In conversation with 'Emcees of the Year': Gitikka Ganju, Kubbra Sait and Sid K
This year the prestigious e4m BW Applause ‘Emcee of the Year’ Award 2017 was shared by the very talented Gitikka Ganju Dhar and feisty Kubbra Sait in the Female category, while the ever animated and spirited Siddharth Kannan cinched the award in the Male category. Challenging the status quo for emceeing as a viable career the dynamic trio have created an unparalleled niche for themselves in the industry. Following their grand victory, in a candid conversation, Gitikka, Kubra and Siddharth talk about what makes them tick.
At what age did you do your first emcee job?
GD: I was doing my post graduation from Mass Communication Research Centre Jamia when I was called in to audition for main stage anchor at the Auto Expo for Honda Cars. That was 18 years ago.
KS: I must have been 16. It wasn’t me going pro. It was me dabbling, with words and a big stage. I was also wrapped in a saree, maybe the first time I ever wore one. When I look back, I think it still makes me think of how small I looked on that big stage.
SK: I started my career as a Radio Host at the age of 14 with Times FM and till date I am in the Limca Book of Records for being the youngest radio host in India. Since I became very popular on radio, I started getting a lot of offers to host events and hosted my first event at the age of 14 for a mega college talent hunt where Bosco Caesar (now renowned Bollywood Choreographers), Vivek Oberoi were all participants. I remember getting a standing ovation as an Emcee for that show which had 10,000 college students.
How much were you paid for it?
GD: I remember Magnum Nexus paid me handsomely, Rs 70,000 for seven days of work for Honda Cars at the Auto Expo.
KS: Nothing in monetary measure. A big basket of fruits, a box of chocolates and a plaque saying Thank You. Although my first commercial event was for 12 hours a day at 750 rupees per day.
SK: I was paid Rs 5,000 for that show and treated all my college friends with that money and yes, after that they all expected a treat from me everyday which never happened!
How did you land that opportunity?
GD: While in college I was hosting a television show from where I was led to this opportunity. The money was good and I was just plain curious, so I went for it.
KS: I walked into the office of Phase 1 events because they had an opening for a distributor of fliers, but I decided to ask about this. Oum Pradutt, founder of the company, was excited about my energy, and well that was just the beginning.
SK: I moved from Lucknow to Mumbai and immediately joined NM college. My radio show called ‘Campus Capers’ and ‘Yamaha First’ on Times FM got very popular especially amongst college students. Paritosh Painter(later on became the writer of films like Dhamaal,Poster boys etc) who was my senior in college got a big brand to sponsor the college talent hunt and it seems the brand had heard about this ‘bindass’ boy called ‘Sid K’ and got in touch with me.
What was your vision/ambition at that age?
GD: I had no vision for my career back then, but I was disciplined. My dad was in the Indian Army, I think it came from him. The only driving force was to deliver what was expected of me, not to let down my clients and to execute every event to the best of my ability.
KS: To be the best at whatever I do.
SK: Since I started young, my only vision at that time was to have fun, treat my job as a picnic and date pretty girls! I realized that with the passage of time, I still had to keep the 14 year old kid inside me ‘alive’, so till date I feel like a teenager who is experimenting every day of his life, pushes the boundaries to ensure that I will remain in the minds of people till eternity as the ‘Host’ that changed the ‘face of anchoring’!
What made you decide to take up emceeing as a fulltime career?
GD: I did not decide. It happened, overnight. Boom and suddenly one day, I was talking. I was a prize-winning debater in school, but only I know how I got through those debates, throat all dry and a chest pumping with tension. Never did I once think I would talk professionally. Never.
KS: A full time career at Microsoft was the reason I decided to do this full time.
SK: Emceeing, hosting TV and Radio shows and doing Voice Overs was just a hobby for me as I was also doing college simultaneously. I suddenly realized that my hobby had turned into a profession and that was the beauty of it. It’s like your girlfriend becoming your wife effortlessly.
How supportive was family?
GD: My parents have always been the silent sorts. Never pushing, never a line of praise and most definitely, never applauding. It may have helped me to remain grounded. Both of them have flown around the country with me, to help baby sit my daughter Giaa when it was required. My husband too has been supportive to a degree that I had never expected. I cannot work the way I do without their support. My daughter, is a non-fussy, happy child who says, “Mamma, are you a rockstar?” And I say to her, “No Giaa, I am just, a rock!”
