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That funny feeling

entertainment Updated: Feb 06, 2010 19:36 IST
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

At Brunch, we are highly ambitious. We want to do things that make you talk. And laugh. And realise that life, actually, can be really good. For our 6th anniversary, then, we thought, let’s party. Let’s celebrate the six years of our existence by gathering together six of the funniest people in the country, one for every great Brunch year. And let’s top it off with a seventh laughter maker – to ensure a fun-filled year to come. Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi got these seven whacky men and women who make India laugh to tell us what makes them laugh. Welcome to the party

How we did the shoot

What happens when you decide to get seven celebrities together at the same place at the same time? You think you’ll go mad. But as we said, we are highly ambitious. And as it turned out, the Gods of laughter were on our side. All seven of the people we invited to celebrate our anniversary said yes, they would. But it took two weeks of coordination, about 70 phone calls a day, and what seemed like 700 SMSes per minute to agree on a day and a time. Now, where to meet? A place good for a party! So we zeroed in on Bonobo, the trendy lounge bar in Bandra in Mumbai.

Once again, the Gods of laughter came through. The shoot was superb. The professionalism and sporting attitude of all the seven people amazed us. No one was late, everyone was prepared to party, and when photographer Natasha instructed them to “have fun”, they did.

They ribbed each other, made fun of Bollywood stars whom we cannot name (in the interests of peace and bhaichara), teased the otherwise unflappable Natasha... you get the drift. And all through, south Mumbai snob Cyrus Broacha kept asking, again and again, just why he had to hang out with a bunch of suburbanites. So was it difficult? we were asked, when we returned, exhausted, to the office.You have no idea, we said. Everyone was having so much fun, we almost couldn’t get them to pose.

Cyrus Broacha, TV host

Cyrus Broacha says he is still trying to figure out what people find so funny about him. Still, if it makes him money, it’s fine – though he does claim to be a non-materialistic person, working only to fulfill the demands of his wife. “How nice it would’ve been to have been married to someone whose life revolved around the latest ‘It’ bag,” sighs Broacha. “Who would never read books, just fashion magazines. With such a person, conversations wouldn’t have to be intelligent. Life would be bliss.”

6 films that make you laugh:
Avatar: The Rajesh Khanna film. Now, I try and juxtapose Rajesh Khanna on the James Cameron film of the same name, and wonder how he’d look.
A Night at the Opera: Fantastic film. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Crazy Boys series: Very funny.
The Pink Panther series: The Peter Sellers ones. You can watch them again and again.
Annie Hall: It’s an experience.
Quo Vadis: It has some stilted dialogues that are very amusing.

Your take on humour:
I am still trying to figure out that one. I don’t try to be funny. I am just myself. And that must be funny. I think that’s the way it should be. One shouldn’t try too hard. Actually I think my standards are too low. Most humour happens by accident, I think.

Funny personal experiences:
Too many. Once, I remember, I had gone to see a relative who was in hospital. Suddenly, in this very serious, sombre moment, one of the nurses looked at me and started laughing and shouting, “Oh bakra!! You must have come to make someone a bakra.” And nothing I said could convince her otherwise. It was funny and embarrassing.

Then once, when I was in college, I had gone to Sophia College to act in a play. I wanted to use the washroom. I asked the guard, he pointed to a door and I walked in, only to realise it was a girls’ loo. It was a girls’ college and there was no men’s toilet. Of course, all the girls thought I was a creep. Damn!

Vir Das, stand-up comedian

He went to the US to become an investment banker and ended up being a stand-up comedian. After a short college acting course and having worked as a dog walker, waiter and security guard, Vir Das decided to try his luck on stage. He was booed out in 20 seconds flat for 13 continuous weeks till he decided to give it back to the firangis. Then they laughed. “I realised they laughed at being insulted. From then on I had a ball,” says Das.

Das returned to India at a time when stand-up comedy in English did not exist. “But my debut performance had an audience of 900 people who said ‘Welcome to India’ and gave me a standing ovation.”

