Telly Me the Future

RivalsThey may differ in style and content but what they donít share is respect for their rivals.

The most popular astrologers on news television and their turf wars.

If there's anything that can stop you dead in your tracks while surfing TV channels, it is the 56-year-old Acharya Indu Prakash Misra. He is an arresting figure in dramatic embroidered gowns, a shaven head, gold earrings, Tag Heuer spectacles and an Armani watch. A close second would be Prem Kumar Sharma, 58. He favours Cartier spectacles, a Rolex watch, a Mont Blanc pen and comes armed with two BlackBerry Z10 phones, an iPhone 5 and several iPads, MacBooks and HP laptops. What they have in common, apart from their extravagant accessories, is that they are both tele-astrologers with a prominent presence on Hindi and regional television news channels. Mishra appears on India TV, the channel that favours sensation and horror over hard news, in his hugely popular daily show, Bhavishyvani.

Sharma, a qualified mechanical engineer, is a regular on PTC News, the channel promoted by Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and widely watched in Punjab, Haryana and abroad. "I've appeared on several channels before: Aaj Tak, Zee, Jain TV, S1, India TV, Sahara Samay, News 24. Those shows got me clients from far and wide. But now I appear only on PTC. Since I charge so much, I should be available to my clients," says Sharma. In his Delhi office, he sits opposite an ornate picture of goddess Durga and above him, hangs a price list of his services. 'Personal consultation (30 minutes): Rs 15,000; site visit for vaastu: Rs 2-2.5 lakh; pooja: Rs 1-5 lakh. All credit cards accepted.'

They represent a new breed of Vedic astrologers who have achieved prominence on Hindi news channels; they are flamboyant as well as hard-nosed entrepreneurs. The most low-profile of them is P Khurrana, 54, who prefers to keep things simple. Before the Hindi movie Vicky Donor made waves, he was known for his astrology shows. Now, he is better known as Ayushmann Khurrana's father. He doesn't display fancy gadgets, not even a laptop, to predict your future. He dresses simply, sans the tilak or rudraksh beads, and is known for his punchy, poetry-laced style of predicting your future. He appears thrice a week on Live India's popular programme, Kal Aaj aur Kal.

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