SHORT TAKES Puneet Rajkumar says all his apprehensions about anchoring Kannadada Kotyadipathi disappeared when he came to experience the love of his admirers
Press conferences are mostly events where usually, nobody respects anybody’s time. One popular reason why everyone arrives late is that it’s taken for granted that the show will not start on time. The attendance depends mostly on the importance of the stars going to be present. The best part is that there’s not a murmur of protest. If it’s the press that troops in late sometimes then it’s the star who saunters in when your patience is at a tether. The worst part is when there’s no apology, not even the most popular one about getting stuck in a traffic snarl.
The press meet to introduce the second version of ‘Kannadadha Kotiyadhipathi’ was held at a sprawling hall in Lalith Ashok. Anup the head of Suvarna in Bangalore had every reason to preen. The first season of the show catapulted the channel to numero uno. The TRPs soared and the best thing was that it compared favourably with the Tamil and Malayalam versions hosted by the respective local stars. “Many people told me it’s better than the original Hindi version,” said Anup. There will not be any significant changes in the second version as far as the format is concerned. “We will be focusing episodes on the various districts in Karnataka. We will highlight the art, culture and the various heritage places not to mention the food that seems to differ from district to district. The first episode will focus on Bidar. The contestants though will not necessarily hail from those places.” Puneet, while thanking the entire behind the scenes team spoke of how the experience was personally enriching. “I wish and pray somebody wins one crore rupees at least this time. I know it’s not my money but the whole idea is to reward knowledgeable and intelligent contestants.”
Puneet Rajkumar was more than apprehensive when approached to host the Kannada version of ‘Crorepathi’ called ‘Kannadadha Kotiyadhipathi’. “It took me several days of mulling. I was worried about various things. The fact that the viewers will be comparing me to Amitabh Sir was just one. My fluency with the language was another issue and basically I’m an introvert,” says the star still sheepish at the memory. So what made him agree? “I took it up as a challenge. I hired a tutor and brushed up on my language and in a short span learnt to read with fluency. My family and friends goaded me saying I could do it.”
When did he start relaxing and realize it was not all that difficult? “I was floored by the simplicity and love of the contestants. Some were trying to participate not to win but just to meet me. I treated them like friends. I interacted with them off the sets, listening to their joys and travails.”
Puneet was more apprehensive and nervous when the show went on air than when any of his films were getting released. I remember Puneet calling me many a time asking for constructive feedback. He was thrilled when I mentioned that my aunt and uncle, in their eighties who’d not watched a single film of his loved the way he interacted with the contestants. “I’ll come and seek their blessings,” said the touched star. I think the way his father treated his fans has rubbed off on Puneet. “You’re right. I’ve seen him patiently talking to each one of his fans who visited the sets. I’ve never turned away a fan or acted arrogant. That did help me a lot.”
“I’ve met plenty of stars but believe me I’ve never met someone more grounded one than Puneet,” says Anup. “He’s never alone, mingles with everyone on the sets and never asks for privacy or to be left alone.” The fact is that the brain behind the show, Siddarth Basu insisted on Puneet for the second version. Siddarth praised his charming host sky high.
“I’m relaxed this time. I look forward to making new friends while improving my general knowledge and the best part is I get paid for it. Some people told me regular appearances on TV would lead to overexposure, but I think I’ve managed to woo family audiences to my films thanks to ‘KK’. I guess I just have to be more prudent in my selection of films in future,” says Puneet.