Shekhar Suman’s chat show Movers & Shakers was a runaway hit in the late ’90s. Moreover, it had a good mix of comedy, satire and celebrity guests that entertained viewers. The format of the show is remembered even today for its quality and the entertainment it provided. “Our first episode aired on December 31, 1997, which was an odd day to start a new show.
Yet it caught on in a big way. It went on to become a cult show that featured various celebrities including Shah Rukh Khan, Zakir Hussain, the late Allah Rakha, Yashwant Sinha, Kiran Bedi and the late Vilasrao Deshmukh,” says Shekhar. He recalls shooting the pilot episode with actor Ram Govil, of Ramayan fame, but reveals that “unfortunately that episode was never aired. In fact, our first on air guest was Tabassumji.”
The show was initially planned as a weekly affair but was gradually changed to five-nights-a-week format. It touched upon topics ranging from pop culture to newsmakers, jokes, skits and even featured a music band that was called Rubberband. “Every day we had to be innovative. We would scourge through newspapers and rummage through all kinds of news and present it in our own way. It was a shining example of great team work. The writers, production guys, people from the channel to the band to the guests — we worked together to make the product,” says Shekhar.
At times, it was tough to keep up the number of guests, but Shekhar and his team ploughed through. Apparently, the former host took home a huge pay for the show, which was `35 crores, for a three year contract, an unheard sum of money back in the day.
What’s in a name?
The channel wanted to name the show punning on Shekhar’s name and hence chose Movers & Shakers. The name also referred to a show hosting the movers and shakers of the country. Shekhar prides in hosting not just film stars but celebrities from all walks of life including sports, business and politics. “I used to joke a lot about our then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee [on the show]. My wife Alka would tell me not to [do so] as he might get offended. But at a function in Mumbai, he met me and said how much he loves my show and watches it often. It felt so good to hear such kind words from him,” shares the 54-year-old.
The hit formula
While reports drew a similarity between The American show, the Jay Leno Show and Movers & Shakers, Shekhar claims that he wasn’t aware of the former when he conceptualised his show. “I didn’t know a show like that existed. When people told me about the similarities, I got a recorded tape to check it out. We had many elements that they (The Jay Leno Show) didn’t have. The format of thousands of chat shows across the world has a monologue of the host with celebrity guests. I think what makes a chat show different is that it has to be persona driven,” explains Shekhar.
Guest of honour
Shekhar credits the show’s success to his team who researched about the guests. “We surprised and shocked many celebrities. We played a prank on Celina Jaitely and dropped some insects on her. We surprised Rani Mukerji with rosgullas, as she loves them. Once Meghna Reddy came on the show. She was a DJ back then. She drew her house on a piece of paper and later sat on it. I asked her ‘What are you doing?’ She said, ‘House warming’. Later on, to show how warm she was, she jumped on the table and sat in my lap,” says Shekar laughing and recalling that stars took the show and the host in the right spirit.