How many movie stars can you fit into the small screen? The answer: as much money as you can fit into their pay packets.
And going by industry gossip, each one’s fee would be enough to fund a medium-sized Bollywood film. (We can suggest other ways they could use their money. For example, Akshay Kumar could offer a reward to anyone who can invent the fastest way to count 10 crore. Salman Khan can open an English Speaking Institute.).
Currently, the biggest star on TV (Colors) is Amitabh Bachchan doing his ‘pop philosopher’ number for Bigg Boss (anyone remember his homespun homilies when he used to host Kaun Banega Crorepati? Star Plus even published a book on them later). Now Sony has roped in not one but four marquee names for its Dance Premier League (DPL) — Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee and Bipasha Basu. And there are some small satellites orbiting the bigger stars too — like Arshad Warsi and Shiamak Davar.
I’ve seen one episode of the show so far, which featured the auditions to create the team for the North zone. Aspirants walked in, twirled about and walked out, ecstatic if selected, so ecstatic in fact, it was as if they’d won a lottery (they probably had — only, instead of money, the prize here is the chance to hover on the fringes of showbiz all their lives).
But more than the aspirants, I was diverted by the judges. Ever since reality shows hit our TV screens, we’ve seen about 1,400 judges — at a conservative estimate. Most of them fall into one of three categories — Mr (or Ms as the case may be) Nice, Mr Nasty and Mr ‘Dramebaaz’ (sorry, the word is untranslatable). The most illustrious example from the last category is undoubtedly Himesh Reshammiya, in the days he used to appear on Zee’s Sa Re Ga Ma Pa. I vaguely recall Himesh continuously and insistently and loudly demanding roti. (“Do waqt ki roti!!” was the battle cry. Why roti? I haven’t a clue. Hopefully Himesh does). Mr Dramebaaz of a different kind was Shekhar Kapur (on India’s Got Talent, Colors) who wept so copiously for the entire duration of the show, that you began to seriously fret and worry on his behalf.
I haven’t seen all the judges of Dance Premier League, but of the ones I saw, the Mr Nasty/Mr Insensitive crown can sit proudly on Arshad Warsi’s head. One of the people who came for the audition was a cross-dresser who danced very nicely to an Umrao Jaan number. But Arshad fixed him with a stern stare and said, “Bhagwan ne galti kar di. Use aapko ladki banana chahiye tha, lekin nahin banaya. We can’t take you.” (God made a mistake with you, he should have made you a girl but he didn’t). Another participant was a young boy who had lost his legs in an accident and had artificial limbs. After he had finished his dance, Arshad fixed him with another of his stern stares (does he practice them in front of the mirror?) and said, “Taras kha kar to hume aapko nahin lena chahiye, na? Hum to sirf kabliyat dekhte hain” (We can’t take you out of pity, can we? We must look only at capability).
Shiamak Davar was one of the other judges and I’m sorry but I couldn’t make out who the last two were (I missed the first few minutes of the show and after that, no one ever identified them). But the star of the show was Salman Khan who breezed in in the middle and was, well, Salman Khan.
I haven’t been watching too many news channels of late. The last time I switched on Aaj Tak, I could only manage half an hour of viewing. Because in that half-hour, there were three ad breaks. The first one had 20 ads and the other two had 14 each (I counted). That’s 48 commercials in 30 minutes. (News? Yes, there was something on the Taliban, I seem to remember. If only I could get MDH Masale out of my head).
And I don’t think Aaj Tak is the only offender. Watch this space.