Indian television

Shah Rukh Khan-hosted ‘TED Talks: Ek Nayi Soch’ hopes to offer ‘lifelong learning’ to Indian viewers

The Star Plus show aims to upturn the idea that ‘anything that is deeply creative and intellectually stimulating’ will not work on television.

Much like he did in his eloquent TED Talk that premiered in May, Shah Rukh Khan sauntered on to the stage and started off with anecdotes from his younger days at the launch of TED Talks India: Nayi Soch in Mumbai on Thursday evening. “I have been working in the industry for 30 years as an actor, but TED Talks India has given me the platform to just be myself,” said Khan, who will host the show set to air later this year.

In a first, media giant TED has collaborated with a commercial mainstream television network to take its mission – of taking revolutionary ideas to people – in a language other than English. The show, in Hindi, will be premiered on the Star Plus television channel.

“I believe in the power of love,” Khan said at the Mumbai event. “And love is nurtured by small and simple ideas. TED Talks have been doing that for years.” The actor went on to describe his TED Talk as the greatest achievement of his career.

However, the makers remained tight-lipped about the speakers who have been roped in and the air date of the show.

The show promises to feature speakers from the Hindi film industry, but lesser-known faces with spectacular ideas are also expected to make appearances. “You won’t see these stars doing what they usually do,” Juliet Blake, the executive producer of the show said. “They are bringing very personal stories. The audience will be pleased to see that these are the finest storytellers from India, who are doing remarkable things.”

Uday Shankar, Shah Rukh Khan and Chris Anderson at the event. Image credit Star India.
Uday Shankar, Shah Rukh Khan and Chris Anderson at the event. Image credit Star India.

‘Great fit for India’

Film industry stalwarts Karan Johar, Ekta Kapoor, Javed Akthar and Indian women’s cricket team captain Mithali Raj are rumoured to be part of the lineup. All but one episode will be in Hindi. “The idea came out of a deep sense of angst that has captured the imagination of a lot of us, the television sector in particular,” Uday Shankar, Chairperson and CEO of Star India said. “It is usually perceived that anything that is deeply creative, intense and also intellectually stimulating could not be accepted by people at home who tune onto their television in the evening. I find that deeply disturbing. TED Talks India is clearly an outcome of that.”

Like in the original TED Talk, the selection criteria for the speakers is to see whether their idea rings true to the organisation’s motto: Ideas worth spreading. “In the West, a lot of people are cynical and angry,” Head of TED and publishing entrepreneur, Chris Anderson, told in an interview. “In India there is a much bigger commitment to learning. The idea of a major mainstream television network to say we are going to offer lifelong learning to wherever you are for free in a powerful form is a very great experience. It is a great fit for India.”

Tim Urban's TED Talk (2016).

Themes that resonate not only with Indian audiences but also overseas viewers will be chosen. Topics such as education and the power of learning will be prime narratives on the show.

“Television has its own demands,” Anderson explained. “I think what has been surprising to us is how much it is the same more than how much it is different. The crew, right from Uday, has insisted that this not be dumbed down, but this be TED. A way that a TED event actually happens is that you see a series of them. You might see four or five, which cluster around a theme. But they connect to each other and build on each other. You are going to see something really similar in this show.”

The series will be approached with the same diligence as any other TED Talk, the makers said. “It is a long process where the talks get translated into Hindi and back-translated into English for me,” Blake said. “And we have a team in New York, which does the fact-checking. There has been no talk in the show that has not been fact-checked by our team. And that has sometimes meant re-writes and edit after a talk has been given.”

Nevertheless, the show will fit into the entertainment genre, Khan promised. “It is a mix of entertainment, inspiration and intellectualism and to achieve that is difficult,” he said.

Shah Rukh Khan's TED Talk (2017).
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