During the period 1999 – 2002, Yugi Sethu pioneered a unique talk show format on Vijay TV named ‘Naiyandi Darbar’. It was a format like none other and attracted the attention of the youth segment.
Yugi has been a brilliant student of cinema though he has not been much active in the field. In terms of movies he has barely acted in a handful of movies and is best remembered for his cameo in Vijaykanth starrer ‘Ramanaa’. The show was an avenue for him to showcase his talents that include mimicry, singing, stand-up comedy and a lot of ‘naiyandi’.
The show format evolved over the period but the few signature themes were fairly consistent. Typically Sethu would walk-in and be welcomed with a rousing score by his band of musicians. He would start with some topical comments, mention some weird news stories across the world and then engage with his band particularly a foil artist named Anthony. Their exchange would set the tone and they had a running row that would transcend episodes.
This was followed up by usually 2 guest segments mostly from the world of cinema including actors, actress, directors, musicians, singers et al. At times there would be an interstitial episode with again some comic jokes. Yugi would at times don some crazy roles to regale us. A classical musician, a hen-pecked husband, a singer telling us jokes about all and sundry – we got to see him in a variety of avatars.
The talk show would appear at night on week-days and was a great stress buster after a taxing day at office. The popularity surely sustained for it ran into 4 seasons during 1999 to 2002. Watching some of the old episodes now on YouTube brings back great memories from the past.
Things that worked for me
- Yugi would research well on his guests and usually have some banter ready for them. The interviews were rarely in conventional format – often he would take up 1 or 2 stories about the guest and engage them on the topic. The style of ribbing is referred to as ‘nakkal naiyandi’ and Sethu would give it by the bushels to the show. Usually it worked and bought us a few laughs. Don’t think any of the guests took offence though the format meant that things would look abrupt.
- Yugi’s Tamil and cinema knowledge were tough asks on the guest as well as the viewer. At times we were just lost and simply gaped at the ‘Jester’ who was on a song.
- Sethu’s shows became like lessons in cinema even for the casual audience – by the end of an episode you would have learnt a trick or two about the magical world
Things that didn’t work for me
- Yugi Sethu could at times speak too fast and be bombastic. Often he would cut in to stop his guests from expressing themselves completely – at times he would be simply hopping subjects and bamboozled his guests with his wizardry. It did jar a bit on such occasions and one would wish he would go a bit slow. And in the rush quite often the segment will end abruptly leaving us wishing for more.
- The guests didn’t quite fit any pattern – it seemed to be a bit of a hotchpotch based on who was available and willing to talk. Even Guest 1 and Guest 2 may have no linkages – indeed a possible reason why they did not have a joint session. The two segments would run separately for they were independent in that sense.
Yet the talk show was a such a new and refreshing experience. Today’s audience that is spoiled for choice as a plethora of channels and hosts are trying a variety of talk show formats backed by digital jazz and slick formatting. Google and modern internet era make questions and information so easy to handle – so they often don’t rely on their anchor’s own memory and knowledge of the world.
Many talk shows gain fleeting popularity based on the current fashion trends only to quickly disappear from the radar – a momentary blip that has had its share of fame. Recently Yugi Sethu appeared along with Pratap Pothan on a talk show and it was an interesting experience.
Among his various comments on south indian cinema the most arresting one was the comparison he made of the two movies – ‘Aval Appadithan’ and ‘Oru Thalai Ragam’ that appeared in late 70s. Explaining the subscript he gave us a startling conclusion that the two films had the same story. It seemed bizarre until he spoke about it and then you could just agree with the logic. Essentially the heroine is an indecisive character who hates men due to a sordid past wherein her mother was having affairs. She fails to recognize the genuine love of a progressive man and doesn’t get a second chance to make amends.
It reminded me again of ‘Naiyandi Darbar’ where Yugi Sethu would regularly provide us small capsules on south indian cinema that made us better viewers of the interesting fare that is part of our culture and history. May be Yugi Sethu would find some inspiration to engage with the average viewer – the format may change to accommodate modern tastes but the ‘nakkal naiyandi’ would still be welcome as it was in the past.