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Peschardt's People

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SEASONED HOST Michael Peschardt
SEASONED HOST Michael Peschardt

Several Hindi film personalities will feature on BBC presenter Michael Peschardt's show. BHUMIKA K. reports

He's thoroughly impressed with IT magnate Narayana Murthy like most interviewers are, and Michael Peschardt is now on his way to meet actors Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and then, who else but Amitabh Bachchan in London next week. They are all `Peschardt's People.'One of the longest serving reporters and presenters on BBC, Peschardt is hosting the second series of Peschardt's People, a series of conversations, as he would like to call them, rather than interviews. Last year's series featured the likes of Shobhaa De, Preity Zinta and Vijay Mallya from India. This year's series begins with Edmund Hillary and tracks people in the Asia Pacific region. Peschardt says the channel is committed to having many Indians on the programme. "The country is rich in talent and they are people with strong ideas. They also articulate well," says the BBC's foreign correspondent, based in Australia for a long time now. But why does it have to be the same Indians who've already been interviewed over and over again by the Indian and foreign media?

Indian celebrities

"They are prominent people who showcase India. They are part of the story of modern India. And the others don't interview them in the same style as we do," says Peschardt.His line-up of people to be interviewed shows an unmistakable Bollywood tilt. "Yes, today Bollywood is of interest the world over. There are people who haven't watched any of mainstream Hindi films but are still fascinated by the concept." Politicians, though, have never figured on his list. "We have a strange rule on the programme," he laughs. "We don't speak to politicians. It becomes a `Hard Talk' sort of programme then, and politicians tend not to answer hard questions." Aggressiveness is certainly not his style, he says. He prefers to put people in a situation where they speak candidly about themselves and their work. "Like when you are friends. And, you get to the bottom of an issue without an adversarial approach."

Friendly approach

But isn't this a time when being aggressive on TV is equated with being good? "I don't think it works. Maybe, at the time of a national crisis when you are putting someone in a spot, maybe... " So who really qualifies to make it to his list? "The only thread as such is a good geographical mix. But the key is that they must have something extraordinary about their lives. One assumed that if you are successful, you have an interesting story to tell. Though not every successful person has, you know," he says. "Most of the people watching the programme may not have heard of someone even like Narayana Murthy. What they say must be interesting to the audience." Peschardt says when he gets talking and finds himself fascinated with the person, he knows it will be a good interview. Being a seasoned interviewer, how far does he think is too far where a guest's private life is concerned? "I believe people are absolutely entitled to a private life. Only when a guest wants to talk about it," he says and adds, "surprisingly it happens. But we do it in a non-exploitative way." But he does point out how in certain cases, like say an interview with Shane Warne, it would look odd if he didn't ask him about his personal life. "Because it has affected his professional life, it is legitimate to talk about it. Otherwise, I believe it's none of our business." In an ideal world, you would spend at least two days interviewing someone for a programme like this, he says. But sometimes he gets just about half a day, and sometimes he has to stretch it to a week, like he did when he met the princes of Bahrain. "In some situations, you just need time to get people to trust you." Among those he has interviewed are actor Sam Neill, violinist Vanessa Mae, a gold prospector from Australia, plastic surgeon Dr Fiona Wood, and Australia's richest woman Janet Holmes Court.Peschardt's People will be telecast on BBC World every Saturday at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Catch the series April 7 onwards.

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