Laughter in the city
The season finale of a discussion series on Mumbai brings together Atul Khatri and Sorabh Pant in conversation with Neville Bharucha to explore how the city finds its way into their comedy
In the creative writing workshops I conduct for kids from Colaba’s schools, they will never come up with a Sandeep or a Priyanka as the names of their character. But you’ll always find an Olivia or a Gerard,” quips stand-up comedian and improv artiste Neville Bharucha, adding, “You see, I was born in the same bubble as them. But they are still in that bubble!” For the townie whose “family, friends and school are all in a two-km radius”, the way Mumbai finds its way into his comedy is perhaps different from how fellow comedian Atul Khatri, who has lived in Khar-Bandra-Juhu, sees the city. Still more different from his colleagues’ experience is that of Sorabh Pant, who has covered the north-south stretch from Nepean Sea Road to Andheri.
The three stand-up artistes will come together to discuss Mumbai and its myriad shades in the conversation series, Past Forward, a collaboration between Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and Kala Ghoda Association. “We have had discussions among those from the fields of music, dance, food and architecture. And we thought it would be a good idea to end this season of the series with well-known names in stand-up comedy exploring the past, present and future of Mumbai,” says artist CSMVS education consultant Brinda Miller who has curated the series. Past Forward will resume after the monsoon, she informs.
From its weather — “it has only two seasons; summer and monsoon” — to the so-called spirit of Mumbai, Khatri aims to bring up a range of city-specific themes. Pant tells us that while a lot of Mumbai-centric content, from the SoBo-surburbs divide to finding accommodation in the city, would be a part of his sets in the initial stages of his career, he gradually moved away from that. “But the city definitely has an impact on your delivery and overall way of being, which you realise when you perform out of Mumbai,” he shares.
Their differing takes on the city aside, the comedians have followed diverse career trajectories, too. “I am a fan of improv. So, I would make it a point to sign up for improv workshops whenever I travelled abroad,” says Bharucha, who has studied improvisation from the UCB Theatre in New York, The Second City in Chicago and Maydays in London, earning scholarships along the way. Though both are self-taught and former members of East India Comedy, while Khatri left a career in computer engineering, Pant began his journey in comedy itself, writing for television.
The trio, however, agree that things have changed drastically in the city’s comedy circuit since they started out. “A decade ago, going up on stage four to six times a month was good enough; not so anymore,” Pant shares. “Mumbai being the entertainment capital of India, there’s a gig happening every night,” Khatri concurs. And this, Pant believes, is something aspiring comedians must make the most of. “There are more open mics happening in Mumbai than any other city in India, or even Asia. It’s a highly competitive scene, and testing your material at such platforms helps see where you stand. And, you need to be patient,” he adds.
Apart from getting on stage frequently, Khatri advises budding comics to “write original jokes and to watch live stand-up comedy as often as you can.” Bharucha asks artistes to also focus on the audience. “Try as hard as you can, put your best foot forward, and understand who you are performing for,” he sums up.
On: Today, 6.15 pm
At: Visitor Centre Auditorium, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, MG Road, Fort.
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