Stand-up comic Bharti Singh, partner Harsh Limbachiyaa talk about 'Nach Baliye 8' stint
Bharti Singh and Harsh Limbachiyaa during a performance for Nach Baliye 8. Pics/Shatej Shinde
Mumbaikar Harsh Limbachiyaa wrote poetry when at school. It was one of the many indications that he wasn’t cut out for academic pursuits.
Ditching formal education in class 12, he took a friend’s observation that he walked, talked and wrote funny seriously enough to pursue being a comedy sketch writer.
At 17, he struggled to get on board the team for Sony’s Comedy Circus. A few years and some experience later, as writer for The Great Indian laughter Challenge on the same channel, one of the first characters he imagined was Lalli, a little girl who spoke her innocent mind. It was created for Amritsari comic Bharti Singh, a 22-year-old heavyweight who used her size and comic style to advantage. Lalli, with her kiddie drawl and girlie laugh, became an instant hit, adding steam to Singh’s journey to success. Inadvertently, she became Limbachiyaa’s first friend in the television industry. He says, "Writing happened by chance. But when I did do it, I discovered the two loves of my life — comedy and Bharti. That’s why I am still here."
Here is on the sets of dance reality show Nach Baliye 8 at Goregaon’s Filmistan Studio, where if unconfirmed reports are to be believed, they are paid R30 lakh per episode. The longer they last, the fatter the final pay cheque will be. From audience votes and the reaction of judges Sonakshi Sinha, Mohit Suri and Terence Lewis, it seems they are going to be here a while.
Bharti and Harsh
We talk about camaraderie over green tea with Singh, now 32, and her 27-year-old fiancé. He pulls her cheeks every other minute while she feigns annoyance right before launching into the thousand reasons she thinks he is "out of this world". They are taking a break before they get back to rehearsing their next routine with choreographer Savio Barnes, whom Singh has worked previously on Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. For Limbachiyaa, it’s his first try at dancing. He is doing this for Singh.
They’ve done pretty much everything together since they began dating seven years ago, including partnering on Comedy Nights Bachao and Comedy Classes. It was, however, only recently that she publicly admitted to the relationship and announced their engagement. They hope to marry by the end of this year.
Bharti and Harsh
"He likes the real me, despite my weight," she says. "He has all of me to deal with and he doesn’t mind. The girls on set come and tell me how cute he is and my face falls. Maybe I should insist on a male-only crew?" she mocks. Singh, the comedian, is now world famous. She is hoping that through showing off her dance skills and a man on her arm, there is an image shift. "I am getting to show my fans a different side. I am more than just funny; I’m romantic too. I am just a girl, and I have a boyfriend."
Limbachiyaa dotes on her, much in the way a young man would his mentor and nurturer. "Everything that comes out of my mouth is [considered] a joke. Harsh is the only one who gets to see my serious side," she says. He plays the introverted, sensitive-to-her-needs boyfriend; she, the self-confessed mother who buys him gifts each time he agrees with her.
Like she did when he said yes to being part of Nach Baliye after several attempts.
"They’ve [show organisers] have been asking us [to participate] for two years. I tried convincing him this time unsuccessfully, and went back crying. The next morning, I found a message on my phone that read: ‘ok, let’s do it’. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Of course, I had to buy him a lot of gifts later," she says
They are talking of the back-breaking stunts they have had to attempt, and how that’s revealed a different side of their partnership. "These days, we go to our respective homes only to sleep. We are realising we love each other even more," she says. On a recent episode, Singh was assigned a reverse split with Limbachiyaa holding her up despite a torn ankle muscle. "I heard him wince, but he didn’t let go. That’s how he is in real life too."
He thinks their relationship is a success because they are peace-loving. "When I get upset, she stays calm. When I am angry, she’s okay. We understand each other’s moods."
He is pulling her cheeks again, and asks us, aren’t you tempted to do the same? "You should see my mom with her. They are more sahelis and less saas-bahu. Actually, Bharti is my mother’s best friend."
For him, she is also an inspiration. When she takes on a project, she gives it her all. He has learnt from her. "We are getting paid for this, that’s why we need to make it priority," he says.
Although he shrugs off the "are you in this to win" question with a "not, really", Singh smiles, "I’d like to win," and then quickly adds, "but the real takeaway is that everyone is impressed with Harsh. It was time he is shining in front of the camera. They’d say, ‘Bharti, tum toh kar logi’, but they see a non-dancer work hard and they love him. Fans now posing for a selfie ask him to be part of the frame."