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Ready for the challenge?


EVEN WHEN you spoke to him about his "Timekku Comedy" some time ago, you could sense T. R. Venkatramani's eagerness to dwell on the game show — "Savaal" (on Sunday mornings) — that he's been associated with since it first began. The Jaya TV producer hastens to reiterate that "Savaal" has been part of Jaya from the day the channel was launched. More on the lines of the Australian game show, Mike Whitney's "Who Dares Wins," Jaya has adapted the format to suit the audience here.

The crew chooses a location and plants itself at the spot. Initially, hardly a handful of people come near the group. Prithiviraj, the anchor, suggests a game they could try and win prizes for. "Invariably, the first reaction is to back out. But just get one to play, and soon you find yourself surrounded by 200 others," says Prithviraj. The experienced actor of the big and small screen has been the show's anchor from its first week. "I never thought it would go past 13 episodes when I first accepted it. But now I feel that it would see at least another 250 weeks," says Prithviraj. "Savaal" has already seen 250. The show has travelled to the U.K., Malaysia, Singapore and Colombo. "We've met with resounding success everywhere. Our next stop will be the U.S. hopefully," says Venkatramani. And both tell you that there is very little preparation before a shoot. "Anyway we wouldn't know what kind of a crowd we would meet ... so preparation matters little. Just call us over to your office today. We'll come, have a look at the place and in a matter of minutes decide upon a challenging game we could take up there ... " says a confident Venkatramani.

So how does Prithviraj tackle a crowd that could be particularly troublesome? "We generally know the trouble shooters even at the outset. And since we are a group we tackle such problems quite easily," says Prithviraj. The actor-anchor comes across as a garrulous person. "Not at all. I'm terribly introverted, shy and quiet," he guffaws. "Ask my parents. They'll tell you. This brave front and big talk are a façade. Probably because I've been doing it for so long it's become my nature now ... " Venkatramani thinks otherwise. "Babloo (Prithviraj) is very comfortable with crowds. When we stop at a place to shoot, he would go out on his own and draw people into conversation. His exuberance and informal approach are also reasons for the show's success." Moreover as the challenge posed to the public every week is quite simple, it has many takers and thereby many viewers, feels Prithiviraj.

"Savaal" features individual talent too. "And though some of them could be risky, we take all precautions," assures Venkatramani. Ask Prithviraj how long he intends to go on with "Savaal" and his immediate response is "Till I am 60 ... Even then with a quivering voice I would be asking people whether they are ready for a small game of challenge ... " Prithviraj mimes like an old man and you are in splits.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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