Roasts and Toasts

The Toast of Vikram Vedha

After Batman, Vikram Vedha has arguably the catchiest theme (TANA-NANA-NANA-NAA…. TANA-NANA-NANA-NAA). After Joker, Vedha is the next worst guy you’ll want to root for. This film is a delirious mix of Vikram Vethal and The Dark Knight. For the uninitiated, Vikram and Vethal, is the story of King Vikramaditya and his adventures with the Vethal (poltergeist/ghoul). Poltergeists are supposed to be noisy beings who damage property. Thala Ajith’s Vethalam was loosely based on this premise.

A sage asks King Vicky to go to the forbidden forest and bring back the Vethal. King Vicky says “Easy peasy lemon squeezy” and sets out. When he finally faces the Vethal, King Vicky realizes his adversary isn’t an easy target. The Vethal plays more hard to get than a Tinder match who holds strong ideals of feminism, independence, and has high standards. So, King Vicky instead turns the tables and says “only here for friendship”. This gets the Vethal talking. The Vethal promptly lays down some ground rules. The Vethal states that he will ride on King Vicky’s back, and as they make their way back to the sage, King Vicky will have to listen to a story. At the end of the story, Vethal will ask him a question in the form of a riddle. If King Vicky doesn’t know the answer, the Vethal will stay with him, answer the riddle, and move onto the next story. If King Vicky knows the answer and doesn’t respond, his head will explode. If King Vicky responds correctly, Vethal will fly back to his tree, because “if you know errthang, why you need me for, biatch?”

King Vicky agrees to all of the above while mumbling “this clingy bitch right here.” He also notes that if prenups had these clauses, divorce rates would drop steeply, because ain’t nobody getting married if they know exactly what they’re getting into. Now, back to Vikram Vedha.

Madhavan plays Vikram, an encounter specialist, with a broad frame and broader smile. He is headstrong and prides himself on knowing he is always on the right side of the law. He can come back home after a long day of feeding bullets to goons and sleep like a baby, because he knows he has never killed an innocent human being. Vikram is your happy-go-lucky death dealer. This is established in the opening sequence, where Vikram and his squad take a gang by storm. Vikram clocks the most kills, but spots a runner. Instead of chasing after him, Vikram takes a walk in the park while twirling his glock. When the rowdy hits a dead end, he turn around and surrenders, and this annoys Vikram. He responds with, “You could’ve surrendered back there. The fuck did you make me come after you? Okay, tell me a joke and I’ll let you live.” The felon cracks a below average pun. Vikram is not amused and shoots the kills. Lesson for budding comedians: it’s a kill or be killed world out there. Better be ready for the day a cop comes after you with a gun, and all you can do to save yourself is tell a good joke.

Vijay Sethupathi is the best buy one get one free deal in Kollywood. You sign him, you get his acting skills for free. Not for sale individually. His performance as Vedha will surprise audiences once again. Right from the start, it’s clear that Vedha isn’t evil incarnate. He is the bad guy, because the good guys wouldn’t have a job otherwise. He is in the logistics business, and people get hurt once in a while. Every time he faces off with Vikram, he distracts him and gets away; leaving Vikram with answers to find. He teaches Vikram to look at both sides of the coin, instead of simply stopping with calling heads or tails. The story ends with Vikram and Vedha fighting side by side – forced to be brothers in arms due to circumstances. Finally, Vikram and Vedha have a Mexican stand-off, and it’s Vikram’s turn to riddle Vedha – “Should I let you go because you fought by my side, or should I kill you right here because that’s my job? Which is right?”

THE END. The best cliffhanger ending I’ve ever witnessed in Kollywood yet.

The supporting cast has also done well. There are two female characters (Priya and Chandra), and no item songs. There’s also a strong sense of casual feminism.

