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Out of the (Idiot) Box

Three television anchors who dared to experiment – and survived to tell the tale by Kshama Rao.

brunch Updated: Oct 13, 2012 15:42 IST
Kshama Rao
Kshama Rao
Hindustan Times
Manish Paul,Hussain Kuwajerwala,Samir Kochar

They are the coolest trio on the TV scene. Good looks, a generous dose of charm, a likeable personality and a sense of humour are a few of the qualities that characterise Hussain Kuwajerwala, Samir Kochhar and Manish Paul.

Okay, the three may not have put in the same number of years into the industry but the reason we’ve clubbed them together – apart from the above-mentioned ones – is that each of them is doing something different than what they started out with. If Kuwajerwala after a decade in modelling, perfecting the art of playing the ideal TV beta and anchoring, has got into theatre with the extravagant Bollywood musical, Zangoora, Kochhar started with films, moved to IPL anchoring and is now playing the third angle to Ram Kapoor and Priya Sharma’s love story in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain (his first in fiction). This even as Paul, who began with waking up Mumbaikars with the ‘Kasa kaay Mumbai’ line on a radio channel, found his groove as an endearing host. He is spicing up the proceedings on India’s Got Talent.

So over to the men!

Manish Paul

Manish Paul
Energiser bunny

A Delhi boy born into a family of finance professionals and number-crunchers, Paul knew his calling lay elsewhere. “Whenever a tape would get stuck, my teachers would push me on stage and I would end up entertaining the audience.” Soon enough, his school principal realised his true potential and convinced his parents that their son had a talent for entertaining people. A “good memory and great mugging up skills” helped Paul sail through his studies.

He didn’t face much opposition from his family when he announced his decision to move to Mumbai. “Unlike families who react strongly to moving to acting, my parents let me go,” he says.

He loves being busy. “I have taken 26 flights in 32 days.”

Though in 2008, three years after Paul had moved to Mumbai, life wasn’t this good. He had to make do with little work, “A red carpet event here, an episode there. Frustration had set in, and so had self-doubt,” says Paul. “I thought I was being rigid and should accept whatever comes my way. But my wife was a great support.”

Perseverance and advice from the missus helped and after a string of fiction shows, Paul struck gold in anchoring. “Wheel Ghar Ghar Mein and Dance India Dance, both on Zee, were turning points. Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa gave me a chance to do what I love the most.”

Paul’s strength lies in thinking on his feet. “My writers know that even if I fumble or if the prompter goes blank, I would still carry on.” Shah Rukh Khan is his biggest inspiration, “My writer, Siddharth Dey who also writes for Shah Rukh’s live shows, told me once that he wouldn’t think twice before putting me on stage with SRK and Amitabh Bachchan, a childhood hero.” So much so that when he was younger he refused to go anywhere till his mother wrote M-A-R-D on his chest.

About the highs and lows of working on TV, Paul says: “TV gives work to everyone. But the long working hours are killing. A sense of humour and comic timing is something one is born with.”

Finally, is the money good, considering he doesn’t like to be not paid for his work? He smiles and says, “People have told me that I deserve what I get!” And we think he isn’t joking this time.

Acting Tip: Read. Even if you are saying a proverb, say it naturally and not as if you’ve mugged it up

Ragini Khanna on Manish Paul
“I’ve known Manish since we acted in Radha Ki Betiyaan. And then I was pitted against him in Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. He is quick-witted and I had to constantly be on my toes. You can’t plan a reality show. The lines are impromptu and there is a lot of give and take. It’s fun working with him.”

Hussain Kuwajerwala

Hussain Kuwajerwala on a new stage

Born into a middle-class family, Kuwajerwala lost his father early. His sister supported him in tiding over his grief and even as his elder brother moved into Direction, he began his long stint with the camera after studying commerce at Jai Hind College. “My father wished that one of his sons would become an actor,” he says. Modelling and acting soon followed. As the cliché goes, one thing led to another, and Kuwaje-rwala was introduced to TV viewers as the dutiful, ideal beta Sumeet Wadhwa in the long-running soap Kumkum. In 2006, his wife Tina and he walked away with the title in the dance show Nach Baliye. Kuwajerwala did some anchoring assignments till he found his groove in shows such as Shabaash India and Indian Idol.

