Raghu Ram, the rudest man on Indian television
He is the executive producer of the 10-season-old reality show MTV Roadies, where he’s also the resident tyrant – you couldn’t have missed him harrying wannabe roadies during the auditions. He screams, swears and sometimes even physically hauls them out.
In his recently published memoir, REARVIEW: My Roadies Journey, he talks about his life with unprecedented honesty – growing up in Delhi, being bullied (and often beaten up) in school, dropping out of college, getting married (he withheld sex from his then girlfriend till she agreed to marry him) and his side of the Roadies’ story.
When I met him last week, he was affable, nice even. He likes to talk about the profundity of life and human behaviour, what’s right and wrong. The anger came and went in spurts. I wouldn’t mess with him, but for this interview, I did. Here are some excerpts:
Why are you so awful to people on Roadies?
That’s the nature of the show. I’m trying to see whether you will work on the show or not. I don’t want people to flop over there. A lot of times people actually make me lose my temper. But half the time, it’s a test of courage. I come out much harder on the people I like in the auditions.
But you have no business being so incredibly rude to people!
You’re assuming I judge them without knowing them. They answer questions on the form, I ask them to clarify, so I have enough knowledge about their point of view. When I tell them it’s wrong and they still give me stupid arguments, things tend to degenerate.
These are just kids trying to act cool.
That’s not an excuse.
What’s your excuse?
I think these guys are bullies, they’re bullying a group, Muslims, women, homosexuals, anyone else. And I don’t think that’s okay. Your textbooks tell you women are equal to men, there’s unity in diversity... and yet if you come out here spouting [derogatory] lines, you’re growing up as somebody with an attitude which, for example, objectifies women. And they don’t even think they’re doing something wrong! I’m not going to stand it.
I’m not making a point just to the guy saying these things but to the ones watching the show also. And I believe I have succeeded on many levels and with a lot of people. In the process, I have generated hate, a lot of enemies, powerful people who are itching to attack me. That’s the price one pays.
Your aggression also sends a message to the viewer.
Yes. And that message is that these are things to get pissed off about. Look, I didn’t want the auditions on air. Now that they are, a Pandora’s box has opened. And I live with it every day of my life.
So would you like the auditions to not be televised?
No, I don’t. Because with a lot of hatred, it also empowers me to do what I want to do, to have a voice. A lot of people share my rage, whether you believe it or not. But it’s impotent rage. I’m able to do something about it and that makes the rest of the shit worth it. And in the auditions, a lot of people have received high-fives, hugs and salutes on TV. Everybody who is selected gets a career in a lot of things.
What do your parents think of it?
They have told me again and again that they’re very proud of me.
But they’re okay with the rage?
My dad said, “Please try and be careful. Don’t treat kids so badly.” But my work cannot be influenced by whether my father is watching me or his father is watching me, or if a political party is looking at this. So I told my father to back off and he said, “It’s not that. I don’t like it when people say bad things about you.” So I understood that my parents must get affected at some point.
You were absent from season seven because you were burnt out. Do you see that happening again?
It has happened again. I don’t want to do this season.
Do you plan to quit?
I plan to quit, the first chance I get. I’m working on another show for MTV... What frustrates me about Roadies is that for somebody who writes songs, has sung a couple of songs (Ajay Devgn just picked up one), acts in Bollywood films, has written for Hindustan Times (in the Punjab edition), can conceptualise, execute, direct and edit... I find it ridiculous that I am constrained to one show on television. I’m not being ungrateful to the show. I owe it, that’s why I’m doing it. But it’s ridiculous that I should end my television career as just the Roadies guy. I did Splitsvilla [MTV’s dating reality show, also very crass] too, but I didn’t like the show. I quit after two years.
What didn’t you like about Splitsvilla?
The humiliation that you talk about, that was happening there. I wasn’t doing it. But I saw it happening. It was aimed at being a success, unlike Roadies, which was aimed at being just a show [that happened to be successful.
If you have a son, would you want him to be like you?
I would want him to be his own man, whichever way it is. I wouldn’t want him to be the way I was, the way I am, because my growing-up influences were very different. You should not teach your kids what to think, you should teach them how to think. The rest is their choice.
So it’s all because of your ‘growing-up influences’.
Everything I went through got me here. If I could change anything, I would. But then, I wouldn’t be here. I didn’t enjoy getting beaten up but it shaped me. Everything I have done comes from disgust at bullying.
You often talk about being bullied, but you grew up to be quite the Munirka
ka goonda. You never talk about that...
I have spoken at length about the beatings but when I stopped getting beaten up, I started fighting, and that is just about two-three sentences in my book [But as we grew older and entered our teens, our attitudes and behaviour changed; we would roam the streets of Munirka and Vasant Vihar, not really looking for trouble but not hiding from it either. And we got into a lot of it. All it would take was for one of our friends to come up to us saying ‘panga hua hai’ and we would leave everything and follow him, ready for a fight. ‘Fight first, ask questions later’ was our philosophy.
But it’s not just me, it’s a way of life in Delhi and a lot of places in India and the world.
I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to glorify that. I don’t want to paint myself as a victim.
You’re a bundle of contradictions.
I’ve talked about it in my book. There are three different versions of me: Raghu Ram, Roadies Raghu and Fun Raghu. But now, I have distanced myself from the Roadies Raghu.
Do you like the Roadies Raghu?
He’s protected me. He’s done things I wouldn’t do. But when I say bye to Roadies, I want to say bye to Roadies Raghu. I’d like him to chill.
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From HT Brunch, November 24
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