6 films that make you laugh:
Young Frankenstein: Because it’s Mel Brooks and he is a pure genius. Plus it has a monster with a huge &^%$, that’s just good comedy.
Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi: Best Hindi movie of all time.
Crazy Boys series: Very funny.
The Pink Panther series: The one with Peter Sellers. Some of the best poker-faced comedy there is.
The Boat That Rocked: One of my favourite movies of 2009.
Oscar: Makes me laugh because it’s always funny to see a tough guy like Stallone do comedy and do it well. Plus it’s a mafia movie. You can’t go wrong with Italians.

Your take on humour:
I don’t do race, stereotypes, impersonations, Lalu jokes, or even tell jokes, for that matter. I think humour lies in the small things. Things we secretly think but refuse to talk about in public. I am an observational guy, so I like to unearth humour in things that you didn’t think were funny. I am a huge fan of the inappropriate.

Funny personal experiences:
I once did a show in Delhi where the finale of my act was a step-by-step recount of the female orgasm. Nobody laughed. It wasn’t because they were shocked. It’s just that the crowd was a lot older, and a lot of the aunties were looking very puzzled. It seems they had never had one. They had no frame of reference for laughter.

Archana Puran Singh, actress

She calls herself delusional. And feels that if it had not been for her misplaced superiority complex that made her sit and wait for offers to come to her, rather than go out and look for work, she could have done better in life. “I thought I was a looker. I was smitten by my hair and couldn’t stop looking at myself in the mirror. Still do. Now, of course, the mirror scares me,” she laughs.

6 films that make you laugh:
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: This Matthew Broderick film is an absolute favourite.
Muskurahat: One of the finest comic scripts ever.
Chupke Chupke: A classic case of a comedy of errors. Perfect characters in the most imperfect situations.
Not Now Darling: A typical British sex comedy. Perfectly situational.
Meet the Parents: I can watch it again and again. Ben Stiller was just fantastic.
Father of the Bride: Wonderful. Any Steve Martin film is wonderful, actually.

Your take on humour:
I think humour is the ability to lose your dignity in a funny manner, mix it with emotions and be able to laugh at yourself. I think real comedy begins when you start taking yourself seriously and life doesn’t. Humour is bringing out the emotions and the underlying pathos of a situation and yet being able to smile. Dark comedy and satire are all an extension of the same. And the biggest is marriage.

Funny personal experiences:
As a kid, I was dying to be noticed. That streak surfaces even now. I call it my ‘Madame Phi Phi’ moment. And invariably, I fall flat on my face. On a number of occasions, I’ve stood in the Economy line at an airport with a superior expression, fretting at the long line and at having to stand with lesser mortals. And then snobbishly walked across to the Business Class counter. My heels going tick-tock, tick-tock and the janta looking at me. I ask to be upgraded to Business Class. Then I am told about the number of zeros that will get added to my ticket price. Then I say ‘thank you’ and walk back, tick-tock, tick-tock to the ‘cattle class’ line to now look utterly foolish and be probably the 100th in the line.

Vinay Pathak, actor

Vinay Pathak dabbled in theatre in school and college in India and the US before moving to Mumbai. His big break came as an anchor with Channel V. Then he began doing films, and established himself once and for all with Bheja Fry.

6 films that make you laugh:
Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag: I haven’t seen it but couldn’t stop laughing when it released.
Padosan: Seriously very funny.
Girlfriend: I laughed so much at the title and storyline that I never got to see it.
Do Gaz Zameen Ke Neeche: A horror flick with an A certificate. The censor board didn’t want young minds to suffer.
Veer Hanuman: Animation for kids. It was more of a horror flick.
A Fish Called Wanda: Seriously, very funny.

Your take on humour:
It is essential for a good life. I hope it is readily available off the shelf, so people start laughing more.

