TV hosts arrive and vanish. He's a constant. Here's Annu Kapoor in conversation with Sonil Dedhia
You've been associated with Antakshari for almost 15 years. What keeps you going?
Music gives me energy. I believe it's God's gift to mankind. It's a stimulant for many people and personally I think music contributes a lot to our lives. Ah yes, Antakshari is as much a part of my life as it of the viewers'.
Does the show still enjoy as much popularity as it had when it had kicked off?
Of course. It continues to be such a hit show.. also the format has changed for the better. Initially it used to be music-dominated..
Now, it's like a reality show, with adequate drama thrown in for good effect.. there are fights, cold wars and stream of tears.. we have to stage it all.
Hasn't Antakshari got sidelined amidst the wave of musical reality shows like Indian Idol and Sa Re Ga Ma?
Antakshari has remained unaffected. Having said that, every show has its own audience.. don't forget, water finds its own level.
What's your take on Indian Idol?
I don't get the time to watch TV.. so I can't say. All I'll say is not to get fooled by what has come to be known as reality shows.
<b1>Antakshari, somewhere, has touched a chord, it touched millions of lives. What they call reality shows are actually smart ways of making money. The channel and the telephone operator, hand-in-glove, end up minting money.
Do you enjoy the new Antakshari format more than the old one?
I was emotionally attached to the previous Antakshari, because that is where it all started. That was the turning point in my career.
At 52, do you find it difficult to cope with the tight schedule that Antakshari demands?
(Laughs) Ab main boodha ho gaya hoon. It is very difficult to shoot continuously, TV demands actors to work at frenetic pace. The auditions for the show happen ever so often.. add to that the dilemma of choosing the right team.
Haven't you found more success as a host than as an actor?
I don't know about that.. yes, Antakshari has brought me enormous success. Part of the credit for the success also goes to my director, Gajendra Singh who helped me tremendously.
Why have you stopped acting in theatre?
Because I don't get the time to do that.. I know I can't devote the kind of time and space that theatre demands of its actors.
Theatre has honed my skills.. I started off with my father's mobile folk theatre company. I would travel all over North India, performing classics like
Raja Harishchandra, Laila-Majnu
My brother asked me to join National School of Drama.. soon enough, I got my first break in a play called Ek Ruka Hua Faisla.
Why don't you act in films more often?
I wish I could! There are two movies I'm acting in.. Do Dilo ke Khel Mein and Fakir of Venice with Farhan Akhtar as my co-actor.
Do you feel you've been sidelined as an actor?
Look, I found work in very few films.. but whichever film I acted in, I left an imprint. (Laughs) I am not a handsome man.. maybe that's a drawback.. but I have the talent. Or so I'd like to believe.
Whatever happened to your production house?
I started the production company in 1994. Mrs Jaya Bachchan (then the chairperson of National Centre for Young People) gave me an opportunity to produce a film.. my company also produced a serial in Pakistan. I'm planning a few shows presently.
How do you reflect on your career?
I started my struggle at the age of 14. I was born in a slum and have seen the worst of poverty. I scored 93 per cent in standard 10, but somehow my father couldn't afford my college fees. I always dreamt of becoming a surgeon. Somehow acting just happened to me. I had even worked in a textile mill and sold lottery tickets. If you ask me today, I wish I were a surgeon.