As Cyrus Broacha turns a new leaf, we chat with the self-proclaimed cheat.
There are few persons in this country whose name evokes a smile. Cyrus Broacha belongs to this rare breed — people who can laugh at themselves. Reinventing himself from the MTV image, Cyrus has turned an author with Karl Aaj Aur Kal.
“I have grown up enjoying writing, particularly on the walls of the bathroom. However, in the last few years my dalliance with writing was limited to two pages which I used to write for my newspaper columns. So when Random House came up with this offer, I said I don't have the patience to write a novel, but when they suggested writing two pages a day for 200 days I thought the idea could work. I salute my editors' patience, because I can't type on the computer. And my handwriting is like a six-year-old's. But these guys have cracked the The Da Vinci Code!”
Cyrus believes the good thing about writing is you can be yourself. “As somebody who has worked in almost all the media — theatre to television — I can say with conviction that writing gives the greatest freedom. There is no producer to please, no director to listen to, no pressing deadlines to meet, and your work doesn't depend on the arrival of actors and assistants.”
With freedom comes responsibility. “Writing Bakra episodes is like Twenty-20, this is more like Test cricket. Wordplay alone doesn't suffice. There has to be a convincing plot.” Reading a few pages suggests that the book has semi-autobiographical elements. Very much like Cyrus, Karl's fascination with theatre and Amitabh Bachchan starts early. Karl's fatso friend is called Kunal, reminding you of Kunal Vijayakar, who has been with Cyrus for years. Together they create CNN-IBN's news satire show The Week That Wasn't.
“Yes, Karl has elements of me, Kunal has shades of Kunal and Jehan is somebody like my father, but everything has been exaggerated. As a writer you need real people because then you can give them a believable shape and size. Still, it is a story for me. But as I said, writing gives freedom, it also gives the liberty to cheat. And you know I am the biggest cheat!”
Well, can we slot it in a literary genre? “I don't decide before doing anything. In fact I hate all the -cides like suicide. They all have a killing element. It is not written keeping in mind the 35-plus MTV watching generation. It doesn't work that way. To me it is an engaging read, which can work for anybody who has a sense of humour and who can relate with what growing up in the '80s meant.”
Talking of humour, Cyrus has been the face of fun for youngsters for almost a decade. “Things have changed for the better. You are no longer considered a joker. I have actually heard aunties saying this behind my back. Raju Shrivastav used to earn good money earlier as well, but today he commands respect. However, when it comes to accepting satire, we are still a limited democracy. Traditionally, satire is a comment on the political class. And we have a healthy culture of vyang right from Premchand and Manto days. It is vibrant in Malayalam. But I don't think our political heavyweights are comfortable with satire on them. Film stars are easy targets; satire is successful if we can comment on Jairam Ramesh's efforts in Copenhagen.”
He cites examples when he has been stopped from making comments. “I see no reason in making October 2 a dry day, as I don't think there is a link between your drinking habits and your respect for the Father of the Nation, but you can't comment on it. Recently, I was not allowed to make a comment on late Pramod Mahajan when Pravin Mahajan was hospitalised. We are much better placed than Pakistan and Afghanistan, but if you compare with the U.S., we have a long way to go.”
So where is Cyrus headed? MTV is no longer the same — it has become another name for reality television. And his foray into cinema hasn't yielded much success. “Sometimes my heart aches at the way MTV has changed. They say it is the demand of the market. I am a leftist who needs money for his alcohol and keeping the kids in school. These days I devote only two-three days a month to the channel. I am devoting more time to CNN-IBN. Then I have a film, Mumbai Chakachak coming up which we will be complete once Rahul Bose returns from Copenhagen. I will continue writing but will focus on short stories. All said and done, you have given me enough reason to go for self actualisation. Today my drinking session will start early!”