Cyrus Sahukar is back to flex his acting muscles in the Amazon Prime Video sitcom Mind the Malhotras. The comedian, television host and occasional actor plays Rishabh Malhotra, a father of three who signs up for couples’ therapy with his wife, Shefali (Mini Mathur), after noticing growing instances of divorce in their social circle.
Rishabh is the “average good guy, the regular guy who worries about his kids, home loan, where his life going”, Sahukar told Scroll.in. “You usually either see the bad boy, the party boy, or an overly nice guy on television or in movies. Rishabh is going through the regular dilemmas of the regular person and is quite eccentric and neurotic but unaware of it.”
The series, directed by Sahil Sangha and Ajay Bhuyan, will be released on Amazon Prime Video on June 7. The cast includes Sushmita Mukherjee, Anandita Pagnis, Nikki Sharma, Jason Dsouza and Rahul Verma.
Mind the Malhotras, produced by Born Free Entertainment and presented by Applause Entertainment, is an adaptation of Israeli television comedy La Famiglia. The show was a perfect fit for Indian viewers, Sahukar said, because “Indian families are quite eccentric and crazy”.
Sahukar, who is single and has no children, was initially apprehensive about how he would approach his character. What helped him relate to Rishabh was that he too was learning the rules of parenting over the course of the show. “Rishabh had these kids when he was 19,” Sahukar elaborated. “So he’s grown up with them. I found that relationship quite funny because he doesn’t really get all three of them. Rishabh is figuring it out as he goes along and making mega parenting faux pas.”
It helped that his co-star, Mini Mathur, is an old friend, with whom he hosted shows on the music and entertainment channel MTV in the late ’90s and early 2000s. “I have a very special friendship with Mini because we both joined MTV at the same time,” he said. “There is certain taking for granted that you do in a long-term relationship. We wanted to bring that ease and familiarity to Rishabh and Shefali’s dynamic and that energy was really easy to find with Mini.”
Sahukar, born to a Punjabi mother and Parsi father and schooled in Delhi, burst onto the entertainment scene in 1999, when he was picked up by MTV at the age of 19 after a countrywide video jockey hunt. Sahukar also appeared in the channel’s parody offerings, such as MTV Fully Faltoo (2006), which spoofed Hindi movies, and Rendezvous with Semi Girebaal (2006), which lampooned the celebrity talk show Rendezvous with Simi Garewal.
“I would go to work and put on a wig – I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to be super ridiculous,” he said about his memories of that time. “How many people get the chance to dress up as a carrot?”
As MTV grew to be dominated by reality shows, Sahukar had to find his feet afresh. His association with the channel continues – he hosted their dating show Elovator Pitch in 2018 and the internet prank show Anti-Social Media alongside comedian Jose Covaco this year. But Sahukar also took up acting projects and anchored shows for other channels, including the 2012 season of India’s Got Talent on Colors, the game show Sab Khelo Sab Jeeto (2014) on SAB TV, and the 2017 travel series Great Escape with Kunal and Cyrus, along with actor Kunal Kapoor.
“It was a weird transition and a huge transition for many people,” he said. “India had suddenly become reality-TV heavy. I did miss the fact that there was this open-minded comedy that had been growing on Indian television and then all of a sudden, it went into a super-commercial direction.”
Sahukar’s first film outing was a guest appearance as himself in Anupam Kher’s Om Jai Jagdish (2002), which was followed by a role as a radio jockey in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti (2006). “I did a terrible job in a Rang De Basanti. It became such an iconic film, I really wish I had worked harder,” Sahukar joked. More roles followed in Aisha (2010) and Sahil Sangha’s Love Breakups Zindagi (2011).
He is now keen to juggle acting with hosting and creating original content. “I co-wrote a film, a dark comedy, called Kadak, hopefully it releases soon,” he said. “I absolutely love hosting. It gives me incredible joy. I’m also working on a long-format interview podcast.”
He’s also keen on an opportunity to expand his repertoire from comedy to more serious roles. “I’ve waited my whole life to do something different,” he said. “I’d love to do something heavy and gritty and deep. Not just for the sake of it but because I feel that aspect of me is so strong but never explored.”