One-on-one with the people

Sarah El Sirgany
5 Min Read

Hussein Fahmy connects with the society in popular Ramadan show

CAIRO: It was difficult not to hold back tears when a girl in her early teens told her story of having to work since childhood and enduring different types of physical torture at the hands of her employers. Even the host of the program in which the young girl appeared was obviously affected. Viewers of state television’s Channel 1 all saw Hussein Fahmy fighting back tears as he patted the girl s shoulder during an episode of El-Nas We Ana (The People and I).

The seasoned actor has assumed the role of TV host this Ramadan, with a daily show surveying an array of societal phenomena and problems. From an episode on polygamy featuring a man from Upper Egypt sitting with his two non-complaining wives to teenage views about relationships, the program has already covered diverse topics during the first weeks of Ramadan.

The program moves from funny to thought-provoking, depending on the topic of discussion – and each episode covers a different topic. At one point, Fahmy interviewed a woman who had bitten off her husband s finger in a fight. In a more recent episode he interviewed a number of people with varying disabilities who have managed to overcome their problems and succeed in life.

The diversity in content has meant that Fahmy is also interviewing people of all backgrounds, never failing to be the friendly, yet witty, host refraining from undermining his guests. In one episode he interviewed women of the country s upper class talking about their experience with cosmetic surgery, both successes and failures. In another, he interviewed street children talking about their daily lives and the circumstances that led them to live on the street.

This is exactly what Fahmy has wanted for a long time. He says he has been repeatedly offered the opportunity to host his own TV show, but has always turned it down. Among proposed programs were those that addressed politics and entertainment, but Fahmy wasn t interested in the topics. Even the idea of a live talk show was proposed but Fahmy turned it down for various reasons including his schedule. He has always wanted to host a show that addresses society and connects with people, he explains in an interview with The Daily Star Egypt.

When director and producer Sherif Arafa proposed the idea for the program three months ago, it ignited Fahmy s interest. Fahmy stresses the fact that he didn t want the show to be about him. Instead of falling into the trend of celebrities hosting programs under their names, Fahmy wanted the title to include the people he addresses. He says he changed the title so the people would come first. His brainstorming and suggestions weren’t limited to just the title; together with director Mohamed Murad and advertising guru Hazem El-Hadidy, Fahmy and Arafa worked on the idea, developing it into the successful, post-iftar program it has become.

It s difficult to pin down the exact reasons for the show s instant popularity (preliminary reports suggest that this is the most popular program among advertisers in Ramadan). Is it the diversity in topics? Is it the producers who scouted real individuals and cases from society for the interviews? Or is it Fahmy s easy-flowing interviewing style?

It s a trip; the show is like taking a trip [with the guests stories], says Fahmy. He insists that he goes into the interview knowing only the general topic of the episode without details. When he meets the guests, he simply starts a conversation. With an earpiece connecting him to the off-camera crew, Fahmy is informed of necessary background, but [only] when needed, he adds.

And throughout this trip, Fahmy has discovered many surprising stories and other sadly shocking ones. But he doesn t try to preach or deliver any dramatic moral sermons. The show usually ends with a brief comment from Fahmy conveying either a piece of information or a funny tag. I m not a preacher. There are no solutions and there are no conclusions, he notes.

If I knew the solutions, I would have become the prime minister, he adds. As an artist, my job is to display the problem.

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