My friends all say I'm such a poser," laughs Aishwarya Ajit, the new host of Dubai One's daily show Studio One, the second season of which took off last week. "Even when I was a boring and skinny little girl with pigtails and braces, I thought I was a diva and supermodel. But, as I grew, I became more practical. Moreover, I don't come from a family that appreciated me being so beauty-conscious in school, because they wanted me to focus on studies. But I had my turn. I did some 80 ad campaigns in four years during my college days in India and hosted a reality dance show on a South Indian channel".
Having lived all her life here, Ajit calls Dubai her "home". She was earlier a host on the show Twenty Something, which she describes as "great". And the transition from that show to Studio One wasn't easy.
A second chance
"It was the only youth show on Dubai TV where we brought all sorts of interesting things to the youth community here — from career options to fashion and music. I auditioned with Dubai One in 2009 for the show, but didn't make it. So I joined an ad agency to gain work experience. I learnt to do "normal" things — such as typing a formal e-mail — which had no place in the glamorous world I came from. I knew it wasn't for me. A year later, I got another call from the company for the same show. And this time it clicked.
"Four months later, I was asked to join Tom [Urquhart] for the second season of Studio One as his co-host Saba Wahid was leaving us. I was just getting comfortable with Twenty… and its crew, so it was initially a little disheartening to leave the show. But once I started Studio One it opened up another world for me. I was on TV a lot more. I was doing a live show. I was reporting a lot more and it needed a lot more involvement than a weekly one-hour show. I was having fun."
How is it working on live TV as opposed to a recorded show?
"I had filled in for Saba for a week earlier and I learnt how difficult it was to do a live show. It's very easy to sit on a couch and make comments, but when you are under the spotlight and suddenly need to speak on a subject you have zero knowledge of, it's really challenging. When you are doing a live show, besides your hard work and capability, luck plays a major role. You need to be blessed and hope everything goes smooth. Fortunately, I haven't had any legendary bloopers. Season 2 has just started. I'm sure some will come my way and I hope everyone will be extremely forgiving."
Speaking of "zero knowledge" on a subject, does she research for the show or have to just read from an autocue?
"It's a team effort. We [Tom and I] are here five days a week and contribute a lot to the stories and research. But it is primarily our research team and other reporters who do a lot of work on the stories. But when I speak of ‘zero knowledge' I'm referring to when you are filling in for someone else. You are not really aware of what they do. Why I was nervous to leave Twenty… was because I was still new in the company and even though I had about two years experience in TV from India, the dynamics are different. I really liked the show and wasn't sure what Studio One had in store for me".
So what's next? Movies?
"I tried my luck in a couple of movies in India but realised it's not my thing. It's just pretty to look at. I've always loved posing and television whereas movies are a huge commitment. It kills your social life and involves a lot of travelling. Unless you are passionate about it, it's not really the place to be.
"The rest of my family is all doctors and engineers. I studied English literature, but what I studied has nothing to do with my profession. For me, being in TV is purely passion, something that cannot be taught. You need to be born with it. I know a lot of people who have a lot of passion but might lack the X-factor. I'm assuming, if I'm here, I've got it."
A pleasure to work with
Tom Urquhart on Aishwarya Ajit as co-host on Studio One:
"It's great. She brings a lot of enthusiasm and it continues throughout the day - while we are having rehearsals, in the office and also when we are live. It's something you certainly need with a live and daily show. Aish and I've worked on the show last season too. And we do have our days. Days when I am in a really bad mood and Aish just has to put up with it and vice versa. It's almost like being in a relationship. And we have a few laughs on the way. I believe a laugh goes a long way. It's one way to get over the pressures and stresses of live TV where you can make mistakes at the drop of a hat. Aish, despite her referring to herself as a diva, has never been the one to turn her back on work or turn down a challenge. We certainly saw that last season and I'm hoping to slip in a couple of challenges that might become a bit too much for her this season. We'll wait and see".