The Tribune - Spectrum

, June 16, 2002

Making stars relive past
Vimla Patil

Farouque Shaikh in Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai
Farouque Shaikh in Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai

COME Friday evening each week, and the eyeballs of millions of viewers are focused on Zee TV’s popular show Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai (JIKNH). Yet another celebrity interview-based show, JIKNH, cleverly bends the strategies and styling of a normal interview by including a host of friends, relatives and career colleagues in unfolding the past and personality traits of a star or an outstanding achiever. Yet another departure from routine with JIKNH is that the interviewer or the anchor of the one-hour show is not a teeny-bopper or an MTV-type cool dude. Farouque Shaikh, who holds the threads of the show together on a self-created extempore script, is himself a veteran of the film and television industry and recognised for his memorable roles in Sagar Sarhadi’s Bazaar and Muzzaffer Ali’s Umrao Jaan. Shaikh’s somewhat laid-back, leisurely and a little detached style of conducting the show and taking the celebrities rummaging through their baskets of sentimental memories and relationships, makes the show peaceful, relaxing and a wee bit nostalgic. In an uncanny way, it encourages viewers to search through their own past, dig up childhood or college friends, teachers and supporters and re-establish the fragile links of goodness, innocent fun and joy they have left far behind in their relentless run towards material success and money.


"The show is designed to strike a chord of nostalgia in all viewers", says Farouque Shaikh, "It is aimed primarily at all ages, but is probably appreciated more by slightly older people who have lost touch with their childhood pals or their relatives. It is designed to bring people together in a spirit of goodwill. It also unfolds celebrity lives layer by layer, showing them as real people with their foibles, their emotions and their relationships through the years of struggle till they achieve phenomenal success in their careers".

"I came to this show with a logical planning," Shaikh continues, "I have made several films — mostly of the parallel cinema variety. Some of these are Garm Hawa, Bazaar, Gaman, Chashm-e-Baddoor and Umrao Jaan. But from 1973, I have been a television actor. My family came from a zamindari background from a Gujarat village near Baroda. My father was a lawyer and practised in the Mumbai courts. I went to St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and was heavily into theatre and art with college colleagues like Kavita Krishnamoorthy, Anuradha Poudwal and Shabana Azmi. Straight out of college, I began to anchor Doordarshan’s Yuvdarshan programme in Hindi. This programme ended in 1978. I also made a major impact as an actor in Praveen Nischol’s serial on DD called Shrikant. This was the first Asian programme to be telecast on BBC. Then I did Akhri Dao with Dipti Naval, Aha for Zee TV with Shekhar Suman and Farha, Chamatkar for Partho Ghosh and Alvida Darling for Anant Mahadevan.

"By this time, satellite TV had become a powerful medium to reckon with in India. BBC, NBC, CNN and other foreign TV networks had made an entry into the market. BBC was considering recreating their very successful serial Yes Minister for India. They chose me for Jee Mantriji and Pradhan Mantriji, both of which were produced by NDTV for BBC. Logically, when JIKNH emerged as an Indian programme, NDTVapproached me as an anchor, bearing in mind that the show needed mid-level seriousness, a laid-back style and a mixed reality-cum-emotional approach to the programme. Sucharitra Ghosh of NDTV handles the look and feel of the show, which features film stars, politicians, famous achievers and sports persons."

Shaikh has brought high TRPs for JIKNH by interviewing the most famous personalities of India on his show. Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Saurav Ganguly, Raveena Tandon, Preity Zinta, Naseeruddin Shah and others have appeared on the show.

"Obviously, to get a high viewership instantly, we chose film stars like Shah Rukh Khan to begin with. But the 52 episodes will contain people from all fields," says Shaikh, who hops to Delhi to do the show every now and then.

"Of course, the one-hour show has limitations. We cannot really go deep into the lives of our subjects. We underplay their traumas or goof-ups. Sometimes, the stars themselves say that certain aspects of their lives should not be discussed. We honour this because if we insist on including negative aspects of celebrity lives and embarrass them, none of them will agree to be on the show. With people like Narayan Murthy of Infosys, we do go into business, politics and other subjects. One of the questions, which people ask generally, is why star wives do not appear on the show. Neither Shah Rukh’s wife Gauri, nor Anil’s wife Sunita, nor Sanju’s wife Rhea joined the stars on the show. Naseeruddin Shah’s wife Ratna did. This happened by coincidence..."

"Still, I have managed to make some stars speak out about their traumas. Raveena Tandon referred very bravely to her serious relationship with Akshay Kumar — without mentioning his name. She said that she had put her career on hold for more than two years to marry and had worked hard to resurrect her career when things did not work out between them. Her two adopted daughters also came on the show. I think she has been extraordinarily brave; because a heroine, after taking a break of more than two years, finds it very difficult to rebuild her career in Hindi films. She has made this possible for herself and earned a place in the industry and even won the National Award for her performance in Daman, a film made by Kalpana Lajmi.

"But in my opinion, Sanjay Dutt’s was the most touching episode. His telephone conversation with his daughter in the USA, his drug and alcohol abuse, his possession of a gun and weapons, and his prison days under TADA — all these were discussed. Sunil Dutt also appeared on the show. Sunju admitted that he had messed up his life. But he said that he has worked hard to rebuild it in spite of repeated tragedies. His life is an example for young people who give up easily when faced with problems. He has fallen down many times, but has gathered his strength and stood up again and again. This is an admirable quality in any person!"

Farouque Shaikh is once more in the limelight of publicity for his suave handling of celebrities in JIKNH. He is busy hopping between Mumbai and Delhi, doing stage shows of the fabulous play Tumhari Amrita and reading scripts for television, theatre and cinema. "If I like any of them, I will accept more work. Otherwise, I am busy enough right now," he says.

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