MTV veejay Cyrus Sahukar has been dressing up like a woman since the age of six. But he's no cross-dresser.
The first time he wore lipstick was for a school play at the all-boys St Columbus High School in Delhi where he played the role of a Kashmiri girl. At the age of 15, he joined Barry John's theatre group in Delhi and besides essaying roles of his own gender, he portrayed two or three female characters. On winning the MTV VJ hunt, he quit theatre. But his tryst with women characters continued.
"I once played Maria's (VJ Maria Goretti) sister for a show called Nari No 1, where all the male VJs dressed up as women. Now, THAT was torturous because I had to wax my legs," he says, and recoils in horror.
Lucky for him, it was a one-time experience. "I screamed and cried. I think waxing is an old form of torture, which somehow found its way into the beauty business. Anyone I don't like -- should be waxed!" he declares.
His latest impersonation of a woman, Semi Girebaal on the MTV show Semi Girebaal Returns does not merit any waxing sessions -- the demure Semi's 'lovely legs' are covered up with a pair of white trousers.
SDR is a spoof on Rendezvous with Simi Garewal, a chat show where actress-turned-chat show hostess Simi Garewal interviews celebrities from all walks of life. SDR, like the original, has stark white sets. And like Simi Garewal, Semi is clad from head-to-toe in white and speaks 'propah' English.
The first season titled Rendevous with Semi Girebaal ran for 13 episodes. But unlike the old show which had impersonators, the second season will feature real celebrities, and premiered with filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt on November 12.
Cyrus says he has never met Simi Garewal and clarifies that the show is an ode to her and not an attempt to poke fun at her. "We want it to be much more than a mimic show. The idea is to get people to laugh at themselves," he says.
In the first episode of the new season, Semi asked for Bhatt's views on the institution of marriage. Bhatt (who is married more than once) retorted," Why make only one woman miserable, when you can make so many women happy!"
In the new season, Semi's hair has been restyled ala Simi. The jet-black long hair has been replaced with short layers. And highlights. She sports massive rocks on her fingers, heels, pearls, lipstick and painted nails. And at 6 feet 3 inches, wearing a stark white ensemble, she cuts a rather startling picture.
The VJ's metamorphosis from Cyrus to Semi takes about 45 minutes. This involves coming face to face, literally, with 'strange gadgets' like blush-on and eyeliner, whilst practicing his speech in Semi mode. The eyeliner tends to stay in his eyes (and nose) long after the shoot and merits strange reactions from his male friends, and people in general. "Today I can have a long conversation with any woman on the subject of makeup," he says.
There's also a flipside to impersonating a woman; sometimes the effeminate mannerisms of Semi Girebaal rub off on Cyrus, and he gets 'confused'. "I end up saying goodbye sometimes like this (tilts head a little, speaks in a high-pitched voice and waves hand with effeminate gesture)," he says. "But on the bright side, my girlfriend now has a boyfriend and a girlfriend," he winks.
Considering anything is possible on the show, we wonder if Semi will hit on any of her male celebrities on the show. "No (gasp)! She is interested in a bigger cause -- to save the world," says Cyrus. Watch the trailers for other altruistic causes too, like the one in which Semi is counselling a stack of Rs 500 notes. "Hello doll-ling! Do you ever feel lonely in a vault all by yourself? Do you feel intimated by the Rs 1,000 note?" she purrs.
And in the same breathe, she swiftly slips a wad of notes into her bosom.
The channel is also planning Semi merchandise, a Semi doll which speaks (or rather squeaks), ring tones etc.
Semi Girebaal Returns airs on MTV at 9.30 pm every Sunday. The original, interesting, is aired at the same time on Star World.