Priya is Vikram’s wife. She has tattoos, a serious job, and doesn’t exist just to make her man feel better about himself. She is a lawyer who hates cops. Vikram is a cop who hates lawyers. This friction brings them together, and thus begins a flashback song montage of their courtship. There’s a lot of insinuated sex, and they go to bed wearing normal clothes. It is time we acknowledged that lingerie and lip-biting isn’t always part of foreplay. On their first night, Vikram and Priya take the couch and pass out. Again, it is time we acknowledged that the wedding ceremony takes a physical toll on the bride and groom, and they’re too tired to even think of sex. When Vikram realizes Priya is Vedha’s attorney, he tries to get her to drop the case. Priya responds with “Why don’t you drop the case? Your work is work, but mine isn’t?”

Chandra also has her moments – when she gets slapped, she slaps back; when someone tries to intimidate her, she puts them in their place.

The soundtrack is great, and the songs have replay value. Karuppu Vellai is the recurring theme, and Yaanji serves as the romantic montage number. Tasakku Tasakku is the actual item numbers, where the bad guys have some fun dancing to their own tunes with a side of booze. The rest of the songs seem like they were made by the music director simply because he got commissioned for the job – much like a content writer who has to meet deadlines because they got paid ahead of time in full. The movie has a lot of subtle humor peppered in the most intense scenes, but the grit and pace of the thriller is maintained. You can tell there’s a lot of tension in the movie simply by checking out Madhavan’s nipples. After Batman, his nipples are the sharpest. This might also explain why he never wears a bulletproof vest.

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Offensive Personal Opinions, Stand-up Comedy

Open Mic Etiquette

What’s this about?
This is not an “Open Mic For Dummies” instruction manual. It’s about what you need to know and do if you don’t want to be an open mic dummy.

Who am I?

My name is Sudarsan Ramamurthy. In the Chennai comedy circuit, I’m known as Soda. I’ve been pursuing stand-up comedy for more than two years now. My first open mic was in October 2014. I run Chennai Comedy. You can look it up here.

How do I qualify to talk about open mics?
I wouldn’t be bragging if I said I’ve done the most open mics amongst all the comedians in the Chennai circuit. But, let’s just say that if you’re an open micer/comedian from Chennai, there is no way I haven’t heard of you.

What is the difference between an open micer and a stand-up comedian?
Every stand-up comedian is an open micer. But, every open micer is not a stand-up comedian. Not unless he/she has performed in multiple non-open mic shows (ticketed shows, auditoriums, corporate and private events) without having to blow or kiss someone’s unmentionables.
The most important and obvious difference is: all stand-up comedians are funny; all open micers are not.
It takes anywhere from six months to a year (subject to consistency, perseverance, luck, and size of balls) for an open micer to become a stand-up comedian. Just because you got to perform for five minutes in a ticketed show – even if you’ve done less than five open mics – doesn’t make you a comedian. It just means the scene is growing, there are more shows happening, ergo more slots to fill. Pure and simple.

What is an open mic?
An open mic is an event, usually held in an indoor space where anyone can get on stage and try their luck with whatever talent they possess. In a stand-up comedy open mic, it is strictly for people to test and/or practice their jokes in front of an audience who hasn’t paid too much to watch them and therefore isn’t judging them. Or, that’s what we all think.

Rules of Engagement

⦁ Registration
Anyone who has to perform, must register themselves before the open mic. The registration may be done at the venue right before the open mic, or interested parties may have to call/message to a given number. It is important to find out which one of the aforementioned protocols need to be followed.

⦁ Time Slots and Content Restriction
Each performer is given a maximum of 4-5 minutes of stage time. There’s usually no content restriction, so swearing and offensive language isn’t a problem. But, that doesn’t mean you say “Fuck” for four minutes. It’s also obvious that your material has to be 100% original. If you’re going to come and recite internet jokes, stay home and use those to pick up bots on Tinder. Don’t copy other comedians, either. We will know. We will find you. We will roast you.

