A cricket humourist, a stand-up comedian, author of the famous book- ‘How Sachin Destroyed my life’, fan boy with an all-access pass to the world of Indian Cricket, presenter who interviews cricketers and ex-cricketers with ease! While we have seen him mimicking few cricketers and interviewing a lot of them, here’s an opportunity we got to interview the creator 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 my corporate job. I wanted to get out of it as soon as possible. I had a skill to imitate cricketers. Unfortunately, back in 2002, I didn’t know what stand-up comedy was. I used to work in MTV as a Marketing Manager. While the VJs used to do the hosting, I used to perform a 10-min skit with Cyrus Broacha and a 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 any reference of stand-up comedians from anywhere in the world. But being from Maharashtra, I knew what Pu La Deshpande (famous Marathi author P. L. 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, it’s part of the story line. So, I started developing this concept. And, when I realized that it has started working, that was the same time I got offer to go to the 2003 World Cup in SA, for a 2 min skit in ‘Extra Innings’. People noticed and approached me saying “Humara corporate event hai, why don’t you do a ten minutes show 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 was a proper profession abroad with people performing one hour sets, and realized that it’s something that I can pull off. When Corporates started calling me after the World Cup, and when the CEAT Awards- which was one of my first show to be telecasted on Sony Entertainment Television, I thought I was sitting on something that had a huge potential. I quit my job at that point of time. I was finding a way, and 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 since my childhood. And, as kids, we all used to watch Gavaskar play regularly. For my first CEAT Awards show, 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 added a structure to it. I started doing that, and people in MTV said this is good stuff, ‘you can do it on stage’. Slowly, I started doing cricket events in front of the cricketers and when they said they are enjoying it, I knew that without hurting them, I was doing something that everybody was 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 our team, also. I have played in a match he was there, but beyond that nothing. It was not like I have played regularly 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 or Ian Chappell, suddenly in a month’s time, I was on a flight to South Africa with an ICC accreditation & in the company of renowned commentators. I was wondering what happened in one month that changed my life so much. Now, I was required to do a segment on national television. 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 hass raha hai, that means something is right, and it’s not that my friends are pulling my leg when saying that I am good imitator. Soon, from mimicking, I became popular amongst the commentators as well. That eased the pressure on me that I have to go on my own, and do something. Suddenly, Tiger Pataudi was calling and saying 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 nakal achchhi 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?
That resistance was not in 2003. Later on, when I did a stint with ESPN, and they actually put me in the commentary box with Sunny & Ravi Shastri, that time I realized that the cricketing fraternity not necessarily likes an outsider. I never intended to be a broadcaster. I like to have fun around the game. I realized that it’s a difficult thing to be in the box being an outsider. Harsha has managed to do it very well. From 2006, I decided thatI 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 the reason for that title. 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 a U-15 game, Sachin scored a 300. Whenever you played, your mother would say- “Bagh, Sachin kasa khelto aahe”
The whole premise of my generation was that – Everything you did, you were still not equal to that ‘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 incident. Being a Maharashtrian, when you say ‘Tu’, ‘Tumhi’, it’s a matter of endearment. Some kids address their dad as ‘Tu’. In Marathi, ‘Tu’ is not disrespectful. But when you go up north, and speak in Hindi, you 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 aisa 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 considered as disrespectful. It was a mistake on my part to not understand that. But later, 99% times I have corrected it. Once in a while it did get slipped and I came back to ‘Tu’. If you realize, in the 3rd season, I have ensured that if I was speaking to Kuldeep Yadav, who is probably half of my age, I would still say ‘Sirji’, ‘Aap’, as I don’t want to commit the same mistake. So, it was not necessarily comradery 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 toh sabhi celebrate karte hain, why not celebrate ducks? Every person is scared of scoring a duck. The most significant moment of watching cricket on Channel 9 was this duck. If I am not mistaken, Daddles was the name of that animated duck, and that image kind of stayed on in my mind. WTD was just a way of representing that duck. If you see the first season, we had a WTD question in all episodes and gave away T-shirts, and celebrated the number of ducks they had scored. 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 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 a nonstop talker, but Sanga, I was not sure. When I came out of episode, I learnt about the many Sanga stories & of course that of Murali, too. To me, episodes with Sachin & Viru are obviously no. 1, as even the stories that Sachin had narrated on that episode about John right, and few others, even I didn’t know of. And I knew of these stories only when I was interacting prior to the episode. Whereas Sanga & Murli, I didn’t know a single story. From just my point of view, forget about being the host, and just from a personal happiness point of view, Murli & Sanga stories were amazing. I am fan of Ashwin. I like the way he speaks. He was unbelievable with his stories in last season. For rest of episodes also, in phases, lots of interesting stuff came out. Last year, Parthiv Patel’s episode – I had liked a lot, as Parthiv also revealed 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 had 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 can be 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 felt offended from the 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 a long time. Jhulan Goswami’s action was different. I think I will be able to imitate. For earlier generation, it was easy to pick up as there were lots of ‘characters’. Either, I have become old, or I feel that the characteristics have gone down a little bit, or maybe they are not there in the playing 11. 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 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 episodes karte karte meri jaan nikal gayi. 20 cricketers ko ikkaththe lana, back to back during IPL, was a nightmare. Two cricketers coming together was the pain, so 10 episodes, for me was a lot of hard work. I am happy that 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, else, 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 with full budget, crew and doing all episodes outside, becomes a little expensive, so IPL time is the only time we can. That’s also 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 only during IPL. 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 ‘wannabe’ 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 musicians- Sonu, Shaan, Shankar and Shreya – they are personal friends. At one point of time, I always thought that we got lucky in our profession. People in unconventional careers, 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, once when Swanand Kirkire, Shantanu Moitra & I got chatting, we agreed to do a concert to raise money for her expeditions. It happened on a whim and we got together, and then Shaan said he will support, Shreya said she will support. We did a concert , we raised the money for her, and that became pretty successful. Post that, we raised a little bit money for the Gopichand foundation, much before the Olympics. We raised money for an athlete called Ankita Gosavi from Pune, who had to go for the Asian Games. So, it became like, let’s do 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 whom we will do something, 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 events. 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, VPs 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 his BCCI experience, Ashwin spoke on Spin Bowling, so we keep calling interesting people to talk about cricket in a free-flowing conversation with the heads of companies. So, think cricket was something we thought we would do 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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