Rendezvous With Man Behind ‘Surabhi’

City Scape: Transit Lounge

When Doordarshan held its sway over the Indian TV watching masses, Siddharth Kak was the face of the cultural theme-based documentary film making. Along with the charming Renuka Sahane, he formed the quintessential presenter pair that remains unmatched till date, both in terms of grace and content. No wonder, ‘Surabhi’ became the longest running cultural show on Indian television. Siddharth, also a well-known anchor and actor was recently in the city when MCL caught up with for an interaction. Excerpts: 

How did you end up becoming a documentary filmmaker, anchor and actor?

I was actually a member of the Tata Administrative Service, the management cadre of the Tata group before I quit them to become a full-time documentary film maker and there was no looking back.

What inspired you to make ‘Surabhi’ which eventually became one of the best and popular programmes in the television industry?

It was a deep desire within me to know and understand my country, to learn from it and seek my own identity. Surabhi helped me, an English speaking Western educated gentleman, become accepted by my own country. That was a deep source of satisfaction. 

You recently in an event said that art and crafts are the DNA of the society. But the present scenario is such that our traditional art and crafts are being diluted in the name of experimentation. What is your opinion about this?

There is no such thing as static culture. It is evolving all the time. The objective is to evolve with excellence. Some experiments fail, others succeed! 

After decades, you and your co-presenter Renuka Shahane of Surabhi fame again appeared together in 'Hunnarbaaz'. How was the experience?

We have continued to be associated over the years as we have common interests. She is in fact a Trustee of the Surabhi Foundation. It is always a pleasure and privilege to meet her as she is such a bright, creative and honest person. 

You said that you are planning to bring back the show 'Surabhi', not on television but in the digital media platform. What is the reason for taking such a decision?

Every generation needs to be communicated with on their own terms. Today's generation is the digital generation! So digital media will have more reach.

While doing Surabhi, you got an opportunity to explore different parts of the country. How was the experience of learning different aspects of the society?

Learning is very exciting. In IT circles, it is called Always in Beta, always evolving. Even my coming back to Odisha was a very exciting experience as I was able to meet such outstanding minds as that of Dr Subroto Bagchi.

How was your visit to the state this time?

Led by Dr Bagchi, I had the privilege to meet many outstanding minds in Odisha and see the remarkable work they are doing in the world of skills, art, craft and IT. The whole experience was special. 

You had a special relationship with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Tell us about it.

Guru ji was a truly spiritual and noble soul whose life was completely dedicated to dance. I was privileged to film him dance at the Konark Temple and travel through Raghurajpur with him and see the rare Gotipua dance form that he had nurtured. I have enjoyed many authentic Odia cuisines with him. His son Ratikant is truly carrying forward his great tradition. 

You also produced 'Mano Ya Na Mano' which was based on real incidences. Tell us about your experiences during the show. Any interesting stories that touched your heart?  

‘Mano Ya Na Mano’ featured the real stories of the unknown in life. I featured some stories in my talk. My most incredible story was that of late Dr MulkrajDass who could cure ailments in one minute by touching the affected spot with his finger and directing his healing energy through it. He healed my wife Gita's severe back pain of five years in one intense minute! She has never had it since! 

What are your future plans and projects?

We are producing a weekly skill programme HunnarBaaz on DD National every Sunday morning and hope to feature many instances of Odisha's skill initiatives in it.