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Anupam Kher’s People a welcome break from the screaming jingoism of Republic TV

LiveMint logoLiveMint 24-05-2017 Rajyasree Sen

It seems even Arnab Goswami knows that man needs one day of rest. So in the world of Republic TV, we’ve been granted Saturday evening as the Sabbath. For two hours on Saturday, there is no Arnab, no mini-Arnabs, and no screaming and shouting. Imagine that! This Saturday, Republic TV’s two new celebrity shows were premiered. The one I’ve been waiting to watch, simply because I want to know why Anupam Kher is standing akimbo on the stern of a boat, is Anupam Kher’s People – Kuch dil se… Kuch dimaag se (a bit from the heart, a bit from the mind). The other is a celebrity show called Access, which is essentially a day in the life of a celebrity. The celebrity in the premiere episode was Ranveer Singh.

Now Kher’s leanings are well known. He is a great supporter of the Narendra Modi government and there is nothing wrong with that. At least he wears his politics on his sleeve. But going by Goswami’s monologue on his first day, when he claimed all journalists must be nationalists and that no one should question the army or the government, it’s not surprising that an Establishment-sympathiser has been given a show of his own. After all, Major Gaurav Arya, who has no journalistic credentials other than being a shouting head on Times Now panels in Goswami’s time, has also been given his own show.

The only difference in this case is that Kher is not only a thespian but has also been the host of five different television shows. And good shows at that. Which means he’s at least qualified for the job.

In the first episode, Kher interviewed Akshay Kumar—also known for his love for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He also recently won a National Award for that horrible film, Rustom, in which his moustache showed more emotions than he did.

Kher and Kumar have worked on 20 films together. So there’s an easy camaraderie which was evident. That made his choice as a guest sensible, because it ensured an ease in conversation.

The episode was shot on the location of Kumar’s film, Padman, and was quite watchable. Currently, there are no celebrity interview shows on Hindi entertainment television or on the news channels—ever since Anupama Chopra and Karan Johar’s shows came to a stop. Kher, despite knowing his guest much like Chopra and Johar knew their Bollywood brethren, doesn’t indulge in insider jokes or comments, so you don’t feel like you’re looking into a private party from inside.

There was a slight saffron tinge to the show in the beginning when Kher spoke of nationalism and religion. And Kumar spoke of how he’s working with the government to develop apps to help families of martyrs. What was worrying was an anecdote Kher narrated. He narrated the story of how once when he was standing in line at a ticket counter, an army man who was told by a ticket seller not to worry about getting his ticket, proceeded to grab the ticket seller’s collar through the grill and said “goli se jab nahi ghabrata hoon, toh tujhse kyun ghabraun” (since I don’t get scared by bullets, why should I get scared by you?). That Kher thinks this is a worthwhile anecdote to share and praise is worrying but not surprising since he was sitting on the frontlines of the Indian army—which is Republic TV.

What actually appealed to me about the episode was that Kher moves away from asking questions on Kumar’s views on society or politics or even cinema. Because frankly, who cares what Kumar or any other Bollywood star thinks about world affairs. He asks the questions which most ordinary people want to know about their stars.

So after waxing eloquent on Kumar’s philanthropy and nationalism and love for the government, Kher proceeded to give the people what they want. He asked Kumar, whether he has a shower or bathes using a bucket. Being a man of the earth, Kumar of course bathes using a bucket and also told us that his father used to bathe him while pouring a bucket of water over him while continuously chanting, “Om namah shivaay” (a salutation to Shiva).

He also asked him why he always rolls up one leg of his trackpant? (Because it’s warm, if you will.)

What his weakness is? Desserts.

What is his routine for the day?

How does he exercise?

He also asked him whether Twinkle Khanna, who is the producer of Padman, was paying him to act in the film. To which Kumar said he has to take lots of money from Twinkle Khanna, because he has to pay for her diamonds! A feminist died while he was uttering these words.

Kumar’s frankness is endearing to hear. Because when he was asked by Kher what comes to his mind when he hears the phrase, Kuch Dil Se…Kuch Dimaag Se, Kumar said, “Right now, your interview is coming to mind.” Which I don’t think was the answer Kher was looking for. Also, he said that when an interviewer asks him, “Sir, what are your regrets?”, his response is, “thappad maadne ka man karta hai” (feel like giving a tight slap), because why should he have any regrets going by how much he’s achieved in life. Which is true. What’s there’s to regret when you’re rolling in the big bucks and the heartthrob of the nation (well part of it, at least).

All in all this is actually a show worth watching. Kher has an easy style of conversation and if he just keeps away from plugging Republic TV or its jingoistic agenda, this may well be the celebrity show we’ve been waiting for. And what a great experience it was to watch Republic TV without Goswami shaking his finger at you while pretending to be Inspector Clouseau and The Incredible Hulk rolled into one. Next week, Kher is interviewing Kapil Dev and the promo seemed promising.

The other celebrity show—Access—can be given an absolute miss, though. It was essentially a promo by Adidas Originals, whose brand ambassador actor Ranveer Singh is. For an hour we saw Singh speak what can only be described as rubbish to the camera, mumble some inaudible words, try on clothes, exercise, mumble more words inaudibly and then gyrate on a terrace for an Adidas event. Singh came across as slightly unhinged, and Republic TV’s production crew for this show came across as slightly incompetent, since you couldn’t hear a word Singh was saying. Which, in hindsight, may have been a boon.

But all in all, Republic TV finally has given us something which we can watch without having our eardrums and brains disintegrate, so kudos.

You can watch People on Republic TV at 8pm on Saturdays.

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