R. Sreekandan Nair has completed 700 episodes of Nammal Thammil in 16 years. PREMA MANMADHAN on some of his new projects

Many people who used to come on the show are no more. One of my favourite participants was the late Chief Minister

E. K. Nayanar, whose comments were always relished by viewers

His route to TV stardom was certainly through his mouth. But R.Sreekandan Nair, senior vice-president (Programmes), of Asianet did not rest at ‘Nammal Thammil', the programme on Asianet TV that became a hit because of its public participation, the topicality of the subjects and the common man's interests that the compere represented. It has just crossed 16 years and 700 episodes, an awesome number in a programme of this nature.

Another feather in his cap is of the reality kind. Sreekandan Nair took the reality show concept a step further, combining information, entertainment and was instrumental in presenting the show in a viewer-friendly manner, raking in high ratings.

Varied subjects

The subjects of the Nammal Thammil show ranged from goonda dens to beauty parlours, and it continues to draw viewers. “When we telecast the show on goondas, I had a taste of it myself. While I was at Kochi, in a hotel the staff asked me to change the hotel for they had come to know that a few goondas were waiting for an opportunity to get me. I got out through the back door and headed straight to Thiruvanathapuram!” jokes Sreekandan Nair. That was way back in the nineties.

Cut to the present: Three months ago, an ex-goonda who had served his term and is leading a straight life came to meet Sreekandan Nair. He spoke to him about how he was a changed person and was doing a lot of social service now. “He was a totally changed man, and clearly repented for whatever he did. Just before he left, he turned to me and said, ‘I was the one who sent those people to finish you off then',” reveals a relieved Sreekandan Nair.

He is toying with the idea of doing two subjects on a Nammal Thammil show, complete with two subjects, two audiences and costume changes ‘during the break'. The modalities have not been worked out yet. “Many people who used to come on the show are no more. One of my favourite participants was the late Chief Minister E. K. Nayanar, whose comments were always relished by viewers.”

The reality shows, namely Idea Star Singer that has been a runaway hit also has changed the way people perceive music, he says. The common man knows now that there is more to music than merely chanting the lines or humming the tune somewhat like the song.

People now know about musical lingo like ‘sangathis' which hitherto had been in the confines of the classical music world alone. Another point is that people also understand how difficult it is to sing a light song. Rudimentary musical usages like ‘sruthi', referring to the ‘swaras' like ‘shadjam', and what ‘sharp notes' means, important points to help good singing like ways to hold your breath, drinking more water to prevent dryness etc are now no more secrets, thanks to Star Singer shows..

Star Singer show

“Not only in Kerala but in other States and countries too people watch Star Singer show. When I went to Dubai, at the airport, a man came to me and told me in broken Malayalam that he enjoyed the show. He had also become addicted to it, he said. When I asked him from where he hailed, he said, Pakistan!” Sreekandan Nair says, more amused than shocked.

Won't a Season 5 of the show be too much on the viewers? No, feels Sreekandan Nair and assures you there will be one with most of the ‘actors' continuing on the stage, set up at the old Lakshmy Theatre, Vattiyoorkkavu, which Prem Nazir inaugurated. (Another instance of TV getting an edge over the big screen, maybe!)

These days, Sreekandan Nair is immersed in writing promos and scroll material. Yes, promos. If you think that's a rookie's job, you are mistaken. “It is an ideal way to draw the viewer's attention to programmes and both the visual and the audio matter have to be carefully done, only then will people want to watch it. So that's a very important job and maybe if after a few years, an award is instituted for promo and scroll writers, I will get it,” says Sreekandan Nair in his inimitable way.

So, it's not ‘goodbye' yet to Nammal Thammil or Star Singer, take heart!