The man who shaped MTV's iconic characters talks about how competition from Channel [V] helped keep the work edgy and atmosphere irreverent
How Cyrus Oshidar came to join MTV has, interestingly, also got to do with the channel's biggest competitor, Channel [V]. Sitting behind his desk on the first floor office of 101 India, the web portal that he started in 2015, almost a decade after quitting the channel he shaped, Oshidar recalls that it was while he was on the copy desk at an advertising firm that one of his juniors told him that he was quitting to join Channel [V]. "He showed me some of the one-liners he was writing and I thought, yes, perhaps this is something I might be able to do." Ironically, when he did make the shift from advertising to television, it was MTV that he joined.
MTV's The Liftman
"I had sent a few ideas to MTV for their fillers and then strangely, I saw half of them on Channel [V]. I'm not saying they were ripped off. They weren't. But it made me realise that someone else was thinking like that and they first appeared on Channel [V] because Channel [V] came first. So, that gave me the josh to think, 'hey I can do this'. I wrote to them again. They called me for an interview and I got the job as creative director or head of promos."
Channel [V]'s Quick Gun Murugun
In charge of the environment, ie the space between shows, Oshidar gave Indian television its most iconic characters and lines of the '90s. Think The Liftman, the Chai Boy, One Tight Slap. "MTV was an adjective, a cultural force. It was the first time that youthful irreverence, wrapped up in lots of fun was provided to the Indian youth. And, the spirit came from the environment, not the shows," says Oshidar, who in that period was told that he had one of the coolest jobs in India.
And, as bad the cola and the mint wars of the 90s were, the race between MTV and Channel [V] was equally cut-throat.
There was a kind of friendly competition, says Oshidar, before correcting himself. "Okay it wasn't always friendly." Yet, he says, "It was good fun. I think the edge and nastiness and the twisted sick sh** that you see in media these days was not there."
One of his favourite TV spots from the era was a Channel [V] product: Quick Gun Murugan. "The competition was inspiring, fantastic and healthy. There was genuine (at least from my side) appreciation and respect for each other's work."
Channel [V], having started earlier, was ahead. "But MTV took over eventually. We had a smarter bunch of creative people over all. They had a couple of really good people like Devi [Rajesh Devraj], Shashank [Ghosh] and Mahesh [Murthy]. But MTV managed to pip them at the post."
"Shashank tried to hire me three or four times." But, Cyrus refused. Why?
"Because I should have been paid more," he laughs. But, adds seriously, "There's something about building something.
My work is doing well, why would I bring up a child and send it for adoption and marry someone else?"
But, that doesn't mean that there's any animosity. Cyrus has now roped in Yudi (VJ Yudi) for 101 and hopes to work with Gaurav (Kapoor) soon.
"I used to know someone who worked with one of the cola brands. He wouldn't drink the other brand or even speak to anyone working from that firm."
"As far as I see it, both MTV and Channel [V] helped build the youth culture of the time. It was a good race, even though MTV won it."
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