Shhh! Let's talk about the talkshow

Shhh! Let's talk about the talkshow

by Paramie Jayakody

The past few years were groundbreaking. More and more people have started being more open, more topics are being discussed openly, more taboos are being lifted, and society in general is being forced to be more open minded (that’s never a bad thing, despite what all those aunties around the well might say)

One particular recent breakthrough is Shhh! The Talkshow: which features different women (and occasionally men) simply talking. What’s so special about that? But it's what they talk that has caught the interest of thousands of citizens across Sri Lanka. In the short time since they launched, they have talked about racism, motherhood, cyber-bullying, to LGBT rights, to cosplay. What sets Shhh! apart is that they don’t hold back, and they give out the nitty gritty details that a lot of try to delicately avoid voicing. Created and conceptualized by Shanuki De Alwis and Shifani Reffai, the dynamic duo have been very invested in the show, and it shows (pardon the pun). We at Chokolaate reached out to them to get their input on what they feel about the show and how they plan on expanding this in the future. 

Shanuki De Alwis believes in being open and expressing her feelings. This is a belief she has carried with her from her childhood, and she has suffered because of it. Shanuki explained that she was made to feel judged, and like a ‘social abnormality’ for voicing her thoughts, unfiltered, in public. Later, when she grew up, and had several years experience in gender welfare advocacy, she discovered that she was not alone in feeling this way, and that there were a lot of women suffering because there was no outlet to discuss certain issues, no one to ask about them, and no idea whom to go to for help.
Shanuki believes that we as Sri Lankans continue to encounter social issues simply because they are not discussed, and she aimed to create a safe space for these discussions to take place for a long time.
Shifani Reffai was approached by Shanuki shortly after the Easter Sunday attacks shook the whole country, and she was very open to the idea. Shifani is a strong advocator of quality over quantity and she also does not believe in censorship to cater to public needs. She was quick to jump on board with the idea and used Shhh! as a means of coming out of the pit of despair a lot of us were thrown into. 

Shifani considers the show like her baby, and she spends long nights with it, curating it and telling a story to inspire women everywhere. As a video journalist she is thrilled with the training and creative experience it has given her, but most of all, she loves the opportunity to meet various women who personify so many facets of humanity. “By doing this, you create room for people to share their stories without fear of shame or being judged, and to come up with solutions. It also makes you learn that it's okay to feel a certain way, or live your life a certain way, that in some forms, we're all flawed and we all have our insecurities and struggles and are figuring things out as we go along - the least we can do is say it out loud and not pretend like we're a perfect society with no problems” says Shifani.
So far, Shifani and Shanuki are thrilled with the reception that the show has garnered, and the many comments that have flooded in, commending their efforts. By the first week itself, they got over 400 subscribers and 6000 views on the first episode. For them, that is a win. They’re reaching people. It's what they set out to do.
Speaking about what they learned from the show, Shanuki highlighted a few key factors.
1. That we are not alone in our stories.
Shhh! Has filmed an entire season, and interacted with many dynamic and inspirational women in the meantime. The bond of shared troubles forms a sort of sisterhood, and it not uncommon for strangers to depart good friends by the end of an episode.
2. That it doesn't take a ton of money, resources or facility to impact a community in a positive way.
3. That the simplest of gestures can potentially change someone's world.
4. That we are reaching more people than we ever imagined.
Both Shanuki and Shifani hope to partner up with brands and investors for the future, carving out a very solid spot for Shhh! as one of the most influential talk shows in Sri Lanka! Like Shifani says, “Hey, everybody cares about talking about stuff that actually matters, who woulda thought?”

Please don’t hesitate to check out Shhh! on social media and join the conversation!
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