Manning Up

Author Aatish Taseer on his debut as a TV show host

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Published:December 20, 2013 5:13 am

After writing about childhood and identity in his novels,acclaimed author Aatish Taseer is now taking a detour into telly land. The British-born novelist,known for books such as Temple Goers (2010) and Noon (2011),will be hosting an upcoming show on Star World called Gentlemen’s Code,which deals with what it takes to be a man in today’s world. In this interview,he reveals a bit about his new gig and the qualities of a gentleman:

From writing novels to hosting a TV show,what persuaded you to change track?

I was excited by the lightness of touch with which TV can deal with serious issues. I was excited by its reach. Masculinity — especially in the subcontinent — has been a theme in my writing. I was excited by the possibility of dealing with it in another medium. I wanted — after nearly eight years of writing books — to be in the world again. I wanted that very badly.

Are you looking at a longer stay on TV with any other show in the pipeline?

No,not at all. The idea was very much to do this as a one-off thing. This was just an attempt on my part to put myself in harm’s way. This opportunity just fell into my lap. It came just at the end of a novel and I jumped at it. I’d like to go back to writing soon. I have some non-fiction in mind.

Do you watch a lot of sitcoms on Indian TV? What do you make of the current nature of shows?

No. I’ve haven’t watched any television except the news for as long as I can remember.

Among the many young,affluent and well-travelled Indians,who qualifies as a gentleman today?

I’m a little embarrassed by this ‘gentleman’ word,if you ask me. It wasn’t my idea. I think it’s dated and brings to mind nothing so much as fustiness and pornography. Probably most young people don’t care at all about being gentlemen today,and they’re right not to. Other things are more important,such as self-realisation and finding whatever it is you were put on the earth to do. Talent,vocation,work,love,sex,exercise and travel — these are the things that are important today,and this is what the show deals with.

How would you rank yourself in the different categories of a gentleman (vis–à–vis relationships,status symbol and wealth)?

If you’re asking me whether I’m a gentleman in the context of a relationship,I’d probably have to say I don’t really think about it. I think about whether I’m in love,then I think about how to keep love alive. I think about improving the kind of person I am when in love,of being a better and more considerate lover or boyfriend.

What format will the show follow? Do you plan to have studio guests?

It’s a magazine show. But every week we have an iconic Indian woman on the show,to get the scrutiny of the female gaze on men. So far we’ve had Barkha Dutt and Priyanka Chopra.

In the past there have been shows (on Zoom with Kamal Sidhu and Samir Kochhar) about the modern Indian man. How different is your show?

I’m hoping that the show will be quite provocative. We have some really great women — tough,gutsy women — working on the show. And though the objective is not to make guys squirm,I do hope that it will make us a little uncomfortable. Indian masculinity is a fluid and controversial thing at the moment and I hope the show will exploit some of the tension of this time. I want it — at least,in part — to be about masculinity in crisis and flux.

Are your working on any novel? Will this show contribute towards your next project?

I’ve just finished a big novel,the biggest I’ve written so far. Too early yet to say too much about it,but I’m excited. It’s called The Way Things Were.

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