In his third year with Indian Idol, he has been a friend and big brother to the contestants, as they shared their bitter-sweet memories with him.
“Idol is a great show. The timings suited me. I am still performing two shows of Zangoora in Gurgaon, so I shuttle between Mumbai and Delhi every week.”

For now, Kuwajerwala is happy with the money TV and theatre pay him, although he wants to do films too. “I am waiting for the right one.” His family is proud of his achievements. “If you can give your parents a comfortable life, it’s a great feeling.” If nothing else, he would definitely walk away with the
Favourite Beta award.

Acting Tip: Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be what you are not. If you are confident, the rest will follow

Mini Mathur on Hussain Kuwajerwala

“It’s been three seasons of Indian Idol with Hussain. He’s relaxed, secure, laid-back and a happy person. I am the hyper one. Hussain knows the technicality of non-fiction shows. He knows how to make it high-octane, when to pull it a bit and make it tight. He also understands crowds and live shows, knows when to throw his voice and keep the entertainment quotient going.”

Samir Kochar

Samir Kochhar The new romantic

He loves to talk. Ask him one question and he can finish the entire interview for you. Mention that to him, he laughs and continues to talk some more. The typically tall, dark and handsome Delhi boy, Samir Kochhar’s USP is, perhaps, his voice.

Currently though, he’s in love with his employee, single mother Priya Sharma (Sakshi Tanwar) in Ekta Kapoor’s Bade Achhe Lagte Hain. He’s also in Once Upon a Time Again, the sequel of the gangster movie Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai.

So what came first? The film or the show? “The show, because she [Kapoor] felt I could play the character of Rajat Kapur, the no-nonsense business guy in Bade Achhe Lagte Hain. I had watched a few episodes and thought it wasn’t the usual stuff you see on TV. My dadi and nani were jumping with joy when they got to know I was going to be part of it. Sakshi and Ram are cool people,” says Kochhar.

His first big stint with TV that got him noticed was the Extraaa Innings T20 show during the IPL which he’s been hosting for five seasons now. Survivor India followed, but before that he had acted in about half a dozen films (including Zeher, Jannat, Chase, Hide and Seek, Dangerous Ishq). If IPL brought him into focus, Bade Achche... is giving him a taste of fame and popularity that eluded him in films. “Films are part of my journey. Today, a film is all about that crucial Friday-Saturday-Sunday. These three days determine your nine months of struggle in which you put the film together. Yes, they may not have necessarily worked for me but hey, I am only 32. There’s still a long, long way to go,” says Kochhar.

So, what was the struggle like for this Jack-of-all-master-of-none? (After all, he’s juggled voiceovers, theatre, modelling, basketball, football, debates, and other competitions). “Yes, there was a struggle initially. Mumbai is a city that tests you. But I had it all planned out. I would sit with a directory of telephone numbers of producers and directors, list 10 of them, call them, go to their offices, drop my pictures, my resume. This would go on for five days a week and on the sixth day, I would wait for the phone to ring. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. And then I would start the same routine again.”
Of course, now with a daily soap, Kochhar has no time to breathe. “I am very busy. Last month, we finished the Dubai schedule of Bade Achhe... and being one of the key actors, I was shooting every day. It has been really hectic, but I am loving it.”

Kochchar’s love of acting began after he acted in a Roshan Abbas play and the cast received a rousing applause from the audience. He immediately fell in love with that feeling and knew he was meant for acting and acting only. Soon, Mumbai beckoned and his family supported him through the tough times. “I would feel homesick occasionally but my mother helped me settle down in Mumbai.”

So, what are the ups and downs of being on TV? “The high is the instant feedback you get. Here, you shoot today and you are on air tomorrow. The downer has to be the long hours. I am still getting used to it.”

Life is definitely looking up and as he says, he is just 32!

Acting Tip: Work on yourself and your voice. Stand in front of the mirror, say your lines, see where your hands are going

Sakshi Tanwar on Samir Kochhar
“Affable and good humoured, Samir brings a lot of energy to the Bade Acche Lagte Hain set. He is a sincere actor.”

From HT Brunch, October 14

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First Published: Oct 13, 2012 15:38 IST