On the face of it there might be little in common between John Lennon and Kapil Sharma. Besides being trailblazers in their chosen fields, the two can also be called raving egomaniacs. In fact, Sharma appears to be the present day embodiment of the rock icon’s definition of an egomaniac. Lennon had once mused that he could very well be called an egomaniac if believing in what he did and his art would make one an egomaniac. The manner in which Sharma threw a shoe besides hurling abuses at his co-stars in a mid-air altercation not only reveals what an unapologetic egomaniac he is but also the immense faith that he has in his own self.
Ego can be a double-edged sword. The very thing that fuelled Sharma’s passion, where he went from being a participant on a reality TV show Comedy Circus to one of the most powerful entities on Indian television, also sowed the seeds of his downfall. Sharma’s gregarious nature and his organic humour catapulted him from an endearing personality to one of the most successful comedians ever seen in this country. Initially, Sharma’s ego, as Rilke would see it, was porous.
He allowed himself to be receptive and nurtured fellow talent such as Sunil Grover, who became one of the major reasons for the rise in Sharma’s popularity, and not only grew together but welcomed everyone to the party that his career was having. And, what a party it was. In a matter of years, Sharma not only had his own show, Comedy Nights With Kapil, but also become a constant name in the top celebrity lists. In 2016, Sharma was voted number 7 in Forbes India Celebrity 100 list where he beat the likes of Aamir Khan and Priyanka Chopra. His earnings, which were around Rs 2 crore in 2012, grew to Rs 30.17 crore in 2016 that also fetched him higher money ranking than Ranveer Singh, A R Rahman and Aamir Khan on the same list.
Numbers don’t really reveal the extent of Sharma’s success or even his ego. His success was beyond rankings. There was no dip in his popularity even after being off-air for four months when he opted out of Comedy Nights owing to differences with the channel. He and his team came up with an even greater success with The Kapil Sharma Show that put all doubts about his success to rest. Perhaps Sharma confused the successful transition as his greatest challenge.
But the bigger test that success puts its benefactor to is to see if they can shut up about it. In Sharma’s case, he somewhere was convinced that he could do no wrong and revealed this in his treatment of his flock. Grover left the show ostensibly on disagreement over his remuneration and although he returned later the cracks had begun to appear.
Sharma’s fall from grace might be mistaken for an ego trip going bad. But what would have helped him really was had someone watching his actions asked him a simple question: What else could this mean? In just six months, he has gone from being someone who could do no wrong to a point where his immensely successful show could be cancelled for the plummeting ratings. Like Lennon, Sharma, too, would have benefitted from doing nothing for a while and just watch the wheels go round, but the thing with introspection is that it has no end.
Film historian and best-selling author @gchintamani