Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cynical and audacious

Because my column in Four-Four-Two is not online, I will be sharing share a few in my blog from time to time.

This piece appeared in July 2014. A year ago.

THE thought of having a talk-show to call my own never crossed my mind, even when I was invited to be part of Astro Arena’s pioneering team of talent when Malaysia’s first sports channel was launched in 2010.

In my meeting with the late Astro Arena general manager Matt McKeown and channel manager, Venu Ramadass in November 2009, months before Arena came into being, the discussion centred on my role as a blogger in an issue-based talk show.

Matt had already made up his mind in wanting me to be part of the show modelled after Fox Sports Australia’s The Back Page, which looks at big issues surrounding Aussie sports, despite not having finalised the host.

Kafe Sukan was to become one of Arena’s signature shows and I was happy to be sharing my thoughts on air as well as reading viewers’ comments from the various social media platforms.

A year on, Slamet Sazly Yakub, Astro Arena’s head of content creation, threw the idea of having a hard-talk show with me as the host.

Slamet had already conceptualised the studio set to be dark to give the impression to the guest that he is in a torture chamber.

The host must be cynical, audacious and not afraid to ask the right and relevant questions, no matter how controversial they are. Slamet insisted I was the right man for the job. I was hesitant.

I was no TV man. I was just a journalist who happened to be given a shot at sharing my views on TV.

It took me weeks before I had the courage to say yes to Slamet, who coined the title Dengan Izin, or loosely translated means Allow Me or With Permission, a term used by Malaysian lawmakers if they want to hammer home a point of debate in a language other than Bahasa Malaysia in Parliament.

There was also another catch. Slamet wanted me to project a serious demeanour, a no-nonsense style that is intended to provoke the guests. This is in contrast to my good natured self.

Arena’s managing editor Dez Corkhill’s message was very simple. “We want you to be a b******d in the show. Grill your guests.”

Because of this, I suffered sleepless nights ahead of the first broadcast. I did not think the audience were ready for a talk-show that provoked and gave little room for the guests to answer.

From the first guest former badminton star Razif Sidek in April 2011 to Johor Darul Takzim FC supremo Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim which was shown live in May, Dengan Izin survived four seasons, having featured 46 guests over 48 episodes.

Reaction and feedback was mixed. Some consider the show an eye-opener, while others believed I was kurang ajar and the questions were designed to embarrass the guests.

Yes, the truth be told, using the word difficult in getting guests for the show is an understatement.

Many officials baulked at the idea of coming to the show.

To the likes of former Selangor skipper, Malek Rahman, who disclosed the modus operandi of football match fixers and athletics coach Harun Rasheed Othuman’s exclusive revelation of a conversation ahead of a doping scandal involving a few track and field athletes, I say thanks.

Read this posting in 2012

Former assistant general secretary of FAM, Datuk Ahmad Fuad Daud in 2012

To a long list of VIPs that took the trouble to make the show a success, namely Tunku Ismail, Tan Sri Annuar Musa, Datuk Ahmad Ismail, Datuk Seri Nadzmi Salleh, Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz, Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad, Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin, Tan Sri Abdul Razak Latiff, Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim , Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal and Khairy Jamaluddin, allow me to express my gratitude.

One thing is for certain, very few can host Dengan Izin, if I may add. And it is a TV show, a show designed to entertain. If I have the licence to ask tough questions, Dengan Izin gives those occupying the hot-seat equal opportunity to shoot back and trap the host. Very few can take as hard as they give.

"Life is not about how hard of a hit you can give, it's about how many you can take, and still keep moving forward."

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