Shekhar and his 'tedhi baat'

TELLY TALK

Shekhar Suman in 'Tedhi baat'

Shekhar Suman talks about his new show ‘Tedhi Baat’ on SAB TV and says it does not set out to impersonate or lampoon any one. Excerpts

What inspired you to come up with a show like ‘Tedhi Baat’?
Whether it was my debut film Utsav or Movers & Shakers or for that matter the TV serial Reporter, it has always been my endeavour to come up with a different flavour and attitude. I was inspired to make the show Tedhi Baat because I have seen several interviews on television when there is this seeming one-upmanship between the interviewers and the interviewees.

Why do you call ‘Tedhi Baat’ India’s first seriously funny talk show?
Comedy can be slapstick, amateurish and at times even vulgar but humour is always witty. I have always believed in straight-faced comedy as it serves as a stress-buster especially since there is a lot of stress in our lives. Tedhi Baat is a tongue-in-cheek show which will tackle serious issues in a light way.

What do you like best about the show?
What I like best about this show is that though it isn’t funny, the intricacy of the characters that I set out to portray is. It may look like a very simple show but I should say that it has been the most difficult show for me to handle till date.

How do you resist the temptation to hog the show considering that you are also the producer?
I am not hogging the show. It is Gurpal Singh, the host, who interviews all the characters that I portray in the show. Mind you, I am only portraying the characters, not impersonating or lampooning them. I see to it that there is no idiosyncrasy or caricature involved. In fact, the writers have been given the brief to not treat it as a comedy show because then inherent humour stems out of the peculiarities and the idiosyncrasies of the characters.

Isn’t it scary for you to compete with ‘saas bahu’ shows on TV today?
It is an attempt on the part of the channel as well as me and my production house to come up with a credible show. In fact, I’d even go to the extent of stating that it is the male version of the saas bahu shows since it involves the two of us, Gurpal Singh and me. I was very impressed by him when I saw the poker-faced Gurpal Singh in action in his show Chupa Rustom. I think he is the ideal foil for me in Tedhi Baat.

Is your show a cakewalk for you, as a producer?
My show is not a cakewalk for me because it gives me sleepless nights, especially since I have to play 16 characters in a month. To prepare myself for the characters, I have already started observing each and everyone that I come across in my day-to-day life, as an actor.

Can you elucidate?
I actually go through a series of nightmares when I go to sleep every night to conceive the various characters that I portray in the show because not only do they have to be acceptable but also be relatable to the viewer. Till now, I have already portrayed 25 different characters for the show.

What is the feedback that you have received for the show?
The best compliment that I received was when I showed the episodes to some people and they said that I am not recognisable at all in the show when I portray the various characters.

How tough is it for you physically when you shoot for the show?
I have to stuff cotton in my ears, put pipes in my nose and sit for make-up patiently for nearly four hours in order to play the four different characters in a week.

Do you shoot as per script or resort to improvisation when you shoot?
Of course the script is there because you cannot make a show like this without a script but then there is a lot of scope for improvisations between me and Gurpal as the interview progresses. I make it a point to under-rehearse, and even keep all the fumbles and the inherent rawness when the interview is on because the idea is to make the show look as natural as possible.

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