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    Funny man Shekhar Suman gets serious in new show

    [Interview by Arpana]
    Wednesday, November 30, 2005
    He has always made you laugh, now Shekhar Suman will also make you think as he anchors a new show called "Aap Ka Haq" on Sab TV''s new channel Janmat that seeks to help people get justice from "higher authorities".

    As the name suggests, the show is devised to help people get their due and provides a platform for discussion of issues like prisoners of war (PoWs), the Uphaar cinema fire tragedy and Kashmiri Pandits'' plight.

    "These people have been waiting for justice for decades. They don''t have access to ministers so we are trying to help them by carrying their complaints to the higher authorities. To start with, I''m going to meet Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee to discuss PoW issues," said Shekhar.

    "According to the Geneva Convention, PoWs should be returned after two years. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of families waiting for their loved ones to return home. It''s all because of the lack of concern shown by our government," Shekhar told IANS in an interview.
    With comedy as his forte, questions on his ability to handle such a show are bound to be asked. Does he have any journalism degree to host such a show?
    "These are emotional issues and I don't think I need formal training to handle it. I think I just need to start thinking about others. I should try to understand their problems. I should try to feel their pain. After talking to these people I got to know the magnitude of their problems and no degree can train me to deal with it."
    Referring to the 1997 fire in the Uphaar cinema hall, in which 59 people were killed, Shekhar said: "I can understand the pain and sorrow of Shekhar Krishnamurthy and his wife (whose children were killed) and others who lost their loved ones. I can relate to them because I also lost my son a few years ago. I know how one feels. It is sad that these people haven't got justice yet."
    The man with the infectious laughter hides a lot of pain.
    "Nobody can understand your pain unless he or she has been through it. I understand their grief. When my son died I used to ask 'god, why did it happen to me? Why did my son die?' But after talking to these people I find far greater tragedies than mine."
    From films to TV serials to talk shows, he has done it all with an élan and is optimistic that this one too would turn out to be a success.
    "I really don't know. But I do know that issues are far more important... I think people should come forward and share the problems of others. I am sure eventually more and more people will join this movement."
    Isn't the show a direct attack on the government's apathy towards these people?
    "I don't think it's a direct attack - I would rather call it a wake-up call. We are fighting against red-tapism. By looking away, you cannot wish away problems. Government should understand this and try to help the victims," he said.
    Shekhar is also focusing on his movie career and is doing a film called "Moonlight" with Perizaad Zorabian. It is a one night story about a wannabe actress and an ad filmmaker. He is also making an autobiographical film depicting the relationship between a father and his eight-year-old son.
    The funny man of Indian showbiz, who is constructing a heart hospital in Patna in memory of his late son Aayush, talks candidly about the illness that killed him.
    "My son had a very strange heart disease called EMS. I went through hell looking for a cure. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this one. I feel I should do something for other children who are suffering from such diseases. The hospital will have a special paediatric cardiology department for those who are suffering with such diseases. There isn't a single hospital with this facility in Patna."


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