A cricket humourist, stand-up comedian, an author of a famous book- ‘How Sachin Destroyed my life’, fan boy with all access pass to the world of Indian Cricket, a presenter who interviews cricketers and ex- cricketers at ease. While we have seen him mimicking few cricketers and interviewing a lot of them, here’s an opportunity we got to interview the fore frontier of ‘What The Duck’- Vikram Sathaye.
So Vikram, we all are huge fans of What the Duck and we wait for the episodes- (we even tweet in case the episode gets delayed), for the benefit of our readers to know more about you, let’s have a round of Brain Fade (not in real sense) Q & A for you.
1) Finishing MBA, taking up a job, and ending up being India’s first Stand-up comedian… How did that happen?
The answer to this question is very easy. I was bored of the corporate job. Wanted to get out of it as soon as possible. I had few skills to imitate cricketers. Unfortunately, back in 2002, I didn’t know what standup comedy was. I used to work in MTV as Marketing Manager. While the VJ’s used to do the hosting, I used to do like a 10-min skit with Cyrus Broacha and few others. People started liking it and I realized that if I could extend this a little bit, there’s a lot of scope. Unfortunately, YouTube was not there in 2002-2003. I didn’t have reference of standup comedians from anywhere in the world. But being from Maharashtra, I knew what Pu La Deshpande used to do. Broadly had an idea, that when you go up on the stage, you put up a story, even if the imitations are there, they are part of the story line. So, I started developing this. And then when I realized that it has started working, that was the same time got offer to go to 2003 World Cup in SA for 2 min skit in Extra innings. People noticed and approached me saying “Humara corporate event hai, why don’t you do a ten min of what you do”. When I realized that this was working, I started to put my act together. I read up and found that stand-up comedy is a proper profession abroad which is like people do one hour sets and realized that there’s something that I can pull off. When Corporate started calling after World Cup and the CEAT Awards which was one of my first show that got telecast on Sony Entertainment Television, I thought I was sitting on something that had huge potential. I quit my job at that point of time. I was finding a way, Comedy helped me get out of it.
2) When did you realize you can imitate cricketers? When was the first successful attempt in?
I have been imitating cricketers as a kid. As kids used to watch Gavaskar play. In first CEAT Awards, I imitated Gavaskar. Obviously, there’s certain amount of skill that you already possess, because imitating people, either you have it or you don’t. In college, I used to imitate Tony Greig. During MTV, I refined it and thought there’s a structure to it. I started doing this and people in MTV said this is good stuff, you can do it on stage. Slowly I started doing cricket events in front of cricketers and when they said they are enjoying it, I knew that without hurting them, I am doing something that everybody is liking. I used to imitate the likes of Gavaskar, Azhar, Vengsarkar and whole lot of cricketers. I was a natural imitator of cricketers, I have been doing this for a while but in 2002, it became refined and then I made it into a career.
3) Have you ever played alongside the God- Sachin Tendulkar? How was the experience?
I have not played alongside Sachin. But when I played for U-15 for my club in Pune (I was 13 years of age), Achrekar Sir used to send Sachin to play some of the matches with us guy also. I have played in a match he was there, but beyond that nothing. It was not like I have played prolifically with him, just one odd match here and there in U 15 days.
4) How was your experience in the 2003 World Cup sharing the mic with the great commentators?
2003 was a brain fade moment for me. From somebody imitating a Tony Greig, Ian Chappel, suddenly in months’ time, I was on a flight to South Africa with an accreditation from ICC along with commentators. I was wandering what happened in one month that changed my life. I was supposed to do a segment on air. The producer of channel went to Tony Greig and said “this guy has come from India and apparently, he can do a good Tony Greig. Why don’t you chat with him?” So, he said, “Mate come on, do what you have to”. I imitated Tony and he started laughing loudly. That was the moment that convinced me that “Agar Tony Greig haas raha hahi, that means something is right” and is not that my friends are pulling my legs and saying that I am doing good imitation and typically from miming I became popular amongst the commentators as well. That eased the pressure of me that I have to go and do something. Suddenly Tiger Pataudi was calling and said here’s a friend of mine- please imitate Geoffrey Boycott in front of him and I was imitating, Geoff. Kapil Paaji would come and say “Tu yaar iski naakal aacha kar leta hai , yeh kar”, so for me I didn’t know what was happening and everything was going so well.
