In recent months I’ve replied to so many e-mails and messages from people enquiring about the demise of my former show, Eastern Mosaic, that I’ve decided to respond to some of their most frequently asked questions here – if anyone else has to ask.
As some of you already know, Sunday the 24th of August 2014 marked the final broadcast of Eastern Mosaic – after nearly 14 years on air. Obviously Eastern Mosaic, or “E.M.” as everyone who worked on the show used to refer to it, was of great significance to me personally, but I also feel that it was an important show to countless others, because it did so much to celebrate and highlight the Indian community in South Africa – a group that has always felt overlooked, marginalised or pigeonholed by our country’s mainstream media – and the broader South African public in general.
Of course, it’s always a pity when an iconic brand is precipitately terminated but I believe that the show’s goodwill will live on in the memory of the people who welcomed it into their homes and hearts all those years – and in the benchmark that it has set for similar shows in the future. Right, that concludes the ‘press release’ part of the proceedings… Now, to answer some of your clandestine questions and lay it all on the table:
FAQ #1 : Rumour has it that Eastern Mosaic was axed because you left. Is this true?
I can see why some people might draw that conclusion : After I leave, the show runs for a while, then limps along for a retrospective highlights season (called “reversions” in our industry) – and a year later, its gone altogether. But the answer is no, I didn’t kill Eastern Mosaic! I doubt I have that kind of power anyway. In such a fluid and often fickle industry like broadcasting – change and reinvention are not only inevitable, they’re expected. It would seem that E.M. was simply a show whose time had come.
FAQ #2 : Why did you quit the show?
My main reasons for leaving were time, time and time!
14 years is a very long to be anchoring and voicing the same TV programme week after week. I felt quite married to the show – which meant that I hard very little time to commit to other projects. It got very frustrating after a while – especially when I found myself having to reluctantly turn down new ventures and opportunities because they conflicted with E.M.’s fixed weekly schedule. For a bit of background – I had announced (in house) my plans to leave in 2004 and then again 2008, but was talked out of it on both occasions – with some very compelling arguments offered to warrant my staying. And because I would never have done anything that might adversely impact the show, I stayed on (while grooming a new crop of presenters to eventually take over).
But when people start mentioning your name in the same sentence as that of veteran broadcaster Riaan Cruywagen’s (something I took as a compliment, though I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be one), or when 20-somethings come up to you and say things like “You know, I grew up watching you!” you’re reminded of that old adage, ‘there’s no time like the present!’ I just felt like the time was right to walk away.
FAQ #3 : I last heard that you left to present a new show. What is it called and when did/does it start?
Despite promising myself that I wouldn’t take on too many projects at once, I’m working on three shows at present. Two of them launched this year – and the third is set to debut in 2015.
Prior to my withdrawal as anchor of E.M. in April 2013, I started producing and directing an Afrikaans (yes, Afrikaans) food series called “Geure Uit Die Vallei” on kykNET – which launched in April this year. We’re currently filming for the second season of the show – which returns to DSTV in January 2015. It’s such a pleasure working on this particular show because, amongst other things, I’ve always found Afrikaans audiences (on the whole) to be incredibly supportive, appreciative and encouraging of their own. It really is a beautiful thing!
Our company also produces “Mela” – the new show that has taken over Eastern Mosaic’s old time slot – so I’m also involved in that (though to a much lesser degree than I was with E.M.).
In the new year I am scheduled to return to South African TV screens – as a presenter – for a food and lifestyle series with a healthy twist. The show was meant to launch in February this year, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with a couple of things, so we opted to wait a while.
FAQ #4 : I read somewhere that you actually prefer working behind-the-scenes. Don’t you miss being in front of the camera?
Truthfully? No, I don’t miss it at all. It’s hard to explain (especially to aspiring TV stars), but working off-camera is such a load off. I feel so much more in control because I get to concentrate on wearing just the one (director, producer or editor) hat at a time – whereas when I’m presenting, my mind is also editing as I go, checking on lighting and camera angles and generally making sure that we have all the shots and cutaways we need for the edit to work – all this while trying to deliver an all out performance! I wish I was one of those frontline people I often jealously read about who get to drown out everything else and concentrate solely on their performances. I’m much more hands on. Always have been. And no, this isn’t just a ‘control’ thing. I’ve always been genuinely interested in how all the various elements and members come together to create a seamless whole – from inception to fully realised end result.
There’s also a lot less primping and preening and trying to be immaculately turned out at all times when you’re not on camera – which, truth be told, is a real chore after a while! I can (and often do) show up on set or in the edit suite with a 5 day stubble, T-shirt, cap and sweatpants. It’s blissfully comfy and liberating! I haven’t been in the ‘public eye’ for some time now and I have to admit that a part of me is slightly dreading returning to that side of the lens – for all the effort and baggage that the ‘public figure’ mantle brings.
So, there you are folks – this concludes what I hope is my final post about the defunct Eastern Mosaic. So long, E.M. – and thanks for the memories! Peace out.