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Exclusive! 'It's freaky!': Cyrus Sahukar on comparison between Kaun Banegi Shikharwati and Squid Game

Cyrus Sahukar also opened up on sharing the screen space with Naseeruddin Shah and Lara Dutta in Kaun Banegi Shikharwati.

Aishwarya Vasudevan
Jan 07, 2022
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Back in the 90s, during the MTV era, Cyrus Sahukar was among the pioneers to bring a variety of content and sketch comedy to the country. Over the years, the actor has changed the whole scene of comedy and became a fan-favourite VJ in India. For the past few years, Sahukar has also been showing his acting prowess in movies and series.

His latest outing Kaun Banegi Shikharwati has finally dropped on ZEE5 today. Ahead of the release, Sahukar spoke at length about the series, working with Naseeruddin Shah and Lara Dutta.

The actor also shared his thoughts on being typecast, his take on OTT censorship and more.

Excerpts below…

What made you say yes to Kaun Banegi Shikharwati?

I mean, there's very little to say no to. I liked the script. Most of all, the setup was beautiful. It was Emmay, Nikkhil Advani's company, and then, of course, there was Gauravv Chawla and Ananya Banerjee, who are fabulous people, and then the cast. To be honest, I wanted to get out of my house. I was locked at home for six months, and this was my first shot after lockdown. So when they said that there's a show, this is the cast, and we're going to be shooting it in Mandava, near Jaipur, I was like, "Man, I'm getting out of my house because my other option was only cleaning vegetables, cutting them, cooking, and cleaning the house." So, there were all these wonderful reasons, and then there's also the fact that it was shot in a bio-bubble during the lockdown.

How challenging was it to shoot with an ensemble cast in bio-bubble?

It was challenging for the production but they didn't make it challenging for us. They made it nice and simple. We shot in two palaces primarily, and all of us lived between these two places. It was a completely sealed set; you couldn't even step out of the gate to buy a toothbrush. So all of us were living together and had become like a family. Nobody wanted to hang out alone because they'd done that for six months. Every single person was out in the garden, chatting, exchanging stories and hanging out. It was a surreal and beautiful experience. As I said, you had the safety of the bio bubble, and you had the magic of all these amazing people, some of whom were friends earlier, and some who became friends during the shooting of the show.

You share the maximum screen space with Lara Dutta and Naseeruddin Shah. What was your experience of working with them?

It was amazing. Firstly, Naseer Saab is somebody that every single person in any form of art looks up to, aspires to learn from, and has admired in so many films. I'd spent a lot of time apart from just shooting with him, looking at him and observing how he sorts of arises, what he does, and how he performs. He's so well-read. Some actors like to talk only about acting and performance. With Naseer Saab and Ratna Ji (Ratna Pathak Shah), who was also there for a few days, you can talk about anything. They're so interested in folk music, Indian art, theatre, and politics. If you are a colourful person, if you live a full life, it reflects on your art too.

Lara is someone I've only hosted shows with before; we never acted together. She's such a strong, lovely person to work with. She is easy peasy, knows her work, helps you out, works together with everybody and is hilarious. If you get to know her well, she's a really funny person with a very sharp sense of humour, which I love.

The series has a lot of elements, but still, the constant comparison is with the South Korean show Squid Game. What do you have to say about that?

This is the most asked question on Instagram also as it looks identical in terms of the setup, the games they have to play, and also the costume. It's so bizarre that we shot this show one and a half years ago. Squid Game was released barely six months ago. So there is no comparison to the Squid Game. But it's so freaky that somehow the makers, Gauravv and Ananya thought of the idea of games and also thought of the fact that the bloody track pants also look the same. It is pure chance. That is the freakiest thing that's happened. It's almost like people in different parts of the world had similar ideas in different genres - one is a family drama-comedy and the other one is a suspenseful adventure thriller.

As an artist, what do you enjoy more: fiction or non-fiction?

