“To understand the idea of The Week that Wasn’t, we have to travel back a few years to the pre-Mohenjodaro and Harappa period. This was a difficult time for television for many reasons. For one, there was no electronic media. In fact, there wasn’t even any print media, and above all Rakhi Sawant hadn’t been invented or put together by surgeons, whichever came first.”
That is Cyrus Broacha blogging. Easy to understand why he gets paid to be funny. But Broacha is not a happy man. “I hate working, I am a lazy guy, I don’t even own a cell phone because I like to be in hiding,” he confesses. He also hates wearing pants, being serious, paying school fees for his children and hosting expensive kiddy birthday parties where chutney sandwiches and cake no longer work. “There are some strange guys who say they love to work. I can never understand them.”
For someone so passionate about laziness, Cyrus has a lot on his platter. He writes a blog, he recently completed a stint with Khatron Ke Khiladi, he has a book titled Observations of the Indian Male coming out soon, he’s hosting MTV Bakra again and he has just completed 200 episodes of The Week that Wasn’t — television spoof on serious news. “These are the lowest times of television,” he shakes his head gravely. By now, you know, he’s joking!
Doesn’t it become monotonous to be funny all the time? The MTV VJ turned weekend news anchor on CNN-IBN agrees he is not satisfied with what he does. “I should have been a politician,” he says, rather wistfully. “I have a naturally sly nature, I try to work less and I love to talk.” The qualifications might be bang on but unfortunately, the dress code does not work for him. He sports earrings and he doesn’t wear trousers. “I guess I could still join the RSS,” he persists.
But motormouth Cyrus and the more serious Kunal Vijayakar, actor, director and partner-in-crime against Indian television viewers have been spoofing serious news and news makers for a long time. According to his blog, the idea for the show The Week that Wasn’t came about by the union of two important units — Rajdeep Sardesai (Editor-in-chief, IBN18 Network) and four glasses of vodka. After asking 147 actors and hosts all of who said ‘No’, Cyrus was chosen as ‘the anchor’. Kunal, adds on a more serious note that the idea of the show came from Rajdeep. “He wanted something with humour but as close to a news report as possible.” Inspired by the Jon Stewart Show, Conan O’Brien and David Letterman, the two came up with the Saturday evening spoof.
So how tough is it to be funny about serious issues? “Hard work,” says Kunal. “It has been a difficult show to write,” adds Cyrus. What possibly makes it even more difficult is that both he and Kunal cannot see eye to eye. “We have completely different styles of working. Kunal likes order, I like clutter. He is so serious that it’s not funny,” cribs Cyrus. Kunal has his own reasons to be unhappy. “Cyrus is a pain to work with. He comes on the set at the last minute and starts making all kind of changes when the camera is about to roll. You can’t do things like that,” he complains.
Even then, the two resist the urge to kill each other and meet for a 7 am breakfast on Wednesday mornings to thrash out ideas. With other writers helping out to break monotony, they discuss what is making headline, what are the stories that might happen and which are the ones that will lend themselves to a spoof. Leave aside the banter, both agree that they have unlimited freedom from the channel. Apart from the holy cows of democracy like the judges, the President, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and religion, they have a go at everything else. “It’s a pity we can’t make fun of religion, but we are a 60 plus year-old democracy and we still have to follow some rules”.
On the Hindi channel, for which they are doing a 50-episode show, they have to be a bit more careful. “It has a wider reach. Lot of politicians see it and somehow, the same things sound so much more offensive in Hindi,” grimaces Kunal. Naturally, they have been rubbing people the wrong way. “Kapil Dev was once very upset with us for making fun of the way he talks,” says Cyrus, but there have been other celebs who have taken their jokes well. P Chidambaram, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Jairam Ramesh to name a few.
The Week that Wasn’t completed its 200th episode with Cyrus as host last Sunday. Not a bad inning for someone whose self-confessed claim to fame, when he approached CNN-IBN for work, included a 325-pound bench press, a letter of recommendation from his father and three Labrador puppies called Einstein, Newton, and Archimedes.