Sameer Nair: Purpose of a storyteller is to give you something to think and feel about
In the year 2000 when satellite broadcast in India was struggling for an identity, Sameer joined Star Plus as Head of Programming and turned the tides of television viewing
Sameer Nair is a name to be reckoned with in the television industry. In the year 2000 when satellite broadcast in India was struggling for an identity, Sameer joined Star Plus as Head of Programming and turned the tides of television viewing by spearheading the ultimate game-show Kaun Banega Crorepati and the Mataji of all soaps Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. Applause Entertainment, the entertainment company that the media baron has built and nurtured along with his partner Deepa Sehgal, recently turned five years old. Subhash K Jha talks to him about his achievements and future projects:
You are the brain behind two of Indian satellite television game changers Kaun Banega Crorepati and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi in the year 2000. Do you look back at the show as your greatest triumph so far?
I do look back at KBC and KSBKBT with some amount of satisfaction. With KBC, I was absolutely sure that it was going to be Amitabh Bachchan as the host. Only he had the clout to enter every household. At that point of time, nothing else was certain. Would the concept work in India? Amitabh Bachchan himself was advised by everyone not to get into television. I left the VHS with him urging him to 'Push Play'. After three months of indecisiveness, I flew to London with him to witness the shooting of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire (the original version of KBC) first-hand. That clinched it. On the flight back, he finally said yes and we were on. We erected a set for KBC, identical to the one for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. We didn't cut any corners.
KBC helped Amitabh Bachchan as well as Star TV. While it resurrected Big B's career, Star went on to become the number one channel in India. I see you as a big part of those two triumphs??
That’s very kind of you. But each of us comes with his or her own karma. For KBC we had a viewership of 25 million in 2000. It went up to 90 million on 2010. What KBC did was to reinvent Amitabh Bachchan's image. It made him the household favourite in every family. Not too many people remember that Kyunki Saas... and KBC began telecast on the same day.
As the CEO of Applause Entertainment, you have built the company from scratch to its current position of a leading content provider. What is your secret formula?
The purpose of a storyteller is not to tell you what or how to think and feel, but to give you something to think and feel about. This is what we strive to do. Building a scalable creative business requires art, science and magic blended with considerable fiscal discipline. As we celebrate our 5-year anniversary today, we feel a deep sense of gratitude towards every single person who helped make our vision to dazzle, disrupt and delight, come alive.
How would you describe the journey from being ‘Applause Entertainment’ to becoming the ‘House of Applause’?
It has been a dramatic yet rewarding ride and the love has been definitely worth all the risk. Heading into the future, we are excited to continue telling stories that are intensely local, but also aspire to resonate with diverse audiences across the globe.