Shekhar Suman has been a part of India’s entertainment industry for more than two decades now. But he has had a chequered career, marked by hits and misses. The 55-year old actor is making a comeback on television with his new sitcom, Saat Pheron Ki Hera Pheri. Here, he speaks to Guardian 20 about his upcoming show, and how comedy as a genre has evolved over time.

Q. Tell us about your upcoming sitcom, Saat Pheron Ki Hera Pheri.

A. It is about two couples and bachelors who stay together in an apartment. It is about how the married couple deals with every problem they face, and how some bachelors come into their life and they deal with that. It is also a lesson to the bachelors who feel that marriage is not a good idea. I am enjoying working with a new set of actors. It will start airing by the end of February. When I was working on Dekh Bhai Dekh (1993), it was a weekly show and one had enough breathing space to work on the character and plot. But this one is a daily show and it builds up some pressure, not only on actors but also on the writer who has to come up with unique ideas every time. So we have already started shooting early to minimise this pressure.

Q. You are making a comeback with a sitcom after two decades approximately. How are you preparing for the role?

A. I don’t believe in over preparing for a role. It’s just that you understand the character and the situations that he is going to be in. My character is quite interesting. The guy has come from Delhi to Mumbai. He is a Punjabi and a domineering husband and that creates a lot of humour. Since I myself have studied in Delhi and my wife is a Punjabi, so I like my character and enjoy it. Another couple has an opposite scenario as the wife is dominating and suddenly this bachelor pops up and creates many difficult and hilarious situations. So it is a great mix of fun and it should turn out fine.

Q. How has comedy as a genre evolved since you did your first comedy sitcom Dekh Bhai Dekh in 1993?

A. I moved into comedy quite late in my career. At that time comedy used to be decent, and there were people who could think well and create good content… Unfortunately, what happened in a hurry to put up a show together and do anything to make people laugh, is that comedy lost its dignity. There are some sitcoms, which were doing really well earlier, and my cousin told me that she was also very fond of them but suddenly they turned out to be so obscene that she cannot sit and watch it with her family. This is the problem; people are going to any length. I think it is a very sad stage where comedy stands right now. Something needs to be done about it and people need to think more wisely. Films like Dum Laga Ke Haisha [2015] have done well and television has taken a back seat. Also, another thing is everyone is repeating those old social media jokes and rehashing them and presenting them in their own way. I think the sense of originality has completely been lost.

Q. Making people laugh is one of the most challenging jobs. And the audience’s reception of comedy has changed a lot in recent years. Do you think the genre has become all the more challenging

for it?

A. I think people these days have become very intolerant and overly sensitive. I remember my days and I could say a lot of things in good humour, which I think that if I say now, there will be a lot of problems. But again, if people are sensitive then we have to find a way to make them laugh and not create a problem. And I think if you put in the effort, it can be achieved. But I agree that it has become a difficult genre.

Q. You have judged the previous seasons of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge (a standup comedy reality show). Akshay Kumar was seen as the judge in the recent season. How did you like the show this time?

A. I did not actually follow the last season of the show as many of us have lost touch with television and have moved on to Netflix. I think Akshay himself has evolved as a fine comic talent, which is fantastic, but unfortunately, the comedians on the show were not that good. I saw one episode and I really didn’t appreciate it. Earlier, there were good actors—like Kapil Sharma, Bharti Singh, Raju Srivastav—great talent. But this time I don’t know if they could not find good comedians or what, but somehow it didn’t work.

Q. You are a fitness idol to many. What does fitness mean to you?

A. I think fitness is very important in one’s life. If you are not fit, you are unfit for everything else in this world. To perform better in life as a person, as a professional, the first and foremost thing is that you need to be fit. When you are fit, you look nice, you feel confident.

Q. Tell us about your other upcoming projects?

A. I am currently working on a play called Waah Nawaab Waah, directed by Aanand Mahendroo, who also directed Dekh Bhai Dekh. We are reuniting after nearly 20 years. It is an iconic play written by Lt. Sharad Joshi. It is a political satire and has glimpses of how politicians can go to any length to save their skin and to save their image. It is a hard-hitting play, which starts on a lighter note and gets really dark by the end. Then there is a film, Pattharbaaz, that I would be directing. The film is about the stone pelters of Kashmir, which is a sensitive issue. I want to spend a lot of time on the script, so that nothing goes wrong. This issue is really close to my heart and I always wanted to see if I could delve into it or throb into it. It will be released both in Hindi and English as Kashmir remains an international issue. I have also started this music concert called “Dil Se”, where I would be singing live. I have just started working on it and I am done with almost six shows and there are many more to come. There is already a lot on the plate and I am looking forward to more roles in films, television and on stage, as primarily, I am a theatre artiste.

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