By Vidya Pradhan
Reshma Dordi is the host and producer of the popular weekly Bollywood program ' Showbiz India'. WNI caught up with her when she was in town showing her support for Ruchika, an organisation that supports schools for homeless children in India.
WNI : How does it feel to be on the other side of the interview table? RD: It’s not unfamiliar but it’s a very nice feeling. WNI: How did you get involved with Ruchika? RD: Anoop Khurana called me several months ago and it was his passion and drive that motivated me. He was relentless, he called me over and over again and told me about Ruchika and sent me countless emails. That’s what I like. I am a very passion oriented person, whatever I do, I do with passion and it showed for him. I was very impressed with his tireless dedication and I said, let’s do this. There are so many worthy organizations and unfortunately there’s not enough time for every one even though they each may be doing exceedingly great in their own realm. I support Pratham and now this. Whatever has to do with education for children is close to my heart. WNI: You began your career with CNN, producing for their show ‘Showbiz Today’. What made you decide to give up on something with a global reach and move to a show which, at least a few years ago, had a much more niche audience? RD: The answer to that is very simple. I got married and had a child. I was working for CNN and then for the Disney Channel and I was working on their schedule. Simply because I wanted to have the best of both worlds – be a good mom and still be able to work- have a flexible schedule, ‘Showbiz India’ was born, along with my daughter! WNI: What were the challenges in starting ‘Showbiz India’? RD: I have to say I was very fortunate. I already had a radio program so I already had my connections to Bollywood and knew some celebrities. I had my foot in the door so to speak. WNI : How did the radio program come about? RD: After I won the (Miss L.A. India) pageant in 1988, I was still in college then, I wanted to do something related and my father suggested the radio show. I’m digressing here but it was awesome of him because he is a surgeon and he never once suggested that I follow his steps and join medical school. It is so great when parents can let their children follow their dreams. Once I started my radio show, I slowly got to know some celebrities and by the time I was working on ‘Showbiz India’, I had a few years of experience. The time I spent at CNN, learning the ropes about producing and directing shows also came in handy. I started small, just in L.A. but then it snowballed and now I’m nation wide. WNI:As an interviewer, who has been your most difficult subject? The easiest? RD: That’s a good question. I am usually asked who was your best interview. There’s quite a few people. I wouldn’t say they were difficult but they’re not very vocal. In terms of celebrities, Salman Khan is known not to speak much, he can give monosyllabic answers. But over the years he’s opened up and got so comfortable that he gives the most amazing interviews and talks about spirituality, believe it or not. Recently I interviewed A.R. Rehman and he’s very camera shy. It’s not difficult but you have to bring them out. Then there are celebrities like Aishwarya or Shahrukh who are so media savvy and they will talk and talk and talk and it is so easy. WNI: You interview people in very informal settings like shoot locations and hotel balconies. Is this the nature of the beast or do you choose to do it that way rather that a studio? RD: I think it is a little bit of both. A lot of times there’s not time to talk unless you do it during the shoot. It’s just more time-efficient that way. A lot of times they’re very comfortable doing it that way too. Some of them I’ve known over the years on a very personal level so I might just interview them while I’m at their house! WNI: Is all the content on ‘Showbiz India’ original? RD: Yes, except for the music videos of course. WNI: You have some content from India too. Do you go there to shoot it? RD: There is a very small portion like promos or making ofs that we might get from the film company. But it is miniscule. I go to India too and we shoot the segments there then. WNI: Are there any plans to make Showbiz India into a print magazine? RD: I’ve been offered that. I’ve also been asked to write a book. I just haven’t done that yet. Maybe one day. It’s a time issue. WNI: I record the show and fast-forward the ads. Is there a balance you have to find between ads and content? RD: The FCC mandates a maximum of 18 minutes of ads per hour of programming. I stay well below that. At the end of the day, it’s economics. If I don’t have advertising, I’m not going to have a show! WNI: Why is Bollywood such a crowd puller, something that every Indian will gravitate to even if they are not familiar with the language or the culture? RD: Not only Indians. People from other parts of the world like Afghanistan and the Middle East also watch the show. I actually had an African American stop me at the airport as I was going through security and say ‘You’re from Showbiz India. I watch that show every week.’ Bollywood is becoming global which I think is wonderful. After all, it is part of our culture. We love our costumes and our song and dance routines. I would estimate that maybe 25-30% of our audience is non-Indian. And they are really dedicated. They will not miss a single show. They will email you every week and make comments and suggestions. They don’t take it for granted like we do. WNI: What are your plans for the future? RD: I can officially announce here that we will soon be on ZEE TV in India. They have asked us to do a show on lifestyles of NRI’s here. Showbiz India Extreme has already been started. This is the first time, I believe, that they’ve ever outsourced a show and the first time that a show produced in the US will air in India. Some of the new segments will be added to Showbiz India and you should start seeing them next month. Showbiz India airs on KTSF-Channel 26 in the Bay Area on Saturdays from 10 to 11 a.m. For more information go to http://showbizindiatv.com