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TV hosts....a new breed enmerges

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Let's go back a little in time. Hosting was all about propah quiz masters and news readers. A Siddarth Basu or a Luku Sanyal is still remembered very fondly by TV buffs. The closest one got to a host then was Tabassum on DD's Phool Khile Hai Gulshan Gulshan. Tabassum gate crashed into a predominant male bastion and probably remained the lone female host for a long time on TV.


Then and now



Then it was more about the serious, intelligent, well-mannered and dressed in the mandatory suit kind of TV host. It was much later that hosting was redefined and got its current avatar. Now it is all about the Hinglish speaking, hip, yo, irreverent young guy. Being able to think on your feet and adding your own brand of cerebral content to a show is co-incidental.



Hosting as a profession is still in its nascent stage in India. Celeb shows, reality shows, cookery shows, talk shows. The need for hosts is on an all-time high. So what is hosting all about? A pretty face, designer threads, a good bod, spiked hair? Or is it all this and dollops of talent and intelligence? What is the art of good hosting?



As no corporate house or institution has yet thought of launching a course in hosting all our hosts are self-taught. "One should have a good education and be well-read. This should be a pre-requisite," believes Mini Mathur one of the most popular hosts on TV today.



Cyrus Broacha, Sajid Khan, Mini Mathur, Cyrus Sahukar, Mona Singh, Karan Johar, Roshan Abbas are also in the current top bracket. Not to mention the veejays on different music channels who sport fake accents, crack juvenile jokes and the female veejays dressed in almost nothing. And not to mention that all read from a script written by an equally amateur writer.

When actors came calling

 

Hosting came of age when Shekhar Suman charted a different route for himself as a talk show host. He began to host hard hitting satirical TV Talk shows on entertainment and news channels. He introduced his particular brand of humour which was a heady mix of obnoxiousness, irreverence, and simple observations.



Movers and Shakers on the Sony Entertainment Network and Simply Shekhar on Zee Television were two of his much-watched shows. Modelled along the lines of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Suman did manage to carve a niche for himself via this show.

 

When Amitabh Bachchan crossed over to the small screen with the game show, Kaun Banega Crorepati he not only helped the channel's dipping fortunes but also helped himself get a new lease to life. The hugely popular show, characterised by Bachchan's baritone and personality is remembered today for the host rather than the crores earned by the contestants.



Though of course Bachchan was a household name, the show helped him widen his fan base and also helped him clean up the financial mess he was in.



 

But when superstar Shah Rukh Khan replaced Amitabh Bachchan as host on KBC Shah Rukh Khan said, "I was pleasantly surprised when the channel offered me the show. I was a participant in season one of KBC… and little did I know one day I would be hosting it. It is a huge act to follow, that of Mr Bachchan…but it also excites me that I am getting an opportunity to reach out (and) talk and interact with my audience through a medium where I began my career as an actor years ago."



And full marks to Khan for having taken hosting to new heights. Having come from the world of theatre Khan knew all the trade secrets and perfected the art so well that he had viewers swooning. It was rumoured then that audiences watched the show only to get entertained by SRK. He chatted, he danced, he sang and he joked. Damn the GK questions. He did all that was required of a successful host. His style, his wit, his intelligence was unmatched. Though one must add that SRK is a better host on live shows than on the small screen. Nonetheless, his TV hosting did set a benchmark.

 

Very recently actor Sunil Shetty crossed over to the small screen to host the Biggest loser jeetega on Sahara One. Unfortunately, the actor flopped in his new role. Veterans know that this is not an easy role to play.

 



Money talk



And that brings us to the most important takeaway of this profession- financial returns. Unlike in the earlier times when a host did TV shows for only a day or two in the month and supplemented his income with other jobs now for most of them it is their only job. Today it is a very lucrative career and hosts of all kinds are laughing all the way to the bank. And it is this moolah coupled with the thrill of becoming stars in their own right that more and more PYTs are attracted to this new job.



So how much does a TV host earn? Inside sources inform that much depends on the length of a show and the status of the host. But on an average a start- up anchor takes home atleast Rs 5000 per episode and an A - list host makes anything between Rs 1 lakh to Rs 3 lakh per episode.



"The business is good and so is the money," Sajid informs. "I have never been out of work. Your demand is because of your popularity. Moreover I never discriminate between work."

Mini too has taken a conscious decision not to take up any acting assignments as she has good work on her plate. This also helps her focus on her job.



Whether hosting is a well paying job, Abbas says, "It depends. It pays me very well but I can't be sure of all other anchors. Actually, a lot depends on your popularity."



 

Pre-requisites



"You don't have to look like Brad Pitt to be a good host. In fact 90% of the hosts worldwide are not exceptionally good looking," says Sajid Khan. "You need to talk well and this can't be learnt."



