It was my first attempt at hosting an award show ever, after entering the entertainment industry. My first concern was if I was replacing the job of professional anchors and MCs who compere such shows on a regular basis. And my second concern was if I’m even capable of handling an event at such a mammoth scale live on stage. The great Epictetus, a Greek stoic philosopher said “we should not moor a ship with one anchor, or our life with one hope’. I guess the organisers took Epictetus literally & seriously and were kind enough to let me experiment my attempt with another experienced anchor and yesteryear heroine Kasthuri. That way my follies and ‘sothappals’ as they colloquially say in Tamizh were well insured. So why me was my next question and pat came the reply that since the event was meant to honour all women achievers in various fields, they decided to try two ‘female actors’ as anchors for a change who knew both Tamizh and English and I guess I conveniently fitted the bill. While I assumed knowing the language, stage presence and a little bit of confidence would be sufficient qualifiers to take on the job, a lot more of skill, talent and presence of mind were vital to pulling it off.
But before I get onto the anchoring experience, the very preparation for the show was in itself a two day event. We had to meet up for the script discussion, familiarise ourselves with who has to say what, the timing and co-ordination with the co-host, work on our lines modulation, content flow and above all memorise the welcome speech, information of the awardees, lead-in to each piece of music and dance performances, the artists involved, award-givers’ profile, sponsors’ credits and finally the finale sign-off. For someone who relies heavily on instant and on-the-spot dialogue delivery in films without memorising beforehand, rehearsing a dozen pages script was new, intriguing and challenging. It’s so much easier when we have these huge tele-prompters in the auditorium with the script running on screen as we host the show live. But I realised there’s no fun and spontaneity in just reading it out like a news reader and restricting oneself to what has been given as a guideline. So not having one monitor in this show gave us that creative freedom to interpret the lines in our own presenting style and pace.
Then came my favourite part of the preparation – the costume trial. Being a shopping lover myself hopping between malls and metros, costume department excites me the most in getting my look right for a film, event or an evening outing. It can tell you so much about yourself, your taste for colours, your fashion and style quotient, your ability to carry it off and the overall image that you want the world to see you as. The plan initially was to go Indian with an Anarkali style kurta ensemble but there was one particular piece hanging on the racks of designer Sidney Sladen’s studio that almost spoke to me and said I need to adorn her for this special evening. This gold embellished single piece knee length dress with a slight hint of royal blue stripe work at the halter neck was the only outfit I tried and it slid and fitted me like a dress worn on a mannequin. And all I had to do was to wear matching accessories, footwear, make-up, my smile and a positive attitude.
This sudden call about the invitation to anchor, giving my consent, the practice sessions and the onset of the awards evening all happened so fast that I was hardly ready for this. There were butterflies, dragonflies and all kinds of flies running in my stomach. But I told myself to just be myself without worrying too much about the lines I may forget or the unexpected turn of events that one could face as you host the show. The important thing was to gauge the pulse of the audience for that day and modify your deliveries accordingly. Mistakes are bound to happen but it’s imperative to know how to cover it up and move on. First time is always the toughest but to my surprise, only my first minute on stage was and the rest flowed naturally like I’ve done these shows before. I guess it’s a combination of a lot of things ranging from being comfortable with the audience, the co-operation from your co-host and the encouragement from the organising team every time you’re off stage goading you to deliver your best.
The only flipside to this exciting experience is this. When you’re attending a show and watching the event as a guest, you can enjoy it better with nothing else on your mind. However when you’re presenting the show and linking the sequences on stage or when you’re off stage waiting for the performances to get over and recollecting what needs to be said in the next segment or pondering how to improvise your presenting style, you can hardly focus on the real entertainment. I actually ended up watching the entire show only on TV later in a more relaxed demeanour. So many things vie for your concentration all at the same time but you got to be focussed on getting your job done and do full justice to the role for the evening. While the recorded version of the show for television telecast can always be edited smooth enough to delete the gaffes committed live, we still have to be as thorough as possible during the event since there are no retakes in a live show.
There were a couple of take-aways from that evening. One, it’s not a brainless job to be an MC and that raised my respect I had for all Live show and single take presenters who have amazing abilities to hold the audience’s attention and make them listen to and enjoy their presentation. Two, sometimes it’s alright to step out of your comfort zone of what you’re best at and try something different. That’s the only way to test your talent, experience new waters and expand your potential. As I hark back to this experimental evening, I guess I did fine for a first timer and now peacefully anchored at dock after this exciting journey knowing that more such explorations are well on the anvil. When an opportunity knocks, don’t just take it but grab it and give it all you have.Respond to
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