A perennially hyperactive man, Cyrus Broacha begins each day at 5.30am. He heads to the gym, protein shake in hand, and a few hours later, reaches his studio in Lower Parel to write and shoot for his 10-year-old TV show, The Week That Wasn’t (TWTW). The MTV Bakra days — the show that made him one of the most popular VJs in India — are long gone.
Now, the comedian and author, 45, hosts a radio show and a podcast, and performs a stand-up act called 40 Shades of Grey (Hair) that he and Kunal Vijaykar, who Broacha calls “that fat man”, perform every few months. The TV anchor even published a book recently — 23½ Ways to Make a Girl Fall For You.
For someone who dabbles in a variety of comic projects across mediums, and can be presumed to be really busy (and he is), Broacha is, surprisingly, easy to approach for an interview.
Need for speed
His readiness for interviews, as we learn when we meet him at his workplace one Wednesday morning, comes from his need to complete things, including work, holidays and sentences, fast. “I’ve struggled with a lot of people in India because they’re just very slow. Sometimes, when someone is saying a sentence, it takes too long [for them to complete it]. I start guessing the words. I lose out on friends that way. Also, I’m against yoga. I tried yoga once… and it just took [the instructor] so long to talk. ‘Breathe in, breathe out.’ I was like, ‘What?!’,” he says.
The pace at work, too, is rapid. And, ironically, Broacha would rather have a lazier job. “I think, ‘Why can’t I have a normal job?’ We go really fast; get up early, go to the gym, go to the office. I write, chat, shoot in the studio, and by 3pm, we’re done. You’re free, but you’re also dead. It’s like an exam every day,” he says.
Watch: Cyrus Broacha on The Week That Wasn’t
There’s one other problem: working as a satirist these days comes with its set of rules. “The so-called political satires that we do, writing and shooting [for them] is great fun. The only problem is that in the past three to four years, because of the rise of the Internet… or maybe there’s just a right-wing tendency everywhere, we have to be more careful about what we say. So, that’s why I’m thinking of going back to law and becoming a lawyer,” Broacha says, and we half wonder if he’s serious about the career switch. Broacha has studied law.
For him, the tragedy about comedy in India is that the jokes are not as truthful as they should be. “I won’t say it’s a claustrophobic environment, but I would like a bit more freedom. It’s a little sad that I can say a joke at a bar to some friends, say, about a religion, or a religious person; that doesn’t mean that I want to destroy that religion. It’s just a joke! The hypocrisy is that I can’t do the same joke on a public forum,” he says, adding that in India, there are too many “sacred cows” — from political parties and sex to historical heroes.
Another tragedy is also that while a comedian can joke about a subject that is considered sacred, they “can’t be open and frank” about it. “So, it (the comedy) is a bit pointless,” he says.
Comedy goes local
Comedy as a form of entertainment, on the other hand, is flourishing. Broacha wouldn’t call every comedian a “great” one. He feels that they are pushing the envelope, albeit slowly. “They [the comedians] are questioning institutions, which India desperately needs right now,” he says.
You have to localise comedy. If you’re trying to make a point, and if it’s going to be satirical, it has to reach everyone
One big trend Broacha is awaiting next is the rise of the “vernacular comedian”, and he is quick to add that he doesn’t use the word ‘vernacular’ in a bad way.
He says, “Take a look at the regional comedians now, who are seeking their own voice. In Kerala, apparently there are people who have done a show in Malayalam that is similar to ours. That will be good for the country, because you have to localise comedy. If you’re trying to make a point, and if it’s going to be satirical, it has to reach everyone.” He believes that when comedy goes “local”, it will start “exposing the underbelly of everything”.
“For example, I can’t wait for Bengali comedians to really go after the TMC (All India Trinamool Congress),” he adds.
For the love of it
The response to Broacha’s stand-up comedy show with Vijaykar has been good so far. But the artiste reveals that he does not make much money out of the venture. Stand-up comedy, it seems, is a labour of love. “I survive on radio and TV. The good thing is that all the things that I do are different [from each other], so I enjoy the change. And we have to do stand-up shows. [That’s because] there are so many comedians out there — it’s ridiculous. And many of them are better looking, funnier, can work longer hours and don’t complain. We need to keep our foot in the ground and do the [stand-up] shows from time to time,” he says, laughing.
40 Shades of Grey (Hair), on January 8, Sophia Auditorium, Breach Candy, Mumbai at 7:30pm.