Personal Stories, Stand-up Comedy

Platform For Artists

Part of the perks of being an artist of any kind is knowing other interesting and talented people. You also find yourself constantly being updated on what’s going on in the quirky community. One such thing I’d been hearing about recently was this thing called PFA: Platform For Artists. True to their name, this community tries to bring together artists and art enthusiasts of all kinds via open mic events and conference-like meet ups. They’re active throughout the country, breaking into Agra, Pune, Indore, Bangalore, Mysore, Goa, and a lot of other places. There’s usually an entry fee, but that’s only because spaces aren’t free. They’re not for profit or charity.

On the morning of January 20, 2018, Nanditha Vijayaraghavan called me to ask for a favor. I knew it was for PFA, and I’d participated/volunteered at one of the open mics. She told me about their initiative Art All Night. This was an interesting idea I hadn’t heard of. Art All Night was an artists’ meetup with a twist. People who registered would be put in a room between 9 pm to 9 am, where they would collaborate, create, converse, and connect with each other. There would also be some surprise guest speakers, who would talk about their experiences within their respective fields. A completely informal, interactive, informative FAQ of sorts.

So, when Nanditha called asking for a favor, I started going through the list of people I knew who were qualified enough to talk about their journey with art. I wasn’t expecting her to ask me to be one of the speakers for the PFA event happening that night. I was excited, and immediately said I’ll be there. My session was scheduled for 2 am. I was happy that tonight, I wouldn’t be staying up alone. It was my ultimate insomniac’s fantasy. But, I was also slightly confused. I kept asking myself, “Have their standards dropped, or have I made it in life?”

Some questions are best left unanswered.

January 20 was going to be a busy day for me. I had to juggle two shows between 7 pm and 9 pm, and had just enough time to have dinner before reaching Wandering Artist (Chennai Comedy produces stand-up comedy shows at Wandering Artist every first Saturday of the month, follow the page for updates), the venue for PFA’s Art All Night. I got there before midnight. I had promised to be early, and I was planning on staying till the end. I wasn’t able to catch the first speaker session, because we can’t always have everything we want.

As soon as I stepped into the room, I counted at least 15 individuals buzzing with curiosity and newfound friendship. There was someone with a flute, another with a stringed instrument that I thought was a mandolin (I was later told it was a ukulele), some brought stationery, and there were others who’d just brought themselves. As a comedian, it was nothing new for me to walk into a room full of strangers and get them to listen to me complain about my life. But, today was going to be different.

When it was time for my session, I sat down on a chair in full view of everyone and gave them a little introduction of myself. By the time I was done, I felt like I knew all of them, and they knew me. There were a lot of interesting questions thrown at me, and I knew I was being taken seriously. These people were not an audience. They were all artists in their own right.

The other speaker session was by Ram Keshav, who had by now become the star of my latest brom-com. Ram Keshav is a photographer who is currently working on a project on body positivity. I’m not a click-savvy person. I handle cameras like I’d handle guns – I’ll point and shoot, and not claim any responsibility for my actions. But, even I got to learn something out of his session. Now, I respect photography and photographers a lot more.

By the time it was 9 am, everyone was a little sleep deprived and waiting to head home. We shook hands and exchanged numbers, and promised to meet again some other time. The best thing about Art All Night is the simple fact that nobody came in knowing what was going to happen and left feeling like they had been part of something special. And, that’s exactly how art works. It begins as a clueless experiment fueled by curiosity and perseverance, and with enough patience results in something beautiful and private.

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Platform For Artists is a great initiative, and it’s about time we had a community like this looking out for people waiting for a chance to discover the artist within. So, get in touch, and be a part of something new. No pressure!


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.

Roasts and Toasts

The Inaugural Roast of IPL 2015


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!



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.