It was in 1998 that I first saw him playing table tennis with the promo team at Star TV. 9 games on he was still standing and giving it everything he had. His opponents changed as they lost, but his thirst for winning kept him going till I had to call it a day, but not him.
In 1999 the man became my boss and head of programming at Star TV. We were all working late for a presentation and he came to my little cabin, long after everyone had left and said "Can we do this or not"? I was a bit surprised to see him in office so late, higher ups usually left early, but not Sameer Nair. Over the years I realised, he was always the last man standing, be it TT or leading Star TV to the top!
As I write this I am trying very hard not to gush about my mentor and friend from who I have learnt pretty much everything that I know about broadcast media! I'm still learning...while he has moved on to the medium of tomorrow - Digital. That is Sameer Nair, always a step ahead, always trying something new, always playing for broke!
I remember when he came up to us a few days before the launch of KBC and said he wanted us all to hand in our resignations! It startled us to say the least, but the core team in programming decided to do it anyways, trusting him blindly. That night he took us to Moti Mahal and we partied! He told us that as we were about to launch an all new Star Plus, he wanted us all to give it our all. So either we were the dream team who "would get it done" or we would all, including him, resign! It was always all or nothing for him, and the vigour with which we worked post that day was to give it our all, for who wants to lose their job!
It worked and Sameer Nair wrote a new chapter in television history with KBC and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi! Star has never looked back since, because the foundation he laid on the 3rd of July 2000 was so solid!
The next year, I remember, when it was awards night, many of the senior members of Star at the time, took to stage with great pride announcing that we had 36 of the top 50 shows and that next year we would be back with all 50! Sameer however, sat with his team the whole night! The glory was for others to get puffed up about, but he had started planning for the 50/50 for next year!
And we did it! We delivered together! And did it again! Year after year! So many firsts Nach Baliye, Koffee with Karan, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, The great Indian laughter challenge all such solid brands that continue to this day!
Star got its foundation right forever and Sameer got bored!
It's hard to walk away from something one has led to the top and sustained for years! But what's life if you don't live on the edge? " Sameer got restless, we had the top 50 shows for 7 years in a row, week on week.... he needed to hand over the baton and "Imagine" afresh!
Sameer never stopped being audacious! He got people "married on tv" and what could be a bigger reality than that! The country got divided in their opinion about the "Swayamvars" on television! But the ratings were phenomenal! We taught the English language on tv, we taught the nation to dance with Saroj Khan! We tried breaking out of all the trends we had created ourselves! Tried to re Imagine!
Sometimes things work, sometimes they don't, but the reason why we all stuck by Sameer for so many years is because not one of us ever met an executive who had the generosity to allow public glory to his subordinates and the courage to stand by them, taking the blame if they failed.
19 years on I am proud to write this for Sameer, my mentor, my friend...it's been a great ride!