He is not out to cleanse society with his debut novel Karl Aaj aur Kal, says Cyrus Broacha. Read it at your own risk...
Cyrus Broacha shot to fame with MTV's candid camera show “Bakra”. But he first faced the camera at age 12, for his first film “Jalwa” with Naseeruddin Shah. With plays, commercials and TV shows behind him, he now anchors the satirical “The Week That Wasn't” co-written and directed by his friend Kunal Vijayakar. With his debut novel Karl Aaj aur Kal released recently, Cyrus opened up in a free-wheeling conversation about his shows, his book and life in general. Excerpts:
How did you select the title of your book?
It was a gift from my erstwhile friend and more importantly drinking companion Shree Kunal Vijayakar.
Which of the main characters in Karl, Aaj aur Kal is inspired by a real person (and who)?
Some have the base of a real person, but then they ignore my instructions and land up doing their own thing. A few are an amalgam of truth and fantasy and the rest are pure fantasy. Kunal would be roughly 50 per cent and Nilesh Kane perhaps 60 per cent. For better or worse it's a piece of fiction.
Did you attend acting school in New York like Karl and Kunal and have you drawn from what you experienced there?
I did, and I have, and I may add I had a ball. I came back with three truths about NY a) you must enjoy walking; b) you'll always be short of cash; c) after every girl there's an even more beautiful one in the future.
Did you really experience Pearl Padamsee the way you've written about her?
Ironically, Pearl herself was really larger than life. Her brand of humour waxed between straight-faced disparaging remarks and over-dramatic statements. I absolutely will always love and cherish her.
What is the message you want your book to carry? Something you want the reader to come away thinking or feeling?
Absolutely nothing. I don't want to cleanse society and the world. Quite frankly I'm one who rarely cleans himself. This book is just a journey and all messages are incidental and at the reader's own risk.
How did your publisher work with you on this book?
Mostly from far away. Publishers, I believe, are like wives. First everything is hunky dory and they appear quite submissive. Then before you know it they have the controls.
All said and done they've been fairly supportive.
Did you always want to be someone who made a profession out of his wit?
If anybody out there wants to make a living out of their wit alone, and aren't necessarily going into politics, then my message to them is please ignore people who tell you to shut up along the way. In the words of Jesus Christ, “They know not what they do”. I would also like to clarify that I see myself as a professional idiot; that is someone whose slated profession is idiocy, and bear in mind I was an idiot long before Chetan Bhagat, Raju Hirani and Aamir Khan came along.
What is your favourite medium to work in? Which do you find the easiest?
Writing for sure. I control all the variables, except of course my daughter's potty timings.
You sometimes have your family in your shows as props and though it's usually quite hilarious, I always wonder how they feel.
They aren't always chuffed. But they use an excellent instrument to ‘cope'. For the past 25 years they simply ignore me.
Tell us something about your early friendship with Kunal Vijaykar and the professional relationship you now share.
I first met Kunal in 1990 for an audition. I think it was a children's play. He stammered, stuttered and coughed through the reading and seemed extremely stern. I found out later he just hadn't developed any muscles, whatever, and as you know smiling needs the co-operation of plenty of muscles. After a while we hit it off. I see us as Lennon and McCartney, without the talent. Although now that I'm nearing 40, I'd rather he was John.
How did you get the idea for the wonderful Kaneez in “The Week That Wasn't”?
One day at a workshop we stumbled on a girl who was happily murdering the Hindi language. Her Hindi was so bad that she made me sound like Premchand. Such a gift should not be wasted. We stole her away, only to realise that she's a bundle of comic talent, who we heavily underpay.
In your shows you do a wonderful job of poking fun at important people. Have you ever got into trouble for this? Have you ever been stopped from doing it?
The network will, from time to time, censor something. But in general we try to use our common sense — short in supply though it is. Generally the team acts as a sounding board when we feel gags treading on dangerous grounds. Unfortunately there are a few holy cows to be adhered to.
Tell us something about how things have changed for you over the years in terms of response from your audiences.
One thing you realise, if people already know you, they've already judged you. It's a prejudice of sorts. They either like you or they don't, even when they've never interacted with you. I treat the audience exactly like I treat my wife: I always begin with the two golden words, “I'm sorry”.
What has been your experience with the film industry; how do you relate with it?
It's a lot like everywhere else, sometimes efficient, sometimes corrupt and with many strange accents. Mostly it's been fun, except for the long drives. I have appeared in about five films in total. They are: “Jalwa”, made roughly a hundred years ago, Sooni Taraporewalla's “Little Zizou”, “99 - People Pictures”, “Fruit and Nut” and “Mumbai Chaka Chak” (not released yet). However, I have worked as an interviewer with almost all the male and female stars of your generation and I've had to consume large quantities of alcohol to get over a few of them.
What about politics?
Well, I've been around politicians at public functions. Nilesh Kane's physicality and mannerisms left a great effect on me. Sadly due to security reasons his name can't be revealed at present; perhaps after I get my green card.
If you really did become Prime Minister, what would you do?
I'd give myself absolute legislative powers… But even such a powerful Prime Minister would have his limits. I don't suppose I'd be able to get my daughter into my ex-school! After all there's only so much that even God can do!