Imagine a new Simi Garewal who makes you long for the old Simi Garewal, says Nishita Jha
Revisiting Old television shows can sometimes be like looking at old family photographs. Weird clothes and hair can be explained as being retro-chic, but what is harder to ignore is seeing (and for a moment, becoming) the person that you once were. Back in the 1990s, when Simi Garewal first asked celebrites to speak “so she could see their soul”, we giggled at the pristine white cheesiness of it all, yet, guiltily swallowed it for 10 whole years before the show went off air. This week, when the self-proclaimed “eternal 23-year-old” (who is, in fact, as old as independent India) returned to our Sunday dinners, we choked at the saccharine sweetness of her new show, India’s Most Desirable.
What should have been the glorious return of Garewal to television turned out to be a nightmare. A black and silver-clad but visibly duller Simi coochi-cooed a Ranbir Kapoor who, since his last rakish public appearance on Koffee with Karan, had turned into a coquettish 12-year-old. The looming motherly visage of Neetu Singh described RK as “Raymond — the complete man” and spoke of how he looks down at the floor every time he talks to his father. A winking Rishi Kapoor said RK lived on a separate floor and “who knows what goes on there?” This is when Garewal unintelligently gasped with confusion — “Which one of these accounts is true?” to which RK responded (looking down at the floor) “Both, I guess. I’m soft but I’m also just 28 and single.” Garewal then showed RK a personal artefact, a video of him at age four, with grandfather Raj Kapoor on a swing. This was the same video that Garewal had once shown a 21-year-old Kareena Kapoor on Rendezvous, the only moment when a full-of-bluster Kareena had caught her breath and become silent. Ranbir instead bleated prettily without missing a beat about carrying on the Kapoor ‘legacy’.
Compare this with the episodes on Rendezvous with Simi Garewal, where she managed to make Benazir Bhutto weep, interviewed the entire Bachchan family and celebrated AB Sr’s birthday on the sets, got a chainsmoking Shah Rukh Khan laughing at his political incorrectness when she asked if he had ‘shared’ Gauri’s pregnancy, and he responded, “I got her pregnant. What else do you expect me to do?”
On Rendezvous, Garewal had a chain smoking SRK laughing at his own political incorrectness
There was a guilty pleasure to be sought by the intimate parlour of Rendezvous with Simi Garewal. Celebrities, still getting used to the phenomena of talk shows, wept, faltered and blushed. This was no tough journalist demanding answers. Here was a discreet insider to the family — smiling knowingly, nodding at just the right times and sometimes shaking her head at their naiveté. Garewal had a knack of probing just gently enough to bring out each person’s angularity, the people that they once were. The other insider who attempted to get celebrities on a couch, Karan Johar, at best managed to say “Oh my god, darling, please!” to starlets who tried hard to be scandalous. One wonders if Ms Garewal has consulted her in-house tarot card reader to foretell her new show’s future (a risky proposition, since the cards assured us that RK is “the most committed man in the whole world.”) A simpler solution for her might be just to YouTube episodes of Rendezvous with Simi Garewal again, to see the person that she once was.
Nishita Jha is a Correspondent with Tehelka.