Basic Open Mic/Stand-up Comedy Jargon

⦁ Host
A host is the anchor/presenter of the show. But, do not mistake the host for an MC. The host of an open mic or stand-up comedy show is usually a comedian. They keep the night going and perform their jokes to keep the energy up between performers. There are two kinds of hosts: a) ones who are so funny, it doesn’t matter if the other comics aren’t. The crowd already loves the host. b) Ones who are so bad, the audience will definitely find the others funny.

⦁ Slot/Spot
The duration of one’s performance is called a slot. Typically, open mic spots are 4-5 minutes long. A guest spot is usually slightly longer (8-10 minutes). Guest Spot is also code for “You’re not getting paid, but we’ll let you perform in our show.” A headliner spot is at least 25 minutes long.

⦁ Headliner
The headliner is touted to be the main event, the star performer, the guy whose face you put on the poster because you know people will jizz cash to see him on stage. So, if someone says they’ve got multiple headliners in one show, they don’t really know what they’re doing. The headliner must perform last. The main reason is, you don’t want people to leave right after he/she is done performing. There has to be a build up to the final act. You cannot have multiple finishing acts. That’s a premature ejaculator’s excuse.

⦁ Time Out
A nicer way of saying “You’re done. Get the fuck off the stage.” It may be a light flashing, someone holding their hands up in a T, or just flipping you off until you get the message.
For The Audience
As someone who has come to watch a comedy gig (free or paid entry), there are some things you need to keep in mind, if you don’t want to end up making a fool of yourself.

⦁ Offensive Content
Censorship and stand-up comedy don’t always go together. So, expect to be offended. Accept the fact that this show isn’t about you. Yes, you may have paid for the ticket and therefore might feel entitled. You are entitled to a seat, and some humor. That’s it. Don’t try to call attention to yourself, unless the performer picks (on) you. There will be swearing. Your mother, father, family, relatives living and dead will be referred to. Don’t take it personally. Laugh it off. Go home. Tell you friends about it.
Here’s how a stand-up comedy show’s disclaimer would read:
IF IT’S FUNNY, TAKE IT AND FUCK OFF. IF IT’S NOT FUNNY, TAKE IT AND FUCK OFF ANYWAY.

⦁ Picking On Audience Member(s)
As the phrase goes, “picking on” someone seems to have some negative connotations. That’s not always the case with stand-up comedy. When someone picks on you, it need not be with the express intent of shaming you or making you look stupid in front of a live audience. It could also be just to get to know you better. Yes, some comedians are nice like that. They care about who has paid to watch them and how they can make you come back each time. Bottom-line: The front row isn’t as dangerous as you think it is.

⦁ Heckling
It is important for an audience member to understand the stand-up comedy interpretation of the word “heckling”. It means any verbal interruption that is not part of the script. It doesn’t matter if you’re agreeing to what is being said, or aggressively trying to throw the performer off – you’re heckling. Different comedians have different ways of dealing with hecklers. Some ignore them, some entertain them, and some will slaughter and destroy the very soul of this imbecile mortal who thought they’d get away with a heckle.

⦁ Laugh, Clap, Cheer, Make Some Noise
While there are some ground rules and guidelines to keep in mind, a comedy show is after all about having fun. So, when you are asked to make some noise, don’t fucking raise your hand like someone is taking a roll call. Okay? Good.

⦁ Phones, Chitchat, Babies
Turn them all to silent or vibrate, whatever tickles your fancies. I have had shows where the audience was so enthusiastic, they’d laugh at the first joke, and start discussing it WHILE I’M STILL PERFORMING! Just laugh and/or clap, and we’ll know you’re enjoying the show. Nothing more, nothing less.

For Open Micers

Behave Yourselves

⦁ Before The Open Mic
Be there on time. Register. Take your seat, or walk around, or do whatever it is you do before a show. Don’t stand around in groups and indulge in chitchat like it’s a school reunion – unless there’s no space inside, and you’re going to go in just to perform and get out. If that’s the case, keep your voice low and don’t let the audience feel what’s happening outside is more fun than the actual open mic.

