Zee TV's Simply Shekhar - stirred and certainly shaken

India?s very own Jay Leno was back where he belonged last night after a longish break. So what was the first episode of the new "Mr Movers and Shakers" shaken and stirred like? Simply Shekhar on Zee Television last night simply had you chuckling more often than not. Which was good. Some of it seemed rather forced though. Not so good. But overall there was not too much to complain about.

It was a nice touch when Shekhar began the episode by saying "Welcome to Mmmmmm..." and he grabbed his lips, did a turnaround and looked sheepish and said "Welcome to Simply Shekhar." The fact that Shekhar had moved on and ahead of Movers & Shakers was established quite smoothly.

A short deadline on production meant not enough promos for the show on air, not enough display in print, not enough push for viewers to realise that Shekhar is back.

Yes, he looked older, his eyes and, surprisingly, his face were puffy (was the poor lighting playing tricks?). But the entertainer has not lost any of his gift of the gab. He mimicked Laloo Prasad Yadav, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the band was in the house, giving him the laughter support, which is much better than the canned fare. He took potshots at the "saas bahu" fare on television channels, and the ennui that most in the industry are feeling.

And above all he had the Tiger as his first guest. Suman was suitably obsequious before Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray putting the celebrated "autocrat" completely at ease. Both minced no words. The Sena boss spoke out about why he stopped cartooning. "There aren?t enough good models available. Nehru, Indira Gandhi were great for caricature. Rajiv Gandhi was not. Then came Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda. They were great."

Shekhar Version 2.0 seems to be getting better. Older wine does taste better.

Suman queried whether he was a messiah or a fascist. "Messiah, I am not, Fascist I am if it makes people happy," said Thackeray. The friendly banter showed tremendous comfort levels between the two.

In all, it was an episode filled with mirth. And Shekhar Version 2.0 seems to be getting better. Older wine does taste better.

However, what stuck out like a sore thumb was the poor set design (courtesy Omung Kumar), the poor lighting. The tackiness was to be seen to be believed.

Industry professionals say the show was mounted in just a fortnight. Hence everything was rushed through. And it shows. Also, the telecast slot is at 10:30 pm, a slot which killed "M&S". But In-House Productions (which has been sub-contracted by Suman?s Seven Thirty Entertainment to produce the show) boss Uday Sinhwala says that the slot will do just fine. "You can complain and whine about the slot, but any time is good for a show which is good. I am confident that it will do well."

However, a lot of marketing and promotion has to be put behind Simply Shekhar, something which Zee TV has been seen to be lacking in the past. A short deadline on production meant not enough promos for the show on air, not enough display in print, not enough push for viewers to realise that Shekhar is back. Hopefully, the channel will give enough rope to the show to find its feet.

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