It stands to reason that as soon as I said that Comedy Circus is the only Indian TV show I watch it changed. My nephew reminded me that Movers and Shakers has started again and I should check it out. So I did. But this post is about the first season of the restarted show, the first 35 episodes.
The first time when the show started it was in 1997, and to the best of my information it ran for 4 years. At that time I still lived in India and had never been out. I used to watch this show as and when I could. Basically, the show is Shekhar Suman. He is like a star of Indian television and an amazing host and presenter. But saying that is like saying that Taj Mahal is an old building.
Shekhar is a powerhouse of talent and I don't know any Indian who doesn't know him or doesn't admire him. To list all his accomplishment would be a tall order but still I want to mention a few that I know of and like. He was a judge on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge (my favourite comedy show), before that he was an actor, he was well-known for acting opposite the Bollywood legend actress Rekha. He was later a judge on Comedy Circus as well for a couple of seasons and was known for his long comments on performances.
It was during the TGILC stint that he went for body-building in a big way and came back looking younger. They sometimes show the old clips from the old Movers and Shakers in the new one, and I can see that Shekhar doesn't look younger than he was but he looks more handsome and distinguished than he was. I am sure he's pleased to see his old self on screen and enjoys the comparison.
At that time, when I used to watch the first M & S the one thing that I used to be immensely impressed with was Shekhar's speaking style. He has a flow like a river, the twists and turns, changes in tone, and what impressed me most at the time was how he could thread his way through English and Hindi with such flawless fluency that you never knew when he changed and he never missed a beat!
That flow and that flawless perfection of his delivery is still there but I guess as you grow up your way of observing things also changes. By now I have also been to many foreign lands, living in the UK at the moment and I can also go into Hindi and English fluently, by no means with the same skill as Mr. Suman, but good enough for my purposes. His use of the language is not just fluent but educated. He uses pure Hindi words in a way that doesn't look like a show-off but makes me feel proud to be a Hindi speaker. But still...
What I enjoy more about him in this new 2012 M & S is his way of dealing with people. It is a delight and an utter pleasure, (also full of admiration) to watch him interview these celebrities. I watch his manner very carefully as he asks the questions and talks to these people and I see that his way of talking to Om Puri is completely different from his behaviour with Sameera Reddy. He asks piercing, controversial and provoking questions of all of them, but his manner is radically different in talking to Mika and talking to Kader Khan. He always respects the senior guests, plays around with the younger ones, flirts with the girls and in doing all of that he always maintains his class.
That's the thing that I like more about M & S as compared to Comedy Circus. That touch of class. Even when he's mimicing Rabri Devi, or when he's cracking jokes on the prime minister, or dancing with Veena Malik, or flirting with a beautiful female guest, he always carries himself with class and dignity. And he treats his guests with dignity. He never hesitates in asking the tough questions but he never makes his guests feel bad while doing so. It takes considerable skill to do that with such a diverse range of personalities but Shekhar makes it look easy.
This time I am trying to learn that from him.
I am sure it helps that he's a celebrity himself and he has worked with so many people that he has developed this knack. The guests that he has worked with or people he knows personally, his behaviour shows it, within the limits of the show's format he is friendly but also a host. I notice all that and admire him for it.
When I watched the very first episode though (even though I checked it out months after its start, I started from episode one, courtesy of YouTube), there was the starting jingle and as I heard the words "The King is back...Shekar's back, the King is back" I thought, "Hmmm, Shekhar, ego much?" But then as he started talking he mentioned the first incarnation of the show and talked about himself and his activities in the last 11 years, he said, "Gaana nahin aata tha phir bhi album nikaali." Then I knew he was okay. A man who can make fun of himself earns my respect immediately.
Yes, that's another one of his accomplishments. He went into a singing reality show and also published an album of his songs. I have only heard him sing in M & S and I won't say he doesn't know how to sing. It's obvious that he has worked on his music and he has learnt how to sing. But in my humble and outspoken opinion, it's his voice. He has a great speaking voice and I think he's singing in the same voice. I think he will have to experiment and find his singing voice. It should not be hard for him as he's a very good mimic. I am not a singer or a singing guru so I have no right to give him advice but I just thought I'd add my two cents.
There's one thing I admire about Indian TV channels, instead of crying "copyright infringement, oh save us, our money, we are being robbed!" they are leading the YouTube revolution. There used to be so many people who used to upload Comedy Circus a day or two after it was telecast on Indian television. But it was always in 6 or 7 parts per episode and the quality wasn't good. Then Sony TV started uploading on their own YouTube channel. The show is in one long segment and the quality is awesome. I don't know if they make money from it, but I still get to watch it for free just like before and now I don't even look at any other uploads by individual uploaders.
Sab TV also does the same thing with Movers and Shakers. I am still catching up on the backlog so I don't know how quick it is but the quality is good and I love it that I can watch it so easily even though I don't live in India.
Other than YouTube M&S also has a Facebook page which Shekhar announces in each show AND a twitter account. The Facebook page is - http://www.facebook.com/moversandshakers.sabtv. Other than being a web presence for the show, the page has extra photos from the episodes, jokes, people's comments and other tidbits like the upcoming guest's photo etc. Their Twitter handle is @Shekhardobara
Now about the new format that they have started from episode 36. In simple words, I don't like it. They have changed the set but that I don't care about, the things I don't like are these.
The interviews are shorter, instead there are some silly activities which feel like cheap formulas and don't feel like they belong in M & S. They have added a section of comedy with Priya Raina and one of the Comedy Circus comedians. Priya Raina is extremely boring, and the comedians don't do much either as the script for them is 3rd class to non-existent.
Another thing which maybe small but matters to me is Shekhar's entrance. Oh btw, M & S also features the famous Surinder on the tabla, yes, the same one as in Comedy Circus. But I learnt from first episode that he was in the first incarnation of M & S as well so I think he belongs more here than CC. Here also Shekhar cracks jokes on Surinder but here Surinder is more part of it and it feels like he's treated better in this show. I have seen him speak more in M & S in 5 episodes than I saw in 15 seasons of Comedy Circus. I used to suspect he was mute! Here Surinder himself makes the jokes and takes part. So it feels good that Shekhar treats the band members well and includes them in things, otherwise on-air talent can be really snobbish as well.
Yes, so Shekhar's entrance. He used to climb down from steps on the right side of the set. There is a cute girl who stands/sits right in front of the band and most of the time when Shekhar came down the steps she would hold her hand up and Shekhar would give her a slow, soft high-five as he passed her on his way to his mark on centre-stage. Couple of episodes his didn't do this but in about 32 of the 35 episodes he did. (Yes, I do know the girl singer has changed after a few episodes but it still applies). Even though it's a small thing, I used to like it very much. It made me feel like, they were all, Shekhar, the girl, the band, part of the same team and there was a comraderie between them on and off-camera.
Now it doesn't feel like that. Shekhar's entrance is from behind centre-stage he comes and stands on his mark and starts the show. Not so good.
It's not just me who's missing the old format. Judging from the comments on their Facebook page, nobody is liking the new cheap-thrill format. I hope Sab will listen to the public demand and go back to the old format.
One thing they never did in the old or new format is to show the studio audience. I think they should.
Other than that, I am really enjoying it and I love it that it's 22 minutes 5 days a week.