Saiid who began hosting shows way back in 1994 (Main Bhi Detective) is still going strong. Ikke Pe Ikka his countdown show on Zee Cinema has done over 400 episodes and put him in the big league. Of the belief that hosting is an inborn art and that very few people are born with it, Sajid says, "Shah Rukh Khan, Shatrughan Sinha, Karan Johar are those blessed with it. As for Amitabh Bachchan he is a superstar and hence it is easier for him to host a show. He is being himself."



Karan Johar normally wears the director's hat. And when he is not making films he hosts a talk show, Koffee with Karan. The show brings together celebrities who are interviewed in the show's trademark informal style. The first season was a huge success, and the programme became the first English entertainment show to ever get a huge rating in India. Karan is himself on the show, chorus all those who know him. A veteran Karan very cleverly juxtaposes his teleprompter lines with his real lines. Having said that he is a delight to watch. In fact another super host Sajid Khan says, "I like Karan on the show. It comes naturally to him. I have known him since years and he has always held a captive audience be it when talking informally with friends or as a host. He doesn't pretend and that is his USP."

 

And then there was Simi Garewal in her impeccable English accent hosting Rendezvous with Simi Garewal. A picture perfect in her designer outfits and chic appearance Simi hosted this very class-centric talk show. Simi who had been an actress but not a successful one had finally found her calling. The show spilled over into many seasons and Simi did her la- di- dah act to perfection.



From small-time housie shows to countdown shows on TV, to prestigious award functions he has done them all. Armed with an abrasive sense of humour, Sajid Khan has done many a celeb in with the Sajid brand of wit and all this with his tongue firmly in the cheek.

 

"Right since my childhood I was always standing with a mike and taking a show on the floor," informs Sajid. "My USP is being able to connect with people. I've hosted shows for as varied an audience as the House of Commons, to the Maharashtra Shetkari Sangh. My strength lies in the fact that I don't work on a script. I never use teleprompters and I don't need writers. What people see is what they get. I think a successful host is one is who conducts a show without giving himself too much importance."

 

Mini Mathur who was a MTV host for 4 years has also hosted both the seasons of Indian Idol and is gearing up for the third is an MBA in Marketing and her stint with hosting goes way back to hosting India's first game show, Tol Mol Ke Bol. She is of the firm belief that it is a very specialised field. Mini says, "Today everybody is a me-too. Unfortunately most over do it. I am in the business since 10 years. I haven't burned out as I do less work. I have a family and am a happy person. And because of my life experiences I can put it better before the camera."

 

"An effective anchor needs to be quick witted, observant and adaptable to unforeseen situations," says Roshan Abbas popularTV host. But when he took over from the oh-so natural Faroukh Shaikh to host the second season of Jeena Isika Naam Hain it was a tough act to follow. Shaikh had charmed viewers with his dignity, subtle wit and grace. Despite his experience, Abbas was unable to match Shaikh.

 

As there are so many new shows mushrooming now on the small screen the hosts can cast a wide net. But what is important is the fact that the subject should not matter to a host. And hence it is only a well-read/intelligent host who can do justice to the work. Mini says that reality shows do not have a script. "It is made up of good moments. I like to work on a basic framework and then improvise. It is very reactive. Spontaneity and wit are the two essentials that make a successful host."

 

So does that mean that a Sanjeev Kapoor who has been hosting cookery shows should try his hand at a reality show? Talking of spontaneity, Ranvir Shorey and Vinay Pathak are the latest two entrants in the hosting arena and they are a delight to watch on their late night talk show, Ranvir -Vinay aur Kaun?

 

Downside



Well-written scripts are difficult to come by rue most hosts. Sajid therefore says he works without a script. "People hire me because they save on teleprompters," Sajid ribs. "I can host the Oscars better than any of the hosts. I was the first to wear a tuxedo, sing a song, walk down from the stage and talk to the audience. I work for the viewer."

 

The genial Mini storms, "My angst is against the perception of TV presenters. They are not given due respect. They must be accorded the space of a TV serial. Sometimes people don't even know our real names. "

 
Abbas says, "It is unfortunate that good avenues for formal training in TV anchoring do not exist in our country. I'm trying to do my bit on this front through a series of workshops. Besides, nobody can deny that luck plays a crucial part in your success or failure over here."

 

The bottomline

 

The good ones survive despite the onslaught of a hundred others who come to try their hand at the job. A Cyrus Broacha is saluted by not just his listeners but by his contemporaries. And he is no threat to any of them…as he is head and shoulders above the rest. And they know that. As VJ Ranvijay has said of him, "Thanks to him, all of us have careers today. VJing wouldn't be a career if Cyrus Broacha wasn't there."

 

One thinks it's about time the Cyruses, the Minis, the Shaikhs, the Sajids opened a school for wannabe hosts. Its pay back time folks!

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