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'Dad has become talkative'

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Book buff..a champion at racy repartee, a closet writer who can whip up prose and poetry, she had elected to bask in the glory of her eminent family.

Down the years, she’s been constantly badgered by her khandaan and her close friends to come out of her shell. Suddenly, she did a photo-shoot for a glitzy magazine.

Then she became ambassador to save the Gangetic dolphins. Now at long last, the shy Bachchan daughter steps into the limelight..as the host of a prime-time, weekly TV show which premiered last evening. Shweta Nanda on her new avatar.. interviewed by Khalid Mohamed

I ’m not going to speed into one of those I’ve-known-her-eversince-she-was-a-kid prologues because in a way I didn’t. She was the least visible of the Bachchans at their Prateeksha bungalow. At most, she would mutter a “hello” and vanish like a genie.

The Shweta Bachchan Nanda, I can claim to know (a bit), is an intelligent young woman. When she talks, she’s either very funny or very serious. No in-betweens. She has always known her mind..she’s been a terrific hostess, kidnapping Bombay guests away to the new Italian eatery in the capital.

Often, when she’d be asked why she doesn’t write a book, an article, a short story, she’d smile a knowing smile, and just look away to suggest, “Okay man, I heard you..can we change the subject please?”

Which is to say..when I heard she’s hosting her own TV show – NextGen – for NDTV’s Profit channel, the wrinkly uncle in me was as delighted as he was surprised. Hey, she’s getting out of her New Delhi home and going to work..cool.

And so, quite naturally, I ask:

Hello, hello Shweta. Listen, I know you can write from the heart when you want to..twist a phrase..didn’t think you’d ever jump into TV
.
Honestly I’ve not jumped into any , thing. A couple of weeks ago, NDTV came to me with an offer. And of course, the first thing I did was talk to my dad. He said, “You must do it.” Mum has always wanted me to do something like this, you know how much a woman having a career and her independence have always mattered to her. Yeah, my parents are very happy ..but I think on the day of the show, mum was very nervous for me..after all it was her child who was going out there on the national network.

Were you nervous?
Yes, even if I tried to hide it. It’s the first time I was hosting something like this..going into the big wide world, so to speak. Haven’t you been approached with such TV offers earlier? Not really, they weren’t ‘offers offers’ as such. In the case of NextGen, I felt the time was right. My kids are older, Agastya is six and Navya is nine.

I had nothing to do with my time. Then this show fell into my lap. Everyone told me to go for it, so here I am. I hope to interview young achievers not as super celebs but as people who have had the talent, the potential and the ambition to achieve what they have. What makes them wake up every morning and go for it..why they are so proficient at what they do..some of them are people I’ve grown up with.

After Aman and Ayaan Ali, whom will you feature?
Aah, the names are being finalised. The next one will be my friend..Mr Karan Johar. Will any of the interviews be done in a studio? Nope, each programme will be recorded where the interviewee is..on location..in any part of the country .

What’s the bar for being young?
It’s a programme for the youth, with the youth. There’s no fussy limit on age..we’ll be meeting achievers in their 20s and 30s.

Does that include Abhishek

?


(Smiles non-committally)ii Who knows! For starters, we’re doing 12 episodes..and will go with the flow..taking in not only film personalities of course..but musicians, artists, authors, sport stars..and see what India’s youth has to offer today.

Would you interview Himesh Reshammiya, Emraan Hashmi or Rakhi Sawant?

Hmm. Himesh Reshammiya would be wonderful to chat up. He’s everywhere..you can’t miss him.

And what about interviewing NRIs?
Right now it’s only the young men and women here who have made a difference to India.

How do you decide on the interviewees and what questions to ask?
The team’s wonderful. We all have our inputs, it would be awful to do anything unilaterally I formulate . my questions, they suggest some, no one plays boss.

Who has styled your look?
(Happily) I have. But yes, before we started recording, dad sat with the team, and gave his suggestions for my make-up, my hair and even the way I’m lit. So whenever there’s a shadow on my face during the shoot, the team laughs, “We’d better correct that right now..or your father will kill us.”

What are the negatives?
Oh you mean person. There are none so far and I hope the trend continues.

Are you being paid well?
What kind of a question is that? Would I ever ask you about your pay packet? Let me say, I already have enough of everything. A creative outlet is far more impor tant to me than a commercial one.

What I hope to show is that the young shouldn’t be stereotyped as brash, overconfident , irreverent for the heck of it, and lacking in traditional values. The old grand India is still within the young..it is the foundation that makes us what we are.

And how old or young do you feel?
I’ll soon be 33 but I don’t feel a day older than 20. That’s why mum keeps telling me that I’m still a child. Why didn’t you try television earlier? I wasn’t prepared.

Or too shy?
That I am..was. I’m not a movie star, I will not have fans. I’d rather bury my nose in a book and sit against a wall. I don’t have to do any red carpet walking. What I do like and can do are one-on-one conversations..as if they were happening in a living room..

Pa said to think of the interviewees as guests in the house. They have to be treated with respect, there’s no need to be rude..but yes if some pertinent questions have to be asked, one shouldn’t hold back.

Which TV shows have you liked?
I’ve watched quite a few. I think Koffee with Karan is lots of fun.

Do you think your father has been drawn out sufficiently in interviews?
No one has been able to so far..but he’s been opening up much more of late in print as well as on television..he’s actually become talkative.

Hmm, is being a Bachchan a cross to bear?
Never. It’s a pleasure and honour to be a Bachchan. I’ve got so much from this lineage. I know comparisons will be made, I’ll be watched with a magnifying glass, I’ll even be ripped apart..but that’s okay All . I know is that I can’t let my family down. If at the end of the day, they’re proud of me, what else could I ask for?