If you grew up in the era of Doordarshan, ‘Surabhi’, ‘Subah Savere’ and ‘Good Morning India’ will ring gigantic, creaky bells in your head.
I remember watching everything on television – from the time the transmission began at 5 in the morning, to the time it ended at 11 pm. From the friendly aunty giving out the deaf and dumb news, the ascetic professor teaching physics formulae in Gyan darshan, to the middle aged scientist giving agricultural tips in Krishi Darshan. If there was something on TV, I was standing in front of it – watching in awe the shapes and colours, the sounds that sprang out of the box.
A few years down the line, the cable television revolution happened. I clearly remember how I heard about it. I used to play cricket in front of our house. One such day, a kid came up to me and said, “How many channels do you get on your TV?”
I looked at him as if he had asked me how many kidneys I had. “Two”.
“We get more than 20 channels”, he said. I am generally a skeptic, so I had my doubts. I later went to his house, and was amazed to witness the miracle – in bright, shiny colours. He explained to me that there were channels that showed films all day. Only films. All day. I was shocked.
What about the Sunday evening 4.30 slot? If they showed films all day, how did the family do any work? Didn’t they all just sit and watch films day in and day out? And what about the channels that showed news all day? Who watched that channel? Who would watch a channel that showed news all day when there was a channel that was showing films all day? I felt lost, amidst the choices the remote offered, and the questions my brain posed.
In a few years, I was comfortable with cable television. Of course, we had only Doordarshan at home, but my friends at school spoke to me about the marvels of cable television. About Zee Horror show episodes, of MTV albums, of Cartoon Network shows. Eventually, we jumped on to the cable television bandwagon too.
And since I used to watch Subah Savere and Krishi Darshan, when I watched Movers and Shakers for the first time, I was charmed.
I had seen Shekhar Suman in Dekh Bhai Dekh and other shows on DD. Amidst the loud, caricaturish shows on television, his show came as a breath of fresh air.
Firstly, he openly took potshots at ministers, cricketers, and film stars – the holy trinity of our country. I marveled at the balls of the guy who could mimic Vajpayee, Laloo, Javagal Srinath on national television and get away with it.
The choice of guests – from artists, to sportsmen, writers, musicians, ad-men, to poets. For the first time, I felt that we had more than just film stars in our country. And Shekhar Suman had this way of bringing out the best from the guest.
He was cheeky with the younger ones, but reverential to the older ones. I remember watching Pandit Jasraj’s episode. Who would have thought that the man was utterly hilarious? That the man who could churn out sargams like a cursing rishi, could also be a chivalrous flirt with a pretty woman? Or the episode with Ratna Pathak Shah, or the one with Laloo himself?
Switching between Hindi and English, cheeky and inquisitive, Shekhar Suman managed a certain freshness into the show that kept me glued.
Even though Movers and Shakers was the Indian version of Letterman and Leno, it gave the younger ones something to connect to. We were too young for Shanti and Buniyaad, and slightly older for Mowgli and Captain Vyom. I was beginning to figure out news and personalities, and the show made me feel like an adult, laughing with the older ones. Shekhar Suman mixed Indian cynicism with a certain Atithi Devo Bhava respect that was perfect for the audience.
Apart from Sonu Nigam’s Sa Re Ga Ma, this was the only show I would watch religiously.
And then I grew up.
A few days back, I heard that the show was being rebooted.
Shekhar Suman was still there, the format was the same, even the band – Rubber Band – was the same. The man looked strangely prosthetic, like a Hindi remake of Curious Case of Benjamin Button produced by K.C. Bokadia.
The jokes remained the same, but criticizing a politician didn’t seem so sacrilegious anymore. ‘Rubber Band’ sounded like the tacky PJs I put up on Facebook. (I always wanted to have a band. Today, I only have rubber band).
After 15 minutes, I changed the channel. Probably because I knew there was a hundred other things I could watch. Or because he didn’t seem like the genuine, cheeky Shekhar Suman anymore. By then, Raju Srivastav had taken over my imagination. I would watch his sets over and over, I knew most of them by heart. In comparison, it was sad to see Shekar Suman mimic Vajpayee and Laloo, that those were the only voices he could do.
Or probably because I knew that I could always log into the internet, I could watch a film, play a game, talk to a friend, or stalk someone on Facebook. I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t connect to the show this time around.
Or may be some feelings are meant for a particular era, not meant to be felt again.