose hypocrisy and double standards at all levels in society, be it sports, corporate, Bollywood, police force or even bureaucracy. It will be going every such way where the common man is involved. The new version of Pol Khol would also be about the latest happenings like the ban on (cricketer) Abhijit Kale or the arrest of film-maker Kaizad Gustad.

 

A criticism against you is that you get personal and are too acerbic. What do you have to say about such allegations?

A lot of people say I get personal. But, I don’t. I just deliver what the research team gives me. It’s not me who is saying all these things. Even if you replace Shekhar Suman with another anchor, he/she also would be mouthing such lines. So, you have to understand that what is said on screen has a lot to do with what the production team wants and how the research people have shaped it all up. Don't blame me for my work.

But on a different note, I see myself as a representative of the common man. I say what the common man wants me to say. Too bad if it hurts people, because I have the facts that have been validated. Then there are those supporting video footages too. What I do is read between the lines. We all know what’s happening out there, but most of us fail to react. You can’t blame me for doing my job properly.

 

Considering you refer to yourself as the common man’s representative, how successful do you think your show is with the common man?

I know that my programmes (in this particular case, he was referring to Pol Khol) is a hit when a liftman or a gatekeeper or even a waiter comes up to me and talks to me about a particular episode or a minister. Then I realise that my work has left an impact on them. Ordinary people from all walks of life watch my programme because they like what I say. I present the same news but with my own views and the public likes it that way.

 

Where do you draw the line on taking criticism to a person?

I have my own censorship (rules). The rest lies with the writers and the research team. For example, a journalist heads Pol Khol’s team and the team tried to be as hard-hitting and accurate as possible.

 

Have there been any adverse reactions or a backlash to 'Pol Khol' because of its political overtones?

I never got to know if there was any such reaction. Maybe the channel got it. Moreover, I don’t think there should have been since anything of that sort as everything I said was backed by evidence.

 
"Strong, fearless & impartial editorial inputs backed with state-of-the-art technical support are the best ingredients for a hit programme"
 

With programmers like 'Pol Khol', do you fancy yourself as a crusading journalist?

I do my job with my own inputs. I would sit down with the writers and discuss the daily political scene with them. Though the production team prepares the script, I also do some work on it. But what was demanding about Pol Khol (in its earlier avatar where potshots were taken at politicians before the elections) that I had to be aware of almost each and every political happening of the day. Those 50 days were very hectic.

 

Did you have an inkling that the programme would be such a great hit?

Strong, fearless and impartial editorial inputs backed with state-of-the-art technical support are the best ingredients for a hit programme.

 

Who is your inspiration in real life?

Why, my personal life, even otherwise too my inspiration has been RK Laxman who talks about the plight of the common man. His work is not for humour but to highlight the plight of the common man. Laxman’s work bring out the whys, ifs and whens in any person’s mind.

 

You started off as a Hindi film actor. Any plans of going back to Bollywood?

Yes, I do have plans of going back to my passion that is acting. In fact, I have my own movie production house Daffodils and Dreams, and projects are underway with David Dhawan, Prakash Jha and Ravi Rai. Then there is another movie with Kundan Shah, Ek Se Badhkar Ek, with Suneil Shetty and Raveena Tandon for which shooting is already complete and the film is being readied for a release soon. Other than that, my other production house, Seven Thirty Ltd., is also doing good business with channels where I am producing some TV programmes.

 

Which are the TV channels where we would get to see Shekhar Suman?

Apart from Pol Khol and Simply Shekhar, I am doing a game show with Sahara. Then, I am also doing a serial about a guy who takes care of and shares a special relationship with kids in the age group of 10-12. Talks are still on for this programme.

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