I’ve hosted quite a few TV shows over the years, and one of my duties as a presenter (apart from dancing/singing/flirting/cringeworthy gags) is to ask questions about pretty much everything under the sun. From the awful “You just lost everything. How are you feeling” to the intelligent ones which dig deeper. When I hosted my first talent show, I’d be genuinely interested in the answers of the aspirants to know their interpretation of a similar experience, having been an ex-contestant myself. On the IPL, for all my gobsmacked wonder and love for the game of cricket & cricketers, I often couldn’t hear them over the din of the stadium. Additionally, the constant chatter of the studio executives on my in-ear monitors (those fancy contraptions that make us look like FBI agents) would drown out any reactionary statements, thoughts or quick repartee, hence leading to many a hosting faux-pas during the tenure. However, the Live telecasting nature of that assignment taught me many a valuable lesson, most notably on my last-but-one assignment, the Rising Star. The questions, some contrived but mostly organic & out of genuine curiosity, continue to be asked to this day at events, award functions & the like. I hear all but don’t necessarily listen to everything, selecting only the juiciest bits relevant to the job at hand.
Over time, I learned to work with the system while maintaining my freedom & power to leave a personal imprint on my professional undertakings. What helped was a clearer line of communication with all the parties involved & a calmer, more experienced & confident me. The Host/PresenterChang that you see onscreen is 90% me and 10% an add-on act, a persona dictated by many factors & the need to spice things up. In real life I can’t be, won’t be and am not an over-dramatic person. In real life, I’d rather be me: no longer the sociophobe of my teenage years but still a relative introvert trying to make sense of the razzmatazz. I now believe myself to be friendlier, a good listener and conversations flow smoother than they did many moons ago. But in the profession, I remain a perennial inquisitor. And with the experience gathered in it comes the problem of real & reel blurring and merging into one, much to my amusement. This was most prominent in a recent chat with someone I know professionally but almost not at all personally. We met at a party, and while she shared her story of moving to India & working here, I saw myself becoming the reel me to hilarious ends. My stance, my body language, hand movements, eye-contact or lack thereof, my stock reactions to certain keywords. Fact & fiction were merging unconsciously and I feared I’d utter a cliched trope out of habit, much like the hilariously over-the-top crime news reporter with a fondness for the word “sansanikhej/सनसनीख़ेज़” (sensational) in Dibakar Banerjee’s brilliant Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. The chap uses the word so often that he laments:
"Abbe, ye sansanikhej main kitni baar bolunga? Ghar mein biwi poochti hai khana kaisa bana hai, muh se nikalta hai ‘sansanikhej’/अबे, ये सनसनीख़ेज़ मैं कितनी बार बोलूंगा? घर में बीवी पूछती है खाना कैसा बना है, मुँह से निकलता है 'सनसनीख़ेज़'.” (Dude, how many times must I say this word ‘sensational’? I’ve said it so many times now that when my wife asks me how the food is, I habitually blurt out ‘sensational’!”
Let’s hope that is somewhere I’m not headed!
On a punny note, the next time an anchor asks “How are you feeling?”, you should just mess with them by saying, “With my nerve endings.” That might just bring an end to this questionable behaviour, forever. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to ask you that if I see you ;)