KS: My mom, now Momager, has been my goal setter, my planner, my sounding board, and my best friend. I couldn’t have asked for more.
SK: My parents Mr.V.Kannan and Radha Kannan were always ahead of their times. At that time ‘anchoring’ was never considered a profession and they gave me the ‘wings to fly and told me ‘be yourself cause that will always be your USP’.
Who was the source of your inspiration and why?
GD: I have never really had idols in that sense, but there are historical figures and some real people who fascinate me. I remember, when I was seven I think, my mother bought me an illustrated, abridged copy of Joan of Arc. Ever since, I have held her story and her valour close to my heart. Maharana Pratap, I wish I could go back in time and meet him. Mahatma Gandhi, for his fortitude. Amitabh Bachchan, for the dedication and discipline he works with. Steve Jobs for his steely will. I admire Meryl Streep and Oprah and Tabu for their grace and stellar talent that has withstood the test of time.
KS: I am and have always been inspired by Ellen. Imagine an imperfect world where you do what you love to do, and try each day to throw in some love... the world does feel somewhat perfect with love.
SK: My Father and Mother are my lifelines! During school days they encouraged me to play sports, participate in debates and elocutions and never told me that ‘come first in studies’. Infact they brought me up to realize there is more to life than academics. My father used to help me write my speeches in school and as a result today I am multi lingual and my all round knowledge on sports, literature, politics is solid.
To err is only human. Tell us about an on-stage epic fail that still makes you cringe.
GD: Oh, ho, ho, we do not want that happening! If I make a mistake. It ruins my day, makes me sulk like a child and sends me scooting to the remotest corner of the galaxy. This kind of thing does not happen in my case. I work very hard to prevent it. Not just because it would make my client unhappy, but more because, it would upset me greatly.
KS: Ah! Reading words on scripts like, “The markets have deep penetration” or “We are trying to erect a solid structure here” always makes it difficult to keep a straight face. I also had a name to read once, it was William Ng (Ng, read as Nnnggg with a hum) it was funny to repeat after every three lines.
SK: I have always believed in doing a ‘dry run’ before an event come what may. As a host I take ownership of an event. I was called to do an event where I was supposed to do the awards show post their day conference. I kept calling the concerned event company person to do the ‘dry run’ and he kept saying ‘ in sometime’. There was no ‘dry run’ and their team kept playing the wrong slides of the ‘nominees’ and the ‘award winners’ throughout the show. The moral of the story: “Dry run karo, warna client aapko rula rula ke ‘wet’ kar dega”.
If you could what would be your advice to yourself as a newcomer in the industry?
GD: Who am I to give advice, I do not give any advice unless I am pushed to give it.
KS: The stage makes you happy. Respect it. Be grateful for the fact that you do what you love. Stay focused.
SK: There will be a lot of people who are scared to break traditional norms, they will want you to keep following ‘set’ forms,’ You’ should be ‘change’ for them.
What would your response be if your child wants to opt emceeing as a career?
GD: No! I do not want her working as hard as I have had to. I want her to be able to enjoy her life fully and experience the wonders that the world has to offer. But if she does choose to become an anchor, despite my loud warning, well, at least she will be in good hands.
KS: Step 1: Find a suitable partner to birth a child with. Step 2045: Yes! Child, You can be whatever you want to be.
SK: I would tell her ‘Go for it because life will be a non stop party!’
A word to aspiring emcees?
GD: Come one, come all, but come if you can add sense to the chaos! Come for the passion of it, not for the perks you perceive from afar, because tis all work and no play in Anchorland.
KS: 1. Feel your words as you speak them. Don’t rattle out scripts because that’s your job.
2. You’re an entertainer, the anchor and the solidifier of the show, LISTEN to the content, throw in connections. The audience is watching and listening to you.
3. Read. A. Lot.
4. Practise your craft. It’s a real job. Be serious about it.
5. Don’t look for easy routes. There isn’t a better payback than your own hard work.
SK: ‘Don’t follow trends, set trends!’
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