By Maliha Rehman
Place three veteran heroes together in a lighthearted talk show format and you end up getting peeks into inside jokes and industry gossip. This was the trump card that was played out very well in the first episode of Ahsan Khan’s show for Express Entertainment, ‘Time Out with Ahsan Khan’. Actors and producers Humayun Saeed and Fahad Mustafa were the guests for the night, pitted against each other in a series of regaling segments with host, Ahsan Khan, quizzing them. The star wattage shone bright, the politically incorrect anecdotes came flooding in as did the teasing and the downright silly jokes.
It was like being at a celebrity soiree and sitting within the inner circle of the ‘it’-most stars – only the cameras were filming it all and you were seeing the show on TV.
Of course, getting two of TV and film’s biggest stars together is the sort of rocket launch that talk show hosts dream of but a quick Google search will reveal that this isn’t the first time that Humayun and Fahad have appeared on TV together. I recall seeing them participating together recently in an online game show and all through the month of Ramzan last year Humayun played a ‘team captain’ in Fahad’s game show ‘Jeeto Pakistan’.
In Ahsan Khan’s domain, the banter became informal, like a talk between friends who have known each other for a very long time. And often, the revelations that came through were the stuff of social media headlines …
For nearly a year now, the media calendar has been starved of high profile events and all the gossip that ensues from them. But Ahsan Khan’s first show of the season dealt out a lot that could be talked about. Humayun Saeed, at one point, seriously observed that reviews could now be bought out on social media and he no longer looked forward to them the way he once used to. Another question pitched his way asked him to talk about the most unfathomable scandal that he had been associated with.
There was talk of marriage and of favorite – and least favorite – directors, past hits and flops and what career would both stars have had chosen had they not worked in showbiz (“I would have been selling mobiles – or biryani!” said Fahad Mustafa.). Perhaps, had the two guests not known their host so well, they would have been more withdrawn with their answers but the repartee flowed smoothly, in good humor, throughout.
Electric current, chillis and little rabbits
Humayun Saeed and Fahad Mustafa have a long-term bromance that’s still running strong which made the show an entertaining ride. But even more reticent guests, should they come along in later episodes, should be able to break the ice with the segments that are part of the basic format.
The Q&A section has stars buzzing each other with tiny electric currents for every incorrect answer. Another segment has them eating extremely spicy food.
And in the general knowledge quiz, little rabbits are placed on guests’ laps for every wrong question. According to Ahsan, the rabbits are longtime pets at the channel which is probably why they seemed so unconcerned with sitting, clustered together, on laps.
“I am a pet lover, that’s why I am giving wrong answers,” Fahad Mustafa jested at one point, when he was particularly thronged by a crowd of rabbits.
Later, Fahad and Humayun went on to even do little dances. Very funny – the sort of stuff you don’t usually see in a talk show.
The pros, the cons
And then there was Ahsan Khan, upbeat, gregarious and evidently a pro at quizzing guests, since he’s done it so many times before. The actor makes a great host not just because he’s generally likeable but also he knows most of his interviewees from earlier. Being part of the celebrity fraternity, he is able to strike a comfort zone with them which allows, as in this first episode, some interesting observations to be made.
For instance, it’s no secret that Fahad Mustafa has an inclination towards making borderline controversial statements with great confidence. Given his star status, I haven’t seen many interviewees challenge him or even, poke a bit of fun at him. But Ahsan, being an actor himself, prodded Fahad with wisecracks quite often. And Fahad joked right back, perhaps being able to trust one of his own much more easily than he does general media personnel.
Having said this, the show should have been shorter. Even with the biggest stars on board, an hour and a half long time span does tend to yawn on. Audience attention span simply can’t last that long.
The pace could also be slower. Ahsan and his interviewees often talked so quickly that it was hard to keep track as they flitted from one topic to the other. The segments need to be made shorter, perhaps, so that Ahsan doesn’t have to rush through a long list of questions.
There were also times, right in the beginning, when the host and the stars seemed to be slightly on edge. This could be because they were just starting out at the time – the conversation did get easier later on.
Fun and loaded with star-power, ‘Time Out with Ahsan Khan’ has a lot to offer. There are hitches, yes – but they are few – and our host, characteristically glib, does have a penchant of being able to sideline them with an easy joke, a grin, some good-natured laughter.