He has been called the badshah of bullshit, bakwas,
bedlam, blah-blah, the king of kitsch. He has also been billed
as the man who would be the Indian Jay Leno or even worse
Jerry Springer. Viewers hate him - apparently a poll on a
web site rated him as one of the most repugnant television
artistes on TV - but yet they tune in to watch him as he comes
on the small screen five late nights a week on what some call
that wretched programme Movers & Shakers.
He makes celebrities do things they would not be caught doing
dead on any other show. He puts inane questions to famous
people who you would like to be grilled seriously and punnily.
Grr..gnash. he moves you so bad you want to shake him up real
good so that he does what you want. But, guess what, he continues
doing exactly as he wants and sometimes you enjoy it.
Shekhar Suman may have got success late in life after struggling
to make it in the harsh world of Bollywood. But he is sure
is making up for lost time quickly. Tune into Sony you see
him there. Tune into Star Plus he is very much there grinning
away at you. Or even on staid old Doordarshan. Shekhar like
God appears to be omnipresent - at least on television.
Born in a renowned Bihari family in Patna, Shekhar did his
History honours from Delhi university, took his diploma in
acting from the Shri Ram Centre in Delhi and later joined
He was initially known as that wimpish actor who could not
stand up against macho stars such as Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna,
Amitabh Bachchan. He came down to Mumbai in the early eighties.
He got his first break in Shashi Kapoor's epic Utsav where
he played Charudatta opposite the sexy siren of those days
Rekha and he and matched her in quite a few sensous and erotic
is my forte. I like to make people laugh."
The film sank hurting Shashi Kapoor leaving him in debt for
quite a while. According to Shekhar, his real struggle actually
commenced after this though "The Mumbai industry was not yet
geared to accept a hero in a classical mould. Circling trees
and singing songs in black leather pants was the quintessential
hero material," says Shekhar.
Despite acting in over 30 films, with some of the leading
heroines of the time Shekhar's career graph remained static.
Manav Hatya (Madhuri Dixit, 1986), Anubhav (Padmini Kolhapure,
1987), Jaan Pe Khel Kar (Juhi Chawla, 1988), Pati Parmeshwar
(Sudha Chandran) (1989) were films that sank without a trace.
Shekhar was actually married at the tender age of 21, got
his break at 22, became a Dad within a year, and two years
later was labeled a flop film actor. The ups and downs of
stardom to failuredom really hurt. "The responsibility of
running a family was a cause for worry, but then I couldn't
keep accepting ridiculous roles just for the sake of keeping
myself going," he told a magazine.
For five years from 1989, he passed through turbulent times
with his wife actually supporting the family through her dress
designing business and Shekhar playing chauffeur in his battered
And then further disaster struck. His elder son Aayush developed
endocardio- myofibrosis which affects the heart's ability
to pump blood. Aayush battled the ailment for a while but
it was only a matter of time and the couple was shattered
when he passed away. But what kept him going during that period
was the fact that his second son Aadhyayan and wife Alka depended
From the mid-90s the wheel of fortune turned. The small screen
transformed him the wimp into a tiger. An artiste who proved
his talent time and again. Jaya Bachchan's television sitcom
Dekh Bhai Dekh exploited Shekhar's flair for the comic and
made him popular. Vinod Pandey's Reporter, in which he played
the role of an intrepid journalist, propelled him to stardom.
The peak came in 1998 when Shekhar was Mr Television: he was
in seven serials on a single day. On a Wednesday he would
be seen in Dum Duma Dum at 11 a.m. on Zee TV, Kabhi Idhar
Kabhi Udhar at 1.30 a.m. on Home TV, Amar Prem at 5 p.m. on
Zee TV, Reporter at 6 p.m. on Star Plus, Geet Gata Chal at
7.30 p.m. on Zee, Dekh Bhai Dekh at 9 p.m. on Sony and Movers
and Shakers at 10 pm on Sony. On other days you would see
him on Made in India on DD-1, and Ek Raja Ek Rani, Andaz,
Film Deewane and Chote Miya Bade Miya - all on Zee.
Shekhar believes that the turning point of his acting career
came with the television sitcom Dekh Bhai Dekh. Shekhar started
getting noticed as a man who could make you laugh and hold
an audience, unlike his cinema days where the public refused
to accept him as a big-screen hero. Shekhar told a magazine
a few years ago: "Comedy is my forte. I like to make people
But Shekhar points out that he is no Jay Leno and that he
has no Leno Deno with the man. "I am my own original version
of Movers & Shakers."
And guess who is his favourite poltiican? You guessed right:
it is Laloo Prasad Yadav, the remote chief minister of Bihar
whom he rips apart on every episode of M&S. Then of course
there is our Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Suman calls
Yadav a smart Alec. "You never know he could be the guy from
Harvard pretending to be somebody he is not."
Suman indeed has a sense of humour. "Early to bird and early
to rise makes your girlfriend go out with other guys," Suman
said to a glossy recently. And he's also blasé enough to say
that if his joke falls flat he will be the one to laugh the
loudest. It's not difficult to be funny he believes but it
is funny how people can be difficult all the time, he admits,
probably referring to himself.
He can also be extremely bombastic and he knows his worth.
And tries his darnnest best to get what he wants. Even if
he treads on more than a few toes making their owners yelp
in pain. Members of one of his production units call him that
big pain in the butt, because he can send all of them round
the bend if things are not measuring up to what he wants.
But yet they continue to work with him because of his star
potential.. "It's quite an experience working with him," says
one of them. "He can be very difficult."
Suman is so full of himself, said a wag recently, that his
favourite food must be I-ce-cream. Because of his penchant
to put off people, he probably is hated by the journalist
fraternity and hence does not get the kind of press he should.
But he is bland enough to admit that he has not made too many
friends over his career. "And today success gets you not friends
is mobbed by fans wherever he goes in India and internationally.
Love him or hate him, you can't help but take note of
He loves eating at the Samapan, Holiday Inn and driving around
in his Toyota. He is currently excited about M&S going live
to audiences wherein viewers will pay money to be part of
the show. An audience of 200-300 will cough up to see how
it is shot what goes into its making. The show will move to
a bowling alley and it will even have a museum of sorts for
the public so that they can get more involved with it. "I
would like to know how much people would shell out to see
me," he says. "I am all prepared to take the national flak.
"I'll host the show more fearlessly. After all, it's a lot
Then he is currently working with theatre personality Om Katare
who runs the Yatri theatre group to set up a theatre academy
Silhouette and enact at least two plays per year and also
new talent for theatre. Excited about the new venture Suman
said that his dream was to create something like Prithvi or
better still earn a reputation like Broadway "which people
who visit the States make it a point to watch".
He has additionally set up a company called Seven Thirty Entertainment
which will be providing software to television channels. And
is working on a deal with someone big worldwide which will
propel him to megastar status.
At a Hard Rock Café party in Singapore around a year ago when
he had been nominated for an Asian award for best anchor,
Shekhar was spotted grooving away quietly by himself. Even
then, he stood out amongst the rest of the crowd consisting
of Asian celebrities. His eyes were looking around seeking
some sign of recognition from those at the Hard Rock Café.
But then there were none. And one wonders whether he was disappointed
or whether he heaved a sigh of relief.
Today, that's not the case. His stature has risen to that
of a celebrity. He is noticed and is also mobbed by fans wherever
he goes in India and internationally. And time can only make
that better as his show is taken afurther by Sony to Indians
all over the world. Love him or hate him, but they will indeed
notice Mr Television.