Funny personal experiences:
This photo shoot! Because this is the first time I’ve met Cyrus Broacha and he keeps asking for money. Vir Das should be called Vir Udas. Cyrus Sahukar is presentable. Don’t know what he presents, though. I love Anu Menon and got to her before the two damn Cyruses did. I saw Archana Puran Singh in Jalwa and flipped. She was so hot and still is. Suresh Menon is the lost brother I never lost. All of them together... a laugh riot!

Suresh Menon, actor

He wanted to be a cricketer but got into sales. But he realised his life was ruled by Mumbai’s local trains. So Suresh Menon tried his luck with films.

6 films that make you laugh:
Bombay to Goa: Never have I seen so many strong characters in one film.
Golmaal: 700 on 100 for this film.
Heyy Babyy: It was funny and very entertaining. Also it is Sajid Khan’s film and I am partial to him.
3 Idiots: Indeed, a very good film.
Pattana Pravesham: One of the best Malayalam comedies I have ever seen.
The Pink Panther series: I always enjoy these.

Your take on humour:
Humour is a way of life. One can see the funny side of almost everything. Also, humour makes a marriage work. Your spouse never laughs, but you sure become a joke.

Funny personal experiences:
Sajid Khan and I were doing a show. I was playing Mani Ratnam and Sajid was interviewing me.
SajidManiji aapki samasya kya hai?
Suresh as Mani – 2 plates.
Sajid – ?????
Mani Chutney kei saath lana.
Sajid - Aap kya bol rahen hain???
Suresh as Mani – Samosa, you asked, right? So get two plates.
It was a very spontaneous imitation of a South Indian who doesn’t understand Hindi.

Anu Menon, TV host

The world knows Anu Menon better as TV’s Lola Kutty. Brought up in Chennai, she did her Masters in drama from London before landing in Mumbai. “Theatre is my first love,” she says. And films? “I’m open to offers and am ready to dance in the Swiss Alps as long as they don’t make me the Swiss cow.”

6 films that make you laugh:
Sivaji: Rajnikant in a blonde wig: priceless. For everything else, there’s master card.
Madagascar: I hated the song I like to move it, move it till I saw this film. Sacha Baron Cohen really made me want to move it.
The Catherine Tate Show: It’s a comedy show on the BBC. She is the Amitabh Bachchan of comedy.
’Allo ’Allo!: Again a TV comedy. It’s sharp, incisive and bawdy. Buy the DVDs, don’t download.
The Proposal: I loved it. Not really for any laugh factor but because it’s so believable.
Golmaal: The new one. I never thought Tusshar Kapoor could make anyone laugh till I saw it.

Your take on humour:
I am not one for toilet humour. Also I feel humour is very sexist. Funny men are appealing to women but funny women are not a big turn on for men. I think humour is a smart play of words.

Funny personal experiences:
Once I got a call for a role in a film. The casting director told me very earnestly: “The role is of a drug junkie, alcoholic, nymphomaniac and only you fit into the character perfectly.”

Cyrus Sahukar, TV host

Originally, Cyrus Sahukar wanted to make a documentary on the dark side of comedy heroes. “Then I also wanted to shoot a dog version of Shawshank Redemption,” he says. But then, MTV happened.

6 films that make you laugh
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro: Don’t think there can be another film like this one.
Angoor: I imitated Deven Verma and barked like a dog, so I never had a girlfriend.
Mars Attacks!: It’s absurd. So very funny.
American Director: I find the dark side amusing.
Return of the Pink Panther: Very, very funny.
Zoolander: A bizarre take on modelling.

Your take on humour
Humour is telling the truth without hurting sentiments. A bizarre art form that has no rationale, it’s subjective and completely a matter of timing.

Funny personal experiences
I was in St Columba’s, Delhi, a boys’ school. When I was tiny, I played Mother Mary in the Christmas play. The guy who played Joseph kept teasing me. So, while on stage, I hit him with the doll that was supposed to be baby Jesus. Very stupid but looking back, very funny.