Mind the Malhotras: Mini Mathur, Cyrus Sahukar on their new Amazon series, and importance of therapy
Mind the Malhotras will be streaming on Amazon Prime Video from 7 June.
Cyrus Sahukar is dressed in a pastel blue suit with trousers that end just short at the ankles. White socks with cherry patterns are peeking out of white sneakers. The look is attracting a lot of comments. “I look like a cloud,” says Sahukar, with his trademark self-deprecatory humour. Co-star of Amazon Prime Video’s latest sitcom Mind the Malhotras, Mini Mathur is enjoying Sahukar’s glib replies. It’s a repartee they are accustomed to, having begun their careers together in the late 90s as VJs for MTV India.
We meet to talk about their first sitcom together, and Mathur’s first acting part. The popular hosts, who co-anchor a quiz show on Discovery Channel, play Shefali and Rishabh Malhotra, parents of three children, whose daily travails are shared with the audience through their therapy sessions. Mind The Malhotras is the Indian adaptation of the Israeli show La Famiglia.
Looking back to the start of their careers, Sahukar says, “I remember the first time I met Mini — we had been called for a party in Delhi for VJs. I was an awkward and lost 18-year-old. We both won the VJ Hunt and came to Mumbai together on the same flight and shared a cab to the MTV office. I have grown up around Mini. She has always been there and helped me out through many awkward and weird times. She’s been like a family member who does not judge your BS. Equally, I have seen her evolve.”
Not only did they move to Mumbai at the same time, Mathur also helped Sahukar buy his first pressure cooker when he was 18 and Sahukar was consulted when Mathur and her husband, (filmmaker) Kabir Khan, were buying a car. The one thing Mathur is clear Sahukar was not good at was baby-sitting. “I left him with my baby boy for 40 seconds and in that time he must have made some faces because my son was howling. He does not have a way with babies,” recalls Mathur, adding, “For me, Cyrus is a rare soul connection. Even though we started our careers together, of greater value is that he is family to me. I feel so proud of how he has evolved his craft and the way he looks at life. There is so much to learn from him despite the fact that this is the guy who, when we moved to Mumbai, said what's a pressure cooker and where do I get one.”
Sahukar says he too chipped in with his share of mundane chores, such as accompanying her to the market to buy door handles. But much has happened in the ensuing years. “In the time since then we have found girlfriends and spouses, rented homes and found permanent homes, bought cars, built careers,” adds Mathur.
Besides being established professionals with vibrant careers as hosts on TV and for live events, Sahukar has also acted in a clutch of films including Aisha and Khoobsurat. But, surprisingly, Mind the Malhotras is Mathur’s first acting part.
Mathur says that it is not a lack of opportunities but a disconnect from the kind of parts coming her way that kept her away from fiction. “I love my job. I loved being a TV host. I love my passion projects, like Mini Me, the travelogue I do with my daughter. I have been busy living a full life – working, raising two kids, and I have a husband who has a whole thing of his own going on. But in India you are considered successful as an actor if you have entered films at the right time or if you are into character roles, which age you far more. Nothing was being written for normal characters and I couldn't spend 30 days on a subject I didn't believe in.”
Sahukar chimes in, “People think that you need to act, but I was busy doing other things. I was hosting!”
So when director and show-runner Sahil Sangha approached Mathur with Mind the Malhotras, it helped that she liked the original show, but what sealed the deal was the opportunity to share the screen with Sahukar.
For Sahukar, the experience was somewhat different. He asked a lot of questions to understand the unfamiliar world of marriage, children, in-laws etc. He says, “I don't know this world, but I find Rishabh interesting because he is going through all the responsibilities he has to in life while being completely unaware that he is super anxious and has problems. I find that quite common among my male friends. The show is about five central characters and we are in every scene, so it's intense.”
Besides comedy and the chaos of the Malhotra household, one of the anchors of the show is the therapy sessions. Given that the idea of therapy is still discussed in hushed tones in India, both Mathur and Sahukar believe the show will help bring the subject out of the closet.
“I think it's a really nice setting because in India relationships have become very tricky now given the world we live in,” says Sahukar. “We live in a world with too many options. Couples are going through a lot of drama and the acceptance of seeking therapy is wonderful. I see a therapist and it is really good because you can have a conversation with someone who doesn't know you and the relationship is quite pure. Through that you begin to see yourself better too.”
Mathur agrees. “With the lives we lead today, you have to actively work at keeping relationships together and therapy is now very acceptable. Earlier your friends and relatives were your counsellors, but now you pay someone to be non-judgemental and discreet. You see a GP for your physical health and a therapist to keep your mind sorted. Rishabh and Shefali’s marriage is not breaking up. They love each other, but they are working on closing the communication gap.”
Situational comedy requires a particular metre and Mathur says she learns a great deal from Sahukar. “There is always something to learn about punches, spontaneity and timing from him. Working with him on my first sitcom makes my job so much easier.”
Sahukar adds, “In comedy, it is easy to become another kind of person. If you remove the genre, then in real life this person would just be weird. The characters in this show are real people dealing with real situations who are trying to get by their own lives while dealing with their own psychosis.”
If the camaraderie, ribbing and banter during the interview are an indication, Mathur and Sahukar are likely to be anything but mindful as the Malhotras.
Mind the Malhotras will be streaming on Amazon Prime Video from 7 June.
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