Friday, June 3, 2016

The Kapil Sharma Show: The Audience Experience

The newly weds arrive in style on The Kapil Sharma Show (Photo credit)
If you are planning to go as an audience on The Kapil Sharma Show, you should be prepared to be stranded on an island you might not get out of any time soon. Well! That's the closest analogy that comes to my mind. I count myself lucky to have gotten out earlier and alive! Or maybe it was a surprise since this was my first time going on a live shoot. And the glitz and glamour we see on screen just turned out to be a dud. Just a painfully orchestrated, unglamorous phenomenon with a lo-hot of people working to get that perfect onscreen image. To clarify right at the start, the shooting itself was fun and I might be seen in a frame or two, but being a live audience is no cake walk! 

When my spouse called me up to say that I could go for the shoot with someone from Amritsar who knew some of the cast during their Amritsar days - the audience is by invitation only - I wasn't really prepared. I mean, literally. I was in the middle of my workout session, hadn't eaten a proper meal and was planning a relaxed saturday at home away from the humid outdoors. Instead I had an hour and a half to shower, get (camera) ready and be at the set location which was an hour away. And the humidity....oh the merciless humidity! Film City is Goregaon is vast and we did some looking around for his set. That was the beginning of a mini ordeal. 

We are supposed to give away all our stuff- bags, phones, purses etc when we land there and get a token. It doesn't matter what time the shoot starts. You surrender stuff right away. And don't get it till the end of the shoot which was rumoured to end at 2 am. (Kapil is known for his odd schedule- shoot starts in the evening and goes till the wee hours of the morning) Some people seemed to have been done this before (voluntarily??) and knew the drill. And then began a 2 hour wait to get into the sets in a make shift space with fans spinning furiously- without much effect- above our heads. There was no knowing when we'd get inside. There were plenty of chairs to sit in. No cafeteria in sight. While waiting, I noticed that most girls/ladies/aunties were dressed in their best with proper make up on and hair neatly done. That's when I realised the big draw for a live audience on his show is - the chance to get on camera! 

After the excruciating wait, we were finally lined up and sent up. To call the line that went all the way up to the first floor set serpentine would be a euphemism. And by then we were all antsy to get into a cool place where we could get away from the heat. The good thing about arriving early (people walked in even at 4 and 5 and were seated since they did not want to turn anyone back) was we got seated on the second row where we could watch things up close. And this is my favourite part.

There are these tons of people involved in getting a show on air. And evidently, Kapil's days of hard work are behind him. He just had to show up knowing his script and delivering it off the teleprompter. There was the content team to find people in the audience with answers to questions related to the theme of the episode. People to control the stage and ensure it's shoot-ready when the camera rolls. People responsible for the seating of the audience - and they kept moving people around depending on the segment being shot. Decorators, electricians - even people who came in and filled tons of water in the decorative urns you see at the edge of the stage with rose petals in them. 

So, our job started with audience auditions! Everyone in the audience had to dance so they could pick the energetic ones for some actual segment of impressing Bipasha. (who, by the way was the guest on the show with her new husband). Then they started picking people for the Q&A that happens with Kapil in the first segment of the show. So, there were questions like - well, I think you should watch the show for that :) They took aside people who had stories/anecdotes related to those topics. I went along for one such question. The content team looks for witty/interesting answers. They also picked up couples for some other segment since it is an episode on a married couple. (And not to forget, they pick women who are well- dressed and will look good on camera. One guy was also asked to change his shirt from their collection for the sake of his cameo. Now you see why being well dressed is a positive on his show! They already had 2 answers for the question I volunteered for so I happily went back to my audience seat. 

(While sorting out the audience they wanted to know if i'd like to sit in the main frame, somewhere around Sidhuji I guess or ask the celebrity a question. But agreeing to that would involve being stuck at the shoot for the whole night and I didn't want to do that. My famished and drained body was more worried about keeping itself alive rather than 2 bits of popularity on the show)

After about another 2 hours of this preparation, the man finally arrived on the show. Absolutely down to earth, he shook hands with people from the audience who were on the stage as part of the dance audition. No airs about him at all. This was the time to start shooting. The stage started clearing out and the stage in-charge made announcements that it was time to start. Also, Sidhuji had already taken his throne and was ready. The shooting itself was seamless. Kapil knows the drill all too well by now. And a couple of times he fumbles, he carries on since he knows that'll be edited out. The Q&A wasn't as elaborate as the prep and not everyone planted with answers got a chance to speak. A couple of people who were not prepped got up answer since they arrived late and did not know the drill. 

While the stars were touching up, Kapil walked on to the stage and I waved at him. He walked up to us and leisurely chatted up! 
There was audience break after this while the celebrities arrived and had a press conference that would go out in the media for show promotions. The sound logic behind taking people's phones away comes handy here. The audience is not in the way snapping away to glory and the press conference goes on smoothly. Meanwhile, it's a hot hell downstairs where we are on a break. There's tea and paav bhaji for us but the line is so long and so many others milling about in the space (imagine all of show's audience in one make shift space) that it's just grab a tea and get back to the AC set. (although, both of us had skipped meals and were like hungry kids from Somalia by the time we got out around 10pm and could do with some food at that time) A woman was having an argument with the security guy, I think, because he rudely refused to give her the phone and she wanted it. Someone from the sets had to be called to calm things down. Boy! Were the tempers short what with the heat and crowd and everything! 

And posed for a picture! 
Once we were back, we were requested to sit exactly where we were before the break. Plus the content team would keep reminding the people who were to ask questions etc about their turn in the segment. Some more shuffling of the audience to accommodate the people who'd ask celebrities questions (11 of them if I heard right). The celebrity section started with a choreographed piece - again, watch the episode for details. And then the conversation/fun gigs of characters began. I'm curious to see how much of that is edited. 

In between the breaks - for the stars to touch up their nose - we caught up with Kapil (we had already met and chatted up with Chandan Prabhakar) We had professional headphones for him since he loves music. He took interest in them and patiently heard us talk about related stuff. He was in no hurry to dismiss us since he knew the stars would take time. We took pictures and left. Thankfully we had our cab waiting for us just outside. And the first thing we did - guess? - was to stop over at a food stall and pick up some vadaa paav, my guest's preference and gobbled them up! 

Overall experience: It was fun to see the shoot of a program I have watched for so ling on TV. Kapil definitely resurrected comedy on screen - although his is a bit jaded now - and will remain the king of comedy. I can say this after being witness to his instant, unscripted quips on audience answers. The staff treated the audience well, got water bottles around - not cold, not enough - but that did make a difference.

A huge draw of Kapil's show is the common man connect where people can walk in and be a part of the show. But having live audience is a huge responsibility. A couple of people were giddy and sick due to the long hours and the humid weather. They should have small bottles of cold water available around the sets. Plus, food boxes would be much better than lines for serving food. I still wonder how people who stayed till the end managed cooped up on the set. People were antsy without their phones and the security had to man our possessions at all times. Though it was hearty to see that there were so many who had come prepared to go the whole hog. 

If you watch the episode on 4th June, you might find me on the right if you look from the stage sitting on the second row. Lemme know if you spot me! :)