mid-day lunchbox: Gaurav Kapur and Shibani Dandekar's candid confessions
Friends and presenters Gaurav Kapur and Shibani Dandekar on Indian TV, digital entertainment, the carnival called IPL, and being audience favourites
The peculiar situation which England and Belgium found themselves in last night, where neither of the teams had much to gain out of a win thanks to the points table, is what actor, model and host Shibani Dandekar has on her mind when she meets good friend, producer and fellow presenter Gaurav Kapur at the Brooke Bond Taj Mahal Tea House. Football, however, isn’t the only sport they bond over.
Kapur and Dandekar have co-hosted the Indian Premier League, reaching the living rooms of millions of Indians, talking to them about cricket as friends would. As the Indian television industry undergoes changes and the web becomes a formidable platform for content consumption, they have kept their finger on the pulse. While Dandekar hosts The Stage, India’s only western music reality show, Kapur has taken his love for sports online with his popular web series, Breakfast With Champions. Their admiration for each other as professionals reflects in their conversation, and in the fact that they will soon be seen together in a web project.
Snigdha: How much has the entertainment industry changed since you started out?
Shibani: Content is changing. Earlier, there wasn’t much scope for doing things that genuinely fed your soul. Now, we can create content — as Gaurav is doing — that showcases what our interests and skill sets are. We have miles to go before we reach other parts of the world, but there are changes being made.
Gaurav: When was the last time you sat and watched television? Everybody is consuming content online. The cook in my office watches YouTube videos as do the editors, for it’s there on demand.
Shibani: And there is access to things the way we never used to before. You can switch on your iPad, watch content on your phone, or log on to Netflix or Amazon.
Gaurav: The demarcation has become clear. If you are going to make something that is mass-based, you make it for TV. But if it’s something that’s edgy, you sell it digitally. And there are enough platforms that are wanting to throw big money for that content now.
Snigdha: How did the IPL change sports consumption in India?
Gaurav: Earlier in India, sports and entertainment were considered two different worlds. But why do you watch sports? To get entertained. Especially with the IPL, which is such a circus in a good way, that if you broadcast it in a dull way, you’re doing the viewer a disservice. Snigdha: Was is it difficult for you to get rid of the "female" cricket presenter tag?
Shibani: I don’t think I ever bothered with it. But I am going to be straight up and blunt about this. I know I was hired because I am a female and I may look a certain way. I don’t think at that point in time, my knowledge of cricket made any difference. So, there is an element of surprise when you do a decent job. When Gaurav does a great job, people just know that he is good at what he does. They don’t say he is a male presenter and he is so good.
Gaurav: That’s the thing with everything in India, right? There are pilots and there are female pilots. There are doctors and lady doctors. We are a patriarchal and misogynistic society, and we have to do our bit to change that. Whenever I invite Shibani or Archana (Vijaya) on stage, I will never use the word beautiful, but gender-neutral adjectives like talented or fantastic.
Brun maska, beetroot and wasabi sandwich, green and white tea arrive.
Shibani: He is so cute. Gaurav has the ability to eat like a child. You just need to give him bread and butter and he is fine.
Gaurav: I've read about their specialty. I don't eat butter at all. So this is my treat for a month.
Snigdha: Do you follow a food regimen before hosting a show?
Shibani: I don’t really eat much before a show, but I always hydrate. We have been doing this for so long now that our pattern of life is to stay healthy.
Gaurav: I am like a clock. If I am going on stage at 6, I will have a snack at 5, because I get very cranky when I am hungry.
Snigdha: What is it that gets the audience on the presenter's side?
Gaurav: Look at the camera lens like you are looking into the eyes of a human being. If you are a storyteller, you observe and store that knowledge and learn to contextualise it later. So it’s like I am not working for a minute and I am working for 24 hours.
Shibani: When you are the host, you are playing yourself. And that’s very difficult to fake.
A television presenter you admire:
Shibani: *points to Gaurav*
Gaurav: I was going to say Shibani! She commands your attention.
An on-stage faux pas:
Shibani: It was the end of the game and I was trying to break, and I said, when we come back, we’ll head to the toss.
Gaurav: Everything I do on air is like a faux pas. I am always pushing the boundaries of what a faux pas is. If it is one, you just weave it into your speech and carry on.
Indian television needs to…
Gaurav: Get a little more diverse in its output; there’s too much sameness and regressive content.
Shibani: I would also like to see us create more fictional content in English. We have got great stories to tell. And we are doing that in other languages.
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