Tete A Tete: TV Star of the millennium Shekhar Suman


Shekhar Suman has got a lot of flak from the media for being arrogant and larger than life. Some of that has probably been earned; some are the trappings that come along with being a success. But if you delve a little deeper you will see a man who has gone through a heartache, pain to achieve his success. A rather talkative Sagittarian (birthday: 7 December, 1962), he has made his gift of the gab his profession and one that pays well. Read on to know Shekhar Suman the man, Shekhar Suman the professional and what else.

What got you into acting?

I come from a premier family in Bihar. My father was the director general health services in Bihar, my grandfather the advocate general of Bihar. I think I was a genetic aberration: there was no background of acting for me, there was no way I would have been interested but I was. Right from childhood I watched movies, I was in fact obsessed with them. It probably was willed in my genes.

Why did you not become a success in films?

I was not careful with the banners or the heroines or set ups I acted with. I was new and did not know that you have to look at the commercial viability of not only the film but also how it would impact your career. I also began as a hero in a dhoti playing the flute in Utsav with Shashiji, probably the public did not accept that, though I was most excited by the break I got and I haven't been able to replicate the excitement since.

I did about 25-30 films at that time. With the exception of about three or four which were good ones, I am ashamed of the rest of them. In fact, I cringe when I watch them.

What made you look at television as a career?

I though I had reached the bottom of my career when the Ramsay brothers offered me a film. And I decided to put an end to the nonsense. I sat at home for three years and she (my wife) took it upon herself to support us. My son Aayush fell ill at that time.

We had no money. Alka, my wife kept designing. But the times were bad: she used to be humiliated, some people threw her dresses on her face, some did not pay. It was a harrowing time. And Aayush was slowly dying in front of us day by day. I broke down with all these problems and did not know what to do. But Alka is a lady with immense strength and she helped keep the family together. I fell in love with her at 19, got engaged at 20, was married at 21 and had Aayush at 22.

"At Salt Lake, I had 250,000 people saying they love Shekhar Suman and Movers & Shakers"  

At this stage a face reader - a tribal leader - came to my house and sat on my chair with his legs folded. He lit a cigarette. He looked at my face and said two words - TV superstar, international star, the biggest face on TV. I had every reason to throw him out. I did not believe him and was not happy with his prediction because I wanted to be big in films.

Two months down the line Jaya Bachchan approached me and Dekh Bhai Dekh happened. I was taken to London as it was telecast on TV Asia there and I had fans recognising me there. I had already fulfiled part of the prediction of becoming an international star. Then came Reporter, Andaz, Amar Prem. In Dekh Bhai Dekh I discovered my latent talent for ad libbing and the repartee. I have done everything from sitcoms to serials to soaps.

What now for Shekhar Suman?

Every one keeps asking me that after every success. There's a lot happening: there's a movie with Kundan Shah starring Sunil Shetty, Bipasha Basu and me. I have started a company called Seven Thirty Entertainment which has already got commitments of 500 hours of programming from channels such as Star and Sony.

Movers and Shakers is going live. Plus there is a proposal from someone very big in the world which will take me totally into a different league - probably along the lines of Oprah Winfrey. There will be a lot image and money. I will be able to announce it in the next couple of weeks as I am still mulling over the morality issue.

Why does every one hate Shekhar Suman?

Where are those people who hate me? At Salt Lake, I had 250,000 people saying they love Shekhar Suman and Movers & Shakers. When you are popular some people will probably hate you. They probably hate my success.

There are two types of people who could be hating me: journalists and struggling actors who would like to pull down 10 other actors to lift themselves up. Journalists could possibly hate me because I have been made by own talent and the media has had little hand in building me up. They probably will have an even lesser hand in breaking me down.

But don't forget: those who want to hate, hate even a Mahatma Gandhi, a Shahrukh Khan and an Amitabh. And they waited for thirty years for his downfall.

Why does he get branded as a Jay Leno copycat?

There is no way I am a Jay Leno copycat. I am a personna. I have my own satire, the jokes are mine, then how am I Jay Leno copy? I had not even heard or seen Jay Leno when Movers and Shakers had been thought up. And when I did see it, I was annoyed that the sets and properties were quite like those on Jay Leno. But that does not make a Jay Leno copycat.

Why is he known to be a difficult star?

Who says I am difficult star? I work 12 pm to 8 pm daily. I give my scenes in or two takes. People take Shekhar Suman because he finishes off quickly. You can ask my directors that. I am a perfectionist yes but I finish off Movers & Shakers in an hour or maximum an hour and a half. I know I can pick up a nice script and make a nice role of it.

Also read:

The Badshah of Blah-Blah

Why we chose Shekhar Suman as Artist of the Millennium

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