Comedian Zakir Khan's latest venture is a podcast for music streaming platform Gaana. Titled Ummeed With Zakir Khan, the 12-episode Hindi series comes under the 'Self-Help' section of the platform and has Zakir sharing his beliefs and life experiences to provide guidance across a range of areas.
With durations ranging from 15-20 minutes, each episode deals with a different self-improvement topic with episode titles like Ishq Aur Self Respect, Dealing With Rejection, Looks Do Matter, Spoken English and Broken English among others.
Those familiar with his stand-up will know that the comedian has a natural affinity for storytelling and sermonising and finding meaning in everyday situations. Each episode is split into two parts, first with Zakir introducing the topic with personal anecdotes followed by a discussion with a celebrity guest. These include Gopal Dutt, Hussain Dalal, Tanmay Bhat and Nishant Tanwar among others, though none of the guests' names appear in the episode title or description which means you have to listen to each one to find out who it is.
Zakir, who worked in radio prior to his stand-up days, is a natural host and is entirely in his comfort zone here. He mines his experiences for life lessons and dropping wisdom. "Hope is the tiny light that helps us sail through the darkness of our turbulent lives. It's one of the most powerful emotions we feel, and it's been my rock in times of uncertainty, and it helped me bounce back from life's strains" he says in an introduction to an episode. The series isn't particularly funny and nor is it looking to be, with the comic aiming to go to more profound places. The show's background music and audio effects are there to achieve just that, ensuring everything he says sounds as deep and meaningful as possible.
Episode 3, titled Ishq Aur Self Respect, features Tanmay Bhat and is particularly enjoyable because of the chemistry the two share. They discuss the importance of vulnerability and finding a romantic partner who values you as much as you value yourself. "Why do we overvalue people? Because when you wear rose-tinted glasses, all the red flags look like flags" offers Bhat. The fifth episode, titled Looks Do Matter (which Zakir says is the topic closest to his heart) features writer-actor Hussain Dalal and proves to be one of the series' most memorable conversations. They explore the value attached to vanity and discuss Dalal's view that a strong work ethic is its own version of good looks, saying "30 years later looks will fade but discipline and work ethic is all that will be left".
While Ummeed feels too processed and brief to cross into truly meaningful territory, it's a well-produced show which proves to be a pleasant soothing listen to have on in the background.