⦁ Preference of Slot
Unless you’re a pro, you don’t get to choose what slot you get. “I’m bringing friends. They are on the way. Please slot me somewhere in the middle.” Fuck you. Your friends should’ve been here. If they’re not, their loss. It’s not a private show where you’re performing just for your friends. Even if there’s no audience at all, perform to the other comics. Respect the stage. Respect the people who will share it with you. Respect the audience.
Even pro comics register in advance and ask nicely. If you’re going to throw your weight around, it means you’re not serious about sticking around for long.

⦁ Heckling
Here’s something that I’ve seen a lot of new guys do. They think just because they’re watching someone else, they can fuck with the performer’s flow. Motherfucker, you just forgot your jokes when you were on stage a minute ago. It’s like whipping your dick out before your balls have even dropped. Don’t heckle someone if you don’t have the skill to back it up. Let’s see how you feel when you’re up there trying out a set for the first time and someone thinks it’s fun to steal the show.
Compete outside, collaborate inside.

⦁ First In Last Out
Get to the open mic as early as possible. It doesn’t matter if you’re the first ever. There’s a lot to be learnt. Help the producers set up the sound system. Figure out how a mic works. Do sound checks. Ask questions. That’s how you earn friends. You earn friends, you earn favors. Favors can get you slots. Slots gets you stage time. Stage time is what makes you a comedian. Get on stage as much as possible.
Unless there’s an emergency, or a flight/train/bus to catch, stay until the end. Talk to the comics. Build your network. Be an open mic whore; to the point where your face is cemented in their memory and they feel like something’s off when there’s an open mic and you’re not there. That’s how I’ve started, and I’m still an open mic whore. Maybe an open mic escort, at this point.

⦁ Don’t Hold Grudges
Artists, especially stand-up comedians, aren’t the easiest people to work with. Difference in opinion, perception, and beliefs is the fundamental birthplace of stand-up comedy. Open mics will expose you to all kinds of people – performers and audience alike. If you really want to trash talk about someone, make it funny. That’s how roasts were born.

⦁ You Are Not Entitled
Get it into your head. The open mic is not a stepping stone to get shows. The open mic is where you keep coming back to hone your skill. “Bro, I’ve been doing open mics for five months. I’m not getting any shows. That other guy started after me, he’s done two shows already! Fuck it. I’ll start my own thing, and produce my own shows. One day, I’ll run the scene and show these motherfuckers how it’s done.” If that’s how you’re going to be, then fuck you. You didn’t get shows because you’re not funny yet. That other guy is. Put your head down, get funny, and there’s no reason why you won’t get shows after that.
It’s not a job. It’s a career. You build it in your own time. You are not entitled to anything. Doing a lot of shows isn’t the mark of a comedian. Being funny is. Performing in a show because you’re producing it, is like masturbating – you might have a mind blowing orgasm, but you’re giving it to yourself because no one else will.
⦁ Respect The Venue
Start on time. End on time. Do not give the venue any reason to complain. There is literally no reason why anyone should let you do something as unpredictable as stand-up comedy in their place of business. So, be grateful to that and make sure you give back. Encourage the audience and comics to order food and drinks. Make sure you give them good visibility and branding. These little niceties will go a long way.

⦁ Don’t Piss Off The Audience
Especially at an open mic, it’s important that you don’t scar the audience with something that’s not funny and therefore unnecessary. If you’ve picked on someone, acknowledge that they’ve been a good sport, or speak to them after the show to make sure they didn’t take it the wrong way. These are the same people who might one day buy tickets to your show and make you rich. Don’t fuck with them too much.
The open mic is a great place to watch comedy happen. The expectations are low, so you get to push yourself and experiment as much as you want. You also get to witness so many different styles, so you won’t latch onto one person and end up imitating or emulating them. Always give back to the scene. Remember, you wouldn’t exist if there was no platform to start with.
If you have any more questions, comments, or suggestions, feel free to get in touch.