5) Did you face any resistance from commentators?
The resistance was not in 2003. Later on, when I did one stint with ESPN, and they actually put me in the commentary box with Sunny, Ravi Shashtri, that time I realized that Cricketer fraternity not necessarily likes an outsider. I never wanted to be a broadcaster. I like to have fun around the game. I realized that its difficult thing to be in the box being an outsider. Harsha has managed to do it very well. From 2006 I decided, I will not be in and around the commentary box. I will do my own standup comedy and my own stuff, that would be better because cricketers (ex-cricketers, commentators) don’t really like people from the outside world.
6) Why is your first book is Titled – How Sachin destroyed my Life.
If you read the first chapter, you will realize why this title is. Because I have always said that during my generation when we grew up in the times of Sachin Tendulkar, if you scored a 50 or a 70 in U-15 game, Sachin scored a 300. Whenever you played, your mother would say- “Bagh Sachin kasa karto aaahe”
The whole premise of my generation was that – Everything you did, you were still not equal to the guy. He gave you a benchmark that you would never achieve.
7) We have observed that you generally address the players as ‘Tu’ (Sachin, Virendra Sehwag), how did you generate that comfort level?
Comfort level with this generation was always there with Tendulkar, Viru and even for that matter Rahul, Zak and Yuvi. What happened was a very funny incidence. Being a Maharashtrian, when you say ‘Tu’, ‘Tumhi’, its matter of endearment. Some kids address their Baba as ‘Tu’. In Marathi, ‘Tu’ is not derogatory. But when you go up north, and in Hindi, u can’t say ‘Tu’ or ‘Tumhare’ to anybody. You have to say ‘Aap’. That’s something I had forgotten in the first season and while I was speaking to Sachin I was saying “Tu”, he was saying “Tu asia kiya tha” that is a typical Bambaiya way of addressing which I have been exposed to all my life. When I did that, I got trolled from a lot of people saying that boss what do you think of yourself, how can you talk with the god of cricket like that? Bahut gali pada… Then I realized the gravity of situation that in north of India ‘Tu’ is considred as disrespect. It was a mistake on my part to not understand this. But later, 99% times I have corrected it. Once in a while it has got slipped and I came back to ‘Tu’. If you realized, in the 3rd season, I have ensured that if I am speaking to Kuldeep Yadav, who is probably half of my age, I will still say ‘Sirji’, ‘Aap’, as I don’t want to commit the mistake I made in the past. So, it’s not necessary comradery which was there with the players, but a mistake more than anything else.
8) Why such name WTD?
It just started on an evening when I decided to do a show. I thought Centuries to sabhi celebrate karte hai, why not celebrate ducks. Every person is scared of a duck. The most significant moment of watching cricket on Channel 9 was this duck. If I am not mistaken it was called Daddles was the name of the duck. That duck was introduced by channel 9 and. And It kind of stayed on in my mind, WTD was just a way of representing the duck. If you see the first season, we had a WTD question in all episode and gave away Tshirt’s and celebrated the number of ducks they had scored and it was just a creative treatment and lighter way of celebrating something that cricketers hate having on their bio data the most.
9) Our favorite episode was ‘God- SRT’s episode and the best part was Debashis Mohanty’s bowling. A question in his action… Your favorite episode?
Obviously Sachin Sehwag, I have natural inclination to call them the favorite, but I personally I enjoyed one of the other episode of Murli and Sanga. I don’t know Sanga that well. I thought Sanga hai what will I talk, I know Murli is nonstop talker, but Sanga, I was not sure, but when I came out of episode, I realized so many Sanga stories & Murali happened. To me with Master & Viru obviously no, 1, because the stories that even Sachin had said on the episode about John right, and few other which I also didn’t know. And I knew of these stories only when I was interacting on the episode. Whereas Sanga & Murli, I didn’t not know a single story. From just my point of view, forget about the host, and just from a personal happiness point of view, Murli & Sanga stories were amazing. I am fan of Ashwin. Like the way he speaks. He was unbelievable with his stories in last season. Rest of episodes also in phases lots of interesting stuff came out. Last year, Parthiv Patel’s episodes I had liked a lot as Parthiv also came out with some amazing stories.
