`I'd hate to be a Mihir for three years'
He started out plugging products on TV. Aman Varma, comfortable in soaps, is part of the hunt for the Indian Idol
Aman Varma: `All the other TV actors are known by their character names except for Shekhar Suman and I.' Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.
AS HE walks down M.G. Road, he looks around with an incredulous expression that seems to say: "Why aren't autograph seekers mobbing me?". Aman Yatan Varma, popular TV host and actor, was in the city to promote Sony's Indian Idol, the musical talent show based on American Idol. Stopping at different Café Coffee Day outlets, he handed the mike over to "singers and those who thought they could sing", passing on-the-spot judgments about whether these people should even bother to audition for the show.
Shaking his head in dramatic exhaustion, Aman wonders aloud how he's going to manage it: "After listening to a million people, 100 will have to be chosen, narrowed down to 30 and then the audience will take over to vote for their favourite singer." But going by the finesse with which he brushed off many an aspiring singer, Aman seems to have eased into his role pretty well.
"I have always been associated with entertainment, but my sister has been involved in music, dance and fine arts for a very long time. She's a Kathak dancer, so I do have that bit of inclination towards music," he says.
But does he sing? "No! I can't hold a note. But I'm the most sought-after TV show anchor and people love me, so hosting Indian Idol can only be good for my career."
On the subject of careers, Aman admits that his minuscule roles in movies have not exactly sent producers beating a path to his doorstep. "Sangharsh, with Preity Zinta and Akshay Kumar, happened about five years back. The producer and director of the movie liked my TV soaps and they offered me the role. They put their money on me. So why would I say no?"
Ahem, wasn't the role like playing the tree in a school play? I offer. Aman immediately agrees, but clarifies that when you're not already a biggie in the film industry, you "need to show that you exist in the camp". About popular faces on the small screen becoming damp squibs on the big screen, the Shanti and Kasauti Zindagi Ki man says: "People in the film industry have reservations about TV actors. Their argument is that if you're freely available on television, why would people pay to watch you in a feature film. I can't seem to understand this because even on TV, we have a hundred channels. Why must the viewer switch to one channel only to see a particular person?"
Given his obvious talent, the character or role he had to play and the script probably had some hand in the wide viewership the serials enjoy. "No, no. All the other TV actors are known by their character names.
I and Shekhar Suman are the only two actors who are known by their names, because we've worked towards that. I've never stayed in any project for more than six months, except in game shows. You need to keep leaving work and taking up new ones to be in the news all the time. I would hate to be a Mihir for three years."
Aman has endorsed various products over the years, but the one that has to be asked about is the Harpic ad in which he (sporting an ill-fitting cap) visits dirty toilets armed with the cleaning liquid. For a person who has his "career strategy" all worked out, Aman says: "Yes, that ad wasn't very complimentary to my image. Even now when I see it on air... I don't cringe, but I do know I chose to do it only because I needed money at that point."
Good enough to last
As for Indian Idols, "My career was built brick by brick, so when I see a faster way to achieve fame, I say, go get it! But the talent that is chosen must actually be good enough to last. When I heard the [V] popstars, I knew they would fizzle out soon.
It shouldn't only be because of the backing of a large channel. Indian Idol is going to be more than just a talent show... it's about human emotions too. And that never fails to sell."
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