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Roasts and Toasts

The Inaugural Roast of IPL 2015

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IPL T20 – the premature ejaculator’s One Day International – was inaugurated with heavy, roaring, pouring rains. Perhaps this was actually part of the plan, so they could blame all the slips on the ground being wet. As a result, the cheerleaders, drummer, anchor, and Shoaib Akhtar had to deal with Sidhu for that much longer (Thoko thaali!).

Cheerleaders, because ten guys running after one ball isn’t sexy enough.

Shoaib Akhtar, because you need someone strong enough to pull Sidhu out of the frame from time to time.

Sidhu is that insufferable elderly person in every family: used to be great back in the day, but all he can do now is yap about it. The only reason everyone tolerates him is because he is a sharp dresser who makes illiterates laugh. His cricketing career spanned sixteen years, and you know this only because of Wikipedia. Sheri Paaji’s Shaayari is what happens when you open Pandora’s Box. But, turbans off to the maestro, for only he can provide entertainment that can’t offend. The kind everyone takes for granted, and never gives a fuck about.

The rain had reduced Salt Lake City to a used maxi pad at the end of a heavy flow day. But of course, that is no reason to postpone the inaugural ceremony. Heavy rains stop play? Not today! After the soulful rendition of a Bengali song penned by the only Bengali writer everyone outside Bengal knows, things shifted to the center. For the first time in history, things starters going downhill on a flat surface. Enter Saif, the host for the odd evening. Like the on-location correspondent of a poorly funded news channel, every third word the Nawab uttered went unheard because the sound systems gave up on him, before anyone else could.

Saif: “Come on, Kolkata! Make some noise!” (Because I clearly can’t. Bad mic, you see?)

Kolkata: Ki?

Saif: “Come on, you can do better than that!” <Insert TWSS joke here>

Kolkata: *cue awkward silence*

When the mic wasn’t at fault, Saif faltered. With all his might, he yelled “Shikhar Dhawan!” and out popped Rohit Sharma, who spent the first few seconds sniffing around Saif like a lost puppy, before walking right onto his team’s banner; where he would mistake a light stage for his podium. Then, it was Ravi Shastri’s turn to turn up the heat and, not to mention, the volume. He first tried being polite with the mic, but when it started being a bad boy, Shastri began spanking it, hard, with his voice. If he had been handed a mic, he wouldn’t just drop it; he’d trample it and sell its remains on OLX. He began his speech with “Cricket must be played hard” and concluded it by urging the captains to “Come together around the trophy”. Haww, Shastriji! Now we know what you mean by “That’s a big one!”

And then, it was Shahid Kapoor who set things in inertia of motion, by riding a superbike in super slo-mo and banging into lights and fixtures. If texting and driving is dangerous, braying “AYAMA DISCO DANCER” to a Bengali audience slowly losing its patience is fatal. You can’t really blame him – he was talking to the crowd that was sitting miles away. A crowd that could see him clearly on big TV screens. A crowd he clearly missed through his dark glasses. Once he was done completely insulting his bike by not shifting any higher than first gear, he took his time looking for the side-stand. Once the side-stand was deployed, he stumbled once more as he sidestepped onto the podium before going on to deliver what can only be called a footloose performance. Saree Ke FALL Sa? Ooh, we see what you did there, Shahid!

By now, Saif had realized that this was a one-take thing. This is new territory for him, no retakes and all. But, thinking on his feet (since he wasn’t offered a seat), he came up with two foolproof tactics to gain the crowd’s trust.

Tactic #1: Mention Dada every ten minutes, because he’s sitting there watching the whole thing go down (literally). But, being the Prince, of course the Bangla Bandhus will cheer for him. Well done, Saif!

Tactic #2: If the crowd starts sinking into awkward silence, say some random shit and end the sentence with KOLKATA!!! Bade aaraam se.

After Shahid was done stumbling through his routine, Saif went “Give it up for Mithun Da, everybody!”, because AYAMA DISCO DANCER. Such reference. Much wow.