It's almost like having two lovers whom you love equally. If I don't like it, for example, for the last two years, I'm sure you've also felt that all your work is in this weirdly Zoom situation. It's fun too, as you don't have to travel much, but it's also alienating compared to hosting something live. I've grown up as a VJ since the age of 18. I joined MTV at 15. I grew up hosting shows, so I still host shows. So, I love it, and with acting, there's so much to learn, really a lot to imbibe. I'm more interested in acting because it's like going to school. The other one you've done a lot of, so I can't mess up a show completely. But I can mess up my acting completely. There's a lot of learning to do. Learning in some ways or the other is difficult, but it is also very exciting to constantly try to do things.

In a recent interview, Vivek Oberoi told us that the transition from OTT to films and vice versa is now much easier than from TV to feature films. As you have been a part of all three mediums, what's your take on that?

Well, as a performer, and even at some level as a technician, I don't think anything better than OTT could ever happen to anybody. The kinds of roles you get offered because OTT somehow doesn't have a hierarchal problem. They have pulled people from everywhere; they are constantly pulling a cesspool of people from film and television and casting them in different stories. He's right that time has gone by. Especially with the coronavirus, I don't know how many movies will go directly to OTT and not be released in a cinema hall. So it's changed the way we operate and the way we work. It's an ever-expanding market, and it's completely changed the way people view entertainment.

Do you sometimes feel that, going by your filmography, filmmakers might try to typecast you, knowing that you indulge in light-hearted roles?

I'm pretty sure that will happen. I'm going to have to wait for someone to say, "Oh, man, this could be an interesting guy to plant in modern history or a serial killer story." You need a certain level of trust and imagination for that. But people don't understand, like, for example, I could do comedy for the next 50 years and still not do like 2% of the amount of comedy that you could do in variety. In India, what happens is that there is only one type of comedy, so people only think about that. But actually, you can do a lot in that field. If I get typecast, then that's the way it is and I'm going to have to try to break that myself. But for now, I'm so busy exploring the same genre that I'm not that concerned. Some comedians want to change their image and say, "I want to be a serial killer now." But I'm happy if I get that kind of role. I'm also very happy if I'm exploring comedy and learning new things here. It's like gardening; you can do gardening for the rest of your life and still say, "I didn't understand it fully."

You did Mind the Malhotras in 2019 when OTT was just booming in India. Since the pandemic started, it has become a go-to destination for people for entertainment. So how would you describe the whole OTT space in the country right now?

Well, obviously, with the advent of a lockdown, the OTT space was sort of viewed and consumed more than ever before. But now, I find it very fascinating. We just recently finished shooting Mind the Malhotras Season Two. It was great fun during the 40 days of the shoot. But it's interesting, like how fast viewing has changed. Especially if you look at the pandemic in one household now, everyone's watching different shows. Then there are a few family dramas that everybody sorts of sits down for. The way we consume content now has become very individualised, very specific. There's so much content too, that I spend half the day choosing what to watch.

What's your take on OTT censorship if that happens at all?

Well, I'm not for regulation at all. The regulation is like self-censorship; you have to eventually decide what you want to watch. If you want to go watch random, crazy things, then you can if you can do it right now in life. So I don't believe in that form of censorship at all. This is an age of too many options. In the 1980s and 1990s, people had five types of biscuits each, and now we have five crore options. When you have too many options, there's only one way to survive, and that is self-censorship. You decide what you don't want to watch.

Can we expect another season of Kaun Banegi Shikharwati?

I hope so because actually, season two is where the really mad stuff will start. A lot of season one is set up to tell this crazy story about this mad family. Yeah, I'd love to do it and I love the cast. I care about the directors, and I'd love to see them again.

So what are your upcoming projects?

Mind the Malhotras season two is released soon. We just did Potluck a couple of months ago. I shot two more series that will be released. So, there will be a couple of releases this year.

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