Gopinath, popularly known as ‘Neeya Naana Gopinath’, is the host of the popular television debate show called ‘Neeya Naana?’ Earlier, he was known as ‘Makkal Yaar Pakkam Gopi’, and was subsequently identified with a programme titled ‘Sigaram Thotta Manithargal’.
His knowledge on current affairs is laudable. Having succeeded as a television anchor, he is now helping students improve their communication skills. He has published two books titled ‘Theruvellam Thevathaigal’—a collection of poems, and ‘Please Indha Puthakatha Vaangatheenga’ — a book on personality development.
He is the recipient of Young Achiever award by India Today magazine (2007); Best Anchor of the State by Anantha Vikatan (2007, 2008), and also won the outstanding Young Indian Award by JCI in 2008.
In an exclusive interview with Marie Banu, C. Gopinath shares his passion for the media, and the need for social change.
You are always identified with your television programs: ‘Makkal Yaar Pakkam’, ‘Sigaram Thotta Manithargal’, ‘Neeya Naana’, and ‘Nadanthathu Enna’. Now, you are popularly known ‘Neeya Naana Gopinath’. How do you feel when one addresses you so?
Friends used to call me ‘Gopi’; others call me ‘Gopinath’. Popularly, people call me ‘Neeya Naana Gopinath’. Basically, I am a journalist. I started my career as a journalist in the television industry 12 years ago. From day one, my advantage was that I was an on-screen as well as an off-screen person. If I was a reporter, I was also the news reader; when I was reporting, I was hosting programmes as well. I wanted to experiment things better. It has been my passion to work in the media.
Gopi is my personal name and Gopinath is my official name. I like to be called ‘Gopi’.
Amongst all the talk shows, which issue did you find difficult to moderate?
Actually, nothing is hard when you like it. Each talk show has its formulas. Each one has its own sincerities and commitments. I can say that commitment and the work that goes into each of the shows are different. While some need a psychological approach, some also requires more commitment, research, meetings, and physical work.
It is joyous to meet different people, understand, react, convince, console, justify, make them feel happy, make them understand the realities, and at the same time gain an understanding of what is happening in the rest of the world. It is like a sweat after five kilometers run. I never felt it as a hard task. It might be tiring physically. At times, we do three shoots in a day for programmes that are staged on sets. We shoot continuously for four days and I would have to stand for 18 hours in a day. If I elaborate on this further, it would seem like a herculean task, but I would just say it in one phrase: “I Love my job.”
Who has been your role model?
I do not have any role model as such. I have derived inspirations from people like Pranoy Roy, Rajdeep Sardesai, and Ravi Bernard. Even when I go to colleges to chair seminars, I tell the students not to take me as a role model, but as an inspiration, if they think I deserve it.
If you take me as a role model, it would automatically turn into hero worship, and you would want to be another Gopinath. There are many talented people so take one good thing from each person and derive inspirations from them.
You are helping students to improve their communication skills. Can you tell us about your ‘Taalk Shop Academy School of Excellence’?
It was my passion to start a training academy for all sectors. I researched for three years on training needs in this competitive world, apart from academic education. For example, I came from the southern part of the state. When I came to Chennai, it was a cultural shock to me. I was hesitant to interview leaders who were from the North as I had to converse in English. Although I knew the language, I did not have the confidence and the exposure.
Apart from soft skills, one requires negotiation skills, enterprising skills, speaking skills, and commanding skills. Most of the time communication skills are connected with language. But, strongly I believe that language is only a part of communication. Content, body language, and confidence level forms most of the communication. Our training programmes aims to enhance the employable quality of the individual.
Our next project is to start a media school. We plan to tie up with educational institutions and offer an optional course. Our core team has worked on the course module in such a way that it is more interesting for the students and is not restricted to class room lectures alone. Even a student of seventh standard would know how to read the news. But, to read correctly really matters. This is what we aim to teach.
Which of the social issues disturb you the most? How can we use media to bring about change?
There are many issues that require change. Each and everyone should feel that they can also contribute towards the society. Change always happens because of one person who initiated the process. People followed Tiguara. People believed in Gandhi and followed him. There was no CNN then, nor did they follow because he was Gandhi. It was because they all wanted a change.
People have their own set of responsibilities. Our next generation just needs to be tuned. Our society demands children to study well. We force them to study well, score high marks, and enter into a medical or engineering college. We force them to excel in their education so that they can get into a good job and still force them to earn more money. After all of this, you expect them to show love and affection, when you have just created an ATM. You never taught them social values, but complain that they do have any social consciousness and not having concern about their country. We have lost our moral capability to criticize them.
Your advice to those engaged in social work?
I never advice people. I have a very big respect for social workers and NGOs. It is difficult for one to sacrifice a Saturday evening or a Sunday for somebody. In a scenario where the whole world is like a corporate company, these NGOs and social workers are making a difference.
Although most of them receive criticism they continue with their work, because they strongly believe in the cause. They are handicapped many a times to express their point of view. It is difficult to talk to a lay man about the environment impact after 45 years which would affect their future generations as he would not live that long.
Despite challenges, struggles, and de-motivation, NGOs continue to do their work. Their effort towards bring about social change should be appreciated.
There are two kinds of social workers—one addressing problems that are happening in the immediate present, and the other who are forecasters working on issues that would happen after ten or twenty years.
There is a verse in the bible that says that ‘theerkadharasi ullooril madhika maataan’, (meaning that forecasters would not be respected in their native). NGOs are like that. They work despite all the criticism they receive and this is why I respect them.
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