Television has seen a drastic change over the years from Faster Fene, Mahabharata to Sarabhai VS Sarabhai, and this man has been a part of everything. Sumeet Raghavan, along with AltBalaji, is coming up with the ‘millennial’ version of Pankaj Kapoor’s acclaimed show Zabaan Sambhaal Ke.
I got in an interesting conversation with him about this changing phase of television, how actors like Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Vicky Kaushal are taking over Bollywood, his ‘ahead-of-its-time’ show Jay Hind and much more.
There are some actors with whom you kind of bond a personal connect with, even without meeting and you’re one such actor. Though I was a teenager when Sarabhai was aired but your character was totally relatable. What do you have to add to the kind of personality you’ve maintained over the years?
Thank you (laughs!), It’s nothing major, Umesh. It’s just take care of yourself and be happy! That’s my secret mantra.
“Jo chahe kaho magar dekh bhaal ke…” This is a line from the title track of the old Zabaan Sambhal Ke and this kind of define the entire atmosphere we’re living today. How do you think your version of the show will connect with the audience?
Right! This kind of subject and humour appeals to all. Hindi being our mother language, is still very less known to many. There are many of my friends and even cousins who don’t know certain words of Hindi. It’s such a shame. We’re just putting that thing in a humorous subject giving it a bit of modern touch. We’ve also made sure that we don’t go overboard with that. Even we had to maintain the innocence of my character Mohan Bharti in the show. Also, every character in the show is naive & kind of innocent. All the characters are fresh & except of the title everything is fresh. The original Zabaan Sambhal Ke was aired in 1992-93 and there has been a sea of change since then 25 years. People usually ask me that I’ll get compared with Pankaj Kapoor but I think that the people of today’s generation haven’t seen the old Zabaan Sambhal Ke. It’s unlike Sarabhai VS Sarabhai where you can keep on adding to the list. It was aired 25 years back so there will be a generation before me who will watch it and there will be a completely new generation to whom this will be a fresh thing altogether.
Also, don’t you think the original version was way more ahead of its time? You can say visionary because everything what they talked about we’re facing now-a-days.
You know all the shows in the past have been way ahead of their time. Be it Zabaan Sambhaal Ke, Office Office or even Sarabhai VS Sarabhai. The era in which they came in, they were atleast 10 years of their time.
Sumeet, you’ve seen a phase in television which we can label as a golden period of television. We’ve had shows like Tara, Astiva or even Zabaan Sambhal Ke. What are your thoughts on what’s happening right now on TV. Do you think we kind of are going backwards as far as progressiveness is concerned?
I haven’t watched television for years now because there’s nothing to watch unfortunately. I cannot watch the typical shows on television, I can only watch comedies. Right now with the digital coming in big way, me, my wife and kids are all stuck to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Zee5 or AltBalaji. The later two are still in the mapping stage taking baby steps but the kind of content available on Netflix and Amazon is mind-boggling. Television has its eyeballs for sure because our parents are still conservative types, some still don’t know what’s Whatsapp and how to track an Email, for them television is there. But for millennials or for people of my generation, the digital space is that next big thing which has happened. The amount of content which is consumed is bizzare.
Current favourite on Netflix?
Me and my wife are hooked on to How To Get Away With Murder Season 2 and amazing is an understatement. All these shows like Breaking Bad, House Of Cards, Wild Wild Country are just astonishing. Also, I’ve watched all the 5 seasons of Peaky Blinders and it’s one cult show.
You made your Bollywood debut with U Me Aur Hum in 2008, but you’ve been working since Mahabharat as a child actor when you were just 17. Don’t you think the process of transiting to Bollywood took longer than it should’ve been?
Even before Mahabharat, Faster Fene was 1985-86. Also, back then cinema wasn’t evolved much. Any kind of cinema be it Marathi or Hindi, it was star driven but now with Ayushmann Khurrana, Rajkummar Rao, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Irrfan Khan, Vicky Kaushal is the right time. I’m not dying to work in a Hindi film because right now Marathi films are just pushing the boundaries. Like my film Ani… Dr. Kashinath Ghanekar is releasing on November 8th, I’m playing Shriram Lagoo in it. I’ve been in this industry for N number of years and I’ve seen transformation in everything from shooting to acting patterns. I’m so lucky that I’m still around updating myself. This year has been fantastic, I did Aapla Manus with Nana Patekar, Bucket List with Madhuri Dixit and now my Marathi play Hamlet is running to packed houses.
Also, you’ve been a part of one of most bravely written web shows – Jay Hind which was later adapted by Colors TV. Why not come back with it? This is the perfect time to do a show like that. Varun Grover has been in his essence since then. Have you thought anything about it?
(Laughs!) We again were way ahead of time, even in 2009. Back then things weren’t smooth as today in digital space, just to buffer a half hour of episode it took 3-4 hours. The time wasn’t right but that’s one thing I can actually boast of. All the credit goes to Abhigyan Jha, the director of the show, he actually spent from his own pocket to produce around 400 episodes with talented writers like Varun Grover and Rahul Patel. There’s no such plan as of now but we can surely talk to Abhigyan about this.