10) You have been mimicking so many cricketers, has any of the senior player ever taken it as an offence?
Surprisingly, nobody has taken offence up till now. I am trying to remember in the past … did anybody … actually people have taken it as an offence in the beginning when I used to imitate Sachin, they used to say it’s not in the right spirit because Sachin had that connect with the fans. And I said “Sachin ko koi problem nahi, to tum ko kya problem hai ..”But , people are sensitive. As far as I remember, I don’t think anyone has ever come to me and complained. I have been lucky that nobody has got offended from cricket field so far.
11) Is there any player you feel you can never mimic because you respect him immensely?
No not really.
13) Why don’t you mimic women’s team players?
Apart from the World Cup, I have not followed much of Women’s cricket. Typically, observation comes only when you see something for long time. Jhulan Goswamy’s action was different. I think I will be able to imitate. Earlier generation, it was easy to pick up as there were lots of characters were there. Either I have become old or I feel that the characteristics have gone down a little bit or maybe they are not there in playing 11, so I’m sure Mithali has some characteristics, Smriti has something, but I am not being able to pick that up till now. But as I said, Jhulan was something that has a unique action so I think I can manage her bowling action.
14) Season 3 was doing so well? Why did you end the season so early?
Dus ho gaya yaar. 10 episode karte karte meri jaan nikal gayi. 20 cricketers ko ikkathe lana back to back during IPL was a night mare. 2 cricketers coming together was the pain so 10 episodes for me was lot of hard work so I am happy it got over.
15) When is season 4 launching? Where can the audience see it?
Looking forward for conceptualizing something new for season 4, let’s see how it goes. This will be mostly during IPL as I will start prepping during that time as I won’t get time from cricketers. If I am shooting with the same lot or even others. I will not be getting any players unless I go out and shoot in in Australia or England. Shooting full budget crew and doing all episode outside becomes a little expensive so IPL time is the only time we can and that’s when the budgets are pretty robust. Am conceptualizing, but if something happens, great if I get a window somewhere, some new format emerges, I might think of doing something before also, but broadly, I think, the season would happen during IPL only. The audience can watch it on Viu and YouTube together hopefully.
16) Tell us more about ‘Bawraas’ and ‘Think Cricket’
The other passion that I always had was music as I come from a musical family. My mother teaches classical music and light music so I used to always be a ‘wanna be’ singer you can say. Luckily being in MTV and being in show business in terms of doing live gigs, I was exposed to lots of musician right from Sonu, Shaan, Shankar and Shreya – they are personal friends. One point of time I always thought that we got lucky in our profession. People doing unconventional carriers, why not support them when they do something interesting and that’s when I met Krishna Patil who was India’s youngest mountaineer who had climbed Everest and didn’t have money to go to the next mountain. So, me and Swanand Kirkire, Shantanu Moitra, once we were sitting were sitting and chatting and said we must do a concert for her to raise money. So, it happened on the whim and we got together and then Shaan said he will support, Shreya said she will support. We did a concert we raised money for her and that became pretty successful. Post that we raise little bit mony for Gopichand foundation much before the Olympics. We raise money for an athlete called Ankita Gosavi from Pune who had to go for the ASIAD so it became like let’s do a a concert for people who are doing good stuff. Unfortunately, last one year we didn’t have the bandwidth to do much but we are reviving it by identifying two or three interesting people for we will do some stuff this year.
Think cricket was something Harsha Bhogle and me have been talking about for some time with Anita, Harsha’s wife. Between me and Harsha, we must have done 1000’s of corporate. And over a period of time, both of us meet and chat about management and cricket so thought why not have a platform where we chat with the clients that we have always interacted with – CEOs, VP’s who come on an evening and chat cricket with them and when we chat cricket it’s a free-flowing conversation. We had Rahul Dravid speaking on the art of batting. Sundar raman spoke on BCCI experience, Ashwin spoke on Spin Bowling, so we keep calling interesting people to talk about cricket in free-flowing conversations with heads of companies. So, think cricket was something we thought we will do it very regularly.
All’s well that ends well. A big thank to Vikram Sathaye to take out his precious time and answering our questions. All the best for your future assignments
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