Shekhar Suman - Moving With Times

Author: Dr. Mandar ---

‘Why does every star’s secretary act pricier than the star himself?’ This question keeps bugging me as I wait patiently in Dubai Crowne Plaza’s Al Majlis Hall. “Only five minutes”-that’s the ludicrous time-limit set by the secretary for my interview with Shekhar Suman! But as it almost always happens, the star himself turns out to be a far more media-friendly proposition. Clad in pink shirt and faded jeans, Shekhar walks in and settles down on a sofa near me. After a careful, gauging start he soon comes into his own and makes my day with an engaging interview. This tall and handsome man who has been ruling the television world since last seven years is witty, humorous and intelligent and oh, yes, he loves to talk!

I Believe In Journey-Not Destination

I set the ball rolling by asking for his reaction to being named the ‘Indian Television personality of the millennium’ in a recent survey. Alternating between immaculate Hindi and slightly accented English, Shekhar comes up with a philosophical answer. “I think everyone always gets what he deserves-nothing more, nothing less. But that only happens because of hard work and self-confidence. People often just see the man at the top but they don’t realize the efforts gone into making that happen. They don’t know what ups-and-downs he has gone through to reach there. Life is a continuous battle for excellence. I don’t set goals- they just keep happening. So these lofty epithets feel nice but in this showbiz, people put crown on your head just to wait for the opportunity to pull it down! So I believe in the journey- not in the destination but I am happy that as an actor I have managed to connect with the audience.”

So how does he look back at this journey? At this question, pat comes his reply with a loud guffaw- “I don’t look back at all!” He further explains, “I don’t analyze my past neither worry much about future. The uncertainty about future is what makes life interesting. So I just keep working!”

Comedy- No, It's Satire

He downplays his popular comic image and says, “Making people laugh is practically everybody’s desire. Luckily I happen to have a fine sense of humor with perfect timing and people love my punch-lines. But comedy just represents one side of my acting. I started out as a classical hero in Utsav. I did serious roles in serials like Reporter and Main and will be doing more such serious roles in future, too. Comedy is more like a balancing act- even great actors like Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan have tried to balance out serious roles with comedy parts. As far as the mimicry aspect of my comedy it’s again just a small part of my overall acting repertoire. A good actor always tries to mimic personalities he has observed and through those impersonations, he tries to put his point across.”

So how did he come up with Movers and Shakers to become the pioneer of stand-up comedy acts in India? He says, “I am a big fan of R.K. Laxman’s cartoons and his ‘Common Man’ was the real inspiration behind my programme. My stand-up acts are not comedy shows- they are social satires. I am catering to a socio-politically aware audience who would understand what issues I am talking about. As actors, we do have our social obligations and through my sarcastic and comic comments on various issues I am trying to raise a small voice against the ills affecting our country. If we cannot repair them, then let’s at least laugh about them!”

“Your first film Utsav had one of the most erotic scenes ever filmed in Hindi cinema. How was that experience?” My question brings a mischievous smile on his face and he reminisces with tongue-in-cheek humor, “With a theatre background when I walked into Bombay’s film-industry, within just fifteen days Shashi Kapoor signed me for Utsav to play against none other than the reigning prima donna Rekha. I was just 22 then. It was simply unbelievable. I was practically unconscious while doing those erotic scenes- otherwise I would have died of heart-attack out of sheer excitement!”

Then I decide, it’s time to be more inquisitive and ask, “You say you don’t like to analyze the past but after such a rousing start, when your career spiraled downwards and you sat at home doing nothing for three years, didn’t you analyze what went wrong?” Shekhar gathers his thoughts and says, “It was too much, too soon for me. I didn’t handle the career well. I worked with top heroines like Dimple, Juhi Chawla and Madhuri Dixit but the films didn’t do well. I chose good scripts but bad directors. I myself had a lot to improve a lot as an actor and in fact, the diversion to television gave the perfect opportunity to hone my acting skills in different roles.”

“You have interviewed a lot of celebrities on your shows. Which were the truly memorable ones?” When I ask this question, Shekhar says with twinkle in his eye- “Now you are again forcing me to look back at my journey! On my show, I have interviewed more than 2000 celebrities from all walks of life. Legends like Allarkha, Sitara Devi and Zakir Hussain have been quite inspirational but the interview I cherished most was of (firebrand Maharashtrian leader) Balasaheb Thakre’s. He never attends any TV shows but he specially came for my show and even mimicked Soniya Gandhi on air! Many people used to be uncomfortable about my way of questioning but then I had to explain to them that it was not the real me who was asking the question. I was just playing a part of a person who is irreverent and garrulous.”

‘You have a lot in common with Big B- both being real comeback kids. What has been the Bachchan influence on you?’ The question brings in a reverent answer-“Bachchan-sahab represents the best of showbiz. More than his obvious acting talent, I admire his grit and determination. The man has come back from being clinically dead. At the age of 63, he can give a run to a 5-year old. At this age, he keeps working in films, anchors a top TV-show, does 73 ads a year and attends hundreds of public functions. It’s amazing. We all have so much to learn from him.”

‘So what are your new projects? I read about an autobiographical film.’ Answering my parting question, Shekhar reveals his personal side. “I lost my son to a heart-illness and that was a shattering tragedy. I won’t ever come out of that pain. I want to make a film based on that experience but the script will take some time to finalize. Before that I am doing a film – Moonlight with Perizad Zorabian, which is an unlikely love-story between an ad-executive and a wannabe actress. I am also reading a script of a film- Komal Gandhar, which is again a sensitive story of a father and his dying daughter. This time around I am going to be choosy about my films.”


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