I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking that the new interview show, Dimensions on CNN-IBN, in which phoren celebrities are being interviewed, is being hosted by Ashok Amritraj – major domo Hollywood producer. But no. More fool me. It’s his tennis star doppelganger brother Vijay Amritraj. Or as the celebs call him, Veejay, who’s discovering all their dimensions, if you will.
Is this a stroke of genius on the part of the show’s producers? Or is it really as bizarre as having Ivan Lendl interviewing Hollywood celebrities? Veejay does have a tenuous connection to Hollywood and the world of American celebrities though. He’s played tennis with many of them. He is Ashok Amritraj’s brother. And he did act in the beautifully named Octopussy.
Leaving aside the wisdom of casting Veejay as interviewer of the stars, the programme seems to have drawn inspiration from the CNN programmes, Piers Morgan Tonight and Piers Morgan Live. The only thing is that Piers Morgan has been a journalist. A suspect one, many might say, but a journalist no less.
The line-up of guests on Dimensions has not been the best till date. More has-beens than anything else – from Pierce Brosnan to Sharon Stone to Hugh Hefner.
Leaving aside the fact that launching the interview show with Sharon Stone is a bit odd and that she hasn’t been in the news for ages, Vijay’s interviewing style is vanilla at best. His diction and speech is a little muffled and garbled which might be because of the sound mixing. There are no intrusive questions, nothing which can remotely upset his guest. So there were no questions on Stone’s ex-husband being mauled by a 10-foot Komodo dragon in LA Zoo and almost having to amputate his toe, or about their divorce – not connected to the Komodo attack I’m sure. Or about the fact that she has a new 27-year-old toy boy (she’s 57 but has the body of a 27-year old). Or even about her lawsuit against the producers of the Basic Instinct sequel. Instead it was a sweet chat between acquaintances, which made for very boring, very pointless viewing.
Hugh Hefner has been all over the Indian news media thanks to the ever-charming Sherlyn Chopra’s tryst with his magazine. She did tell us that she didn’t need to sleep with him to make it to the cover. Good man that Hefner is. I thought that maybe Veejay would surprise us. Pull a bunny out of his hat, if you will.
So once I sat down to watch the show and managed to draw my attention away from Heff’s lazy eye, what new thing did I learn? Well, he spoke about the Playboy mansion. Which looks like Michael Jackson’s Neverland estate – with Playboy bunnies romping around instead of Bubbles the chimp. Veejay asked him important questions like what renovations Hefner had made to the house. And like a sweet grandfather, Hefner described the landscaping of the house. It could have been an interview for Architecture Digest.
I kept hoping that Amritraj would ask him whether it’s a myth that he does indeed sleep with the playmates? Is Playboy getting into the alcohol business? What he feels about having a species of rabbit named in his honour (Sylvilagus palustris hefneri). Whether he’s romantic or just delusional for thinking the 20-something playmates will marry him? There were no references to his engagement with Playmate Crystal Harris who dumped him days before their wedding or to Holly Madison, the other Playmate who broke off her engagement to him. Or even more serious questions like why he handed over Playboy Enterprises to only his daughter, Christie Hefner and not to his other kids?
You keep hoping that Amritraj will take a feather out of Piers Morgan’s cap. And ask the questions everyone wants answers to, even at the risk of upsetting the interviewee. Morgan has most probably managed to score the most amount of walkouts from his shows – Christine O’ Donell stomped off when he asked her about her views on same-sex marriage, Kelsey Grammer saw a picture of his ex-wife in the promo montage and beat a hasty retreat, and most famously, Robert Blake flipped out when Morgan questioned him on whether Blake was being honest about the circumstances leading to the death of his wife Bonnie Lee Bakley.
There are way too many interview shows on the telly nowadays for someone to stay tuned in to a vanilla, let’s-pretend-we’re-walking-on-eggshells interview. Or you draw attention away from the vanilla questions by pulling together a fabulous line-up of interviewees.
But we’ve been promised a second episode of the Hefner interview. And maybe we’ll be surprised. It is Playboy after all. But what looks promising though is that Amritraj is supposed to interview Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi at one point. That might mean that we’ll see him in his element. But will we be made to suffer Donald Trump and Cindy Crawford before that? Prepare for death by boredom.
Dimensions airs on CNN-IBN on Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 10 am.