We’re at Only Much Louder’s (artist and event management company) office in Lower Parel. Stand-up comedian Biswa Kalyan Rath walks in wearing a grey T-shirt, track pants and flip flops. The tall and lanky 25-year-old is best-known for being one half of the duo behind Pretentious Movie Reviews — a hilarious YouTube series reviewing bad Bollywood movies.
For someone who makes a living out of talking, Rath is far from verbose. He’s also not keen on being photographed, because the camera seems to make him uncomfortable. Eventually, he gives in. And it’s not just the camera — “I’m always like this,” he offers by way of explanation. Later in the interview, he also admits to being socially awkward.
On August 13 this year, Rath’s Facebook status read: “India, this is a big announcement for me. From the day I started doing stand-up, it has been a dream of mine to tour the country with a stand-up show and I am finally doing it this September.” He kicked off his tour, Biswa In Your Face with Bengaluru, before performing in cities like Pune, Hyderabad and Kolkata. The last leg, in Mumbai, will take place on October 24.
“It’s called In Your Face because I’m slowly discovering that my style is to make people uncomfortable and then making them laugh,” Rath says. “The show will be in Hindi, with maybe a couple of English words. I don’t like talking in English. This material is truer to who I am and what my comedy is.”
What, then, is the purpose of his comedy, we ask him. Rath thinks for a long time before finally managing to string together a coherent sentence: “Just to, maybe, change people’s perspective on life a bit.” So, basically, to make people think? “Actually, scratch that previous bull****. The only purpose of my comedy is to let people know I’m smart.”
That same candidness surfaces again when he explains why the number of Pretentious Movie Reviews (which he does with stand-up comedian Kanan Gill) uploads have gone down over the past few months. Their review of Main Prem ki Diwani Hoon (2003) went viral last April, immediately propelling them to YouTube superstar status. Catchphrases, and their way of naming a review — Most Bollywood Ever for Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995), Most Values Ever for Hum Saath Saath Hain (1999) — caught the fancy of the youth.
“The first video was made in three to four days because we had no expectations from it. As the series progressed, the videos took a little longer because we had to match up to the quality of the earlier ones. So, every time, it’s more effort and there are more chances of failure. This has become bigger than we expected,” he says.
The former software professional moved to Mumbai in June this year for work. Rath grew up in different parts of Odisha and hated having to change schools often. “My dad works with the State Bank of India and mostly gets posted in rural areas. I think I developed humour to make new friends. But now if I stay in a place for more than three years, I feel like life is boring. I need constant change,” he says.
Rath studied at IIT Kharagpur and wrote a blog for several years, which “nobody read”. So, he switched to video (and has since deleted all traces of the blog). But he wasn’t always the funny guy in class. Quite the contrary, he says. “All my friends have always been funnier than me.” Post his degree, he worked various jobs (in graphic design, software and advertising) in Bengaluru. “Even in college, I knew I’d do something creative. I was trying different things to see what clicks.” Rath quit his full-time job at Oracle late last year, to give comedy a shot.
Favourite movie: The Shawshank Redemption. I’ve watched it 27 times.
Favourite international comedian: Brian Regan
Favourite genre of music: Post-rock
Best way to get out of a bad date: “I’m getting back with my ex.” I’ve used it.
Best restaurant in Mumbai: I only like ma ke haath ka khaana.
What: Biswa In Your Face’s Mumbai leg will take place on October 24, 10.30pm onward
Where: Canvas Laugh Club, High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel
Call: 90046 03115
Tickets: Rs 750 on bookmyshow.com