Now it’s time for Anushka to take the stage. Saif announces her arrival, but she and her stiff upper lip take their own sweet time getting there. So, thinking fast, the Nawab squeezes in a joke “Ladies takes some time”. Quick, go HAHAHAHA before a feminist can go “Aha! I knew Saif was a sexist!”

Anushka shows up wrapped in black and white looking like the fifth penguin who didn’t make it to Madagascar. Half of her routine comprised of smiling and waving at the crowd, who in turn smiled and waved at Virat. The cameramen took the opportunity to focus on him whilst Anushka lost herself in song and dance. It wouldn’t be surprising if tomorrow’s TOI read “Anushka performs in IPL 2015, just in case Virat doesn’t” The other half of her routine consisted of her being lifted up and down by the able-bodied backup dancers, as Kohli stood watching helplessly from the stands.

After that, Farhan Akhtar emerged and went on to spend the next fifteen minutes trying to clear his throat. He cleverly slowed down the tempo of his songs, enunciating every syllable; just in case the mics failed. Right before his last song, Farhan shrugged off his leather jacket. He didn’t take his shirt off, because that’s Dada’s territory. Such presence of mind, no? When he was not busy singing, he could be spotted doing lunges and squats – showing the audience the warmup exercises he had to learn for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.

By the end of this performance, the common man had learnt a few things about Rock music.

  1. It’s not Rock if the performers don’t rock side to side.
  2. The guys playing the guitars should have long, curly hair, or no hair at all.
  3. Everyone should wear T-shirts with random graffiti, Jack&Jones, or some unintelligible shit like that written across the front and back.
  4. There should be at least two guitarists running around like headless chickens in the background, with the third guitarist pointing in some random direction.
  5. Head bobbing is a must.
  6. There has to be at least one extremely skinny or moderately voluptuous backup singer. Purely for sex appeal, glamour quotient, and gender equality purposes.
  7. Screaming. Lots of it. Like a cat is scratching at your eyeballs.

Post the Rock concert, it was time for the trophy campaign. The audience would be treated to a few minutes of fuckall bullshit that would explain what is so special about the trophy. After all, everyone knows that IPL is never about the money. It’s always been about who wins the trophy.

Suddenly, unannounced, Mr. Hrithik Roshan starts busting his moves on stage, leaving aunties climaxing in his wake. He performs a montage of his best dance moves, which can be found on YouTube for free. He is the true showstopper – you already know the show will stop once he concludes. Hrithik brings the show to an end with a Bang Bang. Ohh snap, Mr. Roshan! We see what you did there.

By now, Saif has learnt his lesson and hands Hrithik a mic.

Hrithik: “Kemon acho, Kolkata?!” (Because saying two words in Bengali is the easiest way to get accepted in Bengal)

Kolkata: *ROAR*

Hrithik: “I’ve always got the maximum love from my friends here.” (Unverified fact. Who gives a fuck anyway?)

Kolkata: *Roar*

By now, Saif has had enough. He hugs Hrithik, retrieves the mic with masterful sleight of hand, and invites all the performers to the stage to say Goodnight to the audience. Yes, because a Goodnight compensates for all the shit that ruined what would have been a good night.

Saif: Can we have the performers on stage, please? Shahid, Anushka, Farhan, Pritam Da. Come on, guys.

Hrithik: (whispers) Dude, you forgot to mention the dance company guys!

Saif: Yeah, the dance people also.

All in Unison: Goodnight, and thank you, Kolkata!

*Fireworks*

Epilogue

The fun didn’t end there. After the show, Archana – the filler girl who would tell those watching from home when they can take potty breaks between performances – caught up with Anushka and Hrithik to talk about nothing in particular. With Anushka, she discussed NH10. The inauguration wasn’t so good anyway, so let’s talk about movies. When asked about her different roles in movies, Anushka responded that she wants the audience to completely forget who she is. That would’ve been possible before that lip job. Not anymore.

With Hrithik, Archana was too busy creaming her panties to hold a real conversation. Now that he is officially single, she didn’t have any problems stuttering and stumbling and making up filler words in the two minutes she spent with him.

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