Long-time buddies and work collaborators Cyrus Broacha and Kunal Vijayakar return to the stage with an act that celebrates growing old(er)
We meet Cyrus Broacha (44) and Kunal Vijayakar (53) one hot afternoon. They’re lounging about wearing shorts. We’re at theatre personality Raell Padamsee’s house in Colaba. Padamsee’s Ace Productions is presenting Broacha and Vijayakar’s latest stage show, and the duo mock-complain that she’s forcing them to rehearse beyond their work hours. “Ramdev Baba, Kunal and I start our day at 5.30am and are done by 12.30 or 1pm,” Broacha says.
What made you do 40 Shades of Grey (Hair), a show on life after 40?
Cyrus Broacha (CB): There’s a lot of focus on the so-called love for youth. I hate the youth. The other day, there was a 24- or 25-year-old guy on a bike. I was thinking if I just turn the car, smack into him and he dies, how much will it cost society? But then I let it go because one is not fully sure.
I think there’s too much concentration on the youth market. So India will be the youngest country by 2020. Who cares? What about us? Somebody should shout for us. It’s like the Patel agitation. You have to find a group and say, ‘Chalo, let’s fight’.
So, how is life after 40?
CB: It’s terrible. Every day is a challenge. Can’t see or hear properly, lung problems, organ failure (you know what I mean), digestive problems. So I thought, let’s not feel bad, let’s embrace it and feel good about it.
Kunal Vijayakar (KV): Unlike Cyrus, when I turned 40, I didn’t have these issues. I still thought of myself as youthful. Mentally, I am the younger generation.
CB: He’s unmarried and remains so. Get married and you lose five years overnight.
KV (laughs): Now that I am way over 40, I feel the difference physically. You feel yourself slightly slowing down, you suddenly need glasses to read, your annual medical check-up shows up with things you’ve never heard of before.
What’s the format of the show like? Is it a stand-up show?
CB: I don’t like to call it stand-up; it’s some kind of a hybrid show. We can’t bear stand-up acts for more than 10 minutes. I get bored looking at the same ugly Indian man standing on the stage talking about his own problems… like a frustrated man who has no friends.
I wanted to do a show with a theme. We’ll talk about what we’re going through. One part is me talking and then Kunal will act as different people and bore me to death.
This is the 10th year of your news satire show, The Other Week That Wasn’t (formerly The Week That Wasn’t). How has the journey been?
CB: We’re the second funniest comedy show in English on TV. Arnab’s (Goswami) is number one. It’s good because the second best never feels any pressure. It’s like the Congress in Opposition. And Arnab’s also doing a good job at number one.
KV: Our show is like the video version of the Amul hoardings. We were both writing for it at one point of time when we worked for (Rahul) da Cunha’s advertising agency.
Have you got into any trouble because of the show?
CB: We’ve met some politicians who’ve been really nice about it. Mr Chidambaram, for instance. I think the Congress has been nicer.
KV: Rahul Gandhi loves the show from what I hear.
CB: Pravin Togadia (international working president, Vishwa Hindu Parishad) called us up once and said he loved an episode. Occasionally, there are people who get offended and we tend to apologise. That’s how it works.
KV: It’s best to apologise and get it over with. There’s no point trying to fight it. One has to keep telling others in the channel as well that we are entertainers. We are not journalists.
CB: Don’t say that, we’ll never get that Press Club membership then. Let’s just say we are not seasoned investigative reporters. We are somewhere between comedians and journalists. Let’s call ourselves commalists.
Personally, did you ever feel you crossed the line?
CB: After the new government in 2014, we started censoring ourselves a bit more. Congress seemed more easy-going… or didn’t seem to care.
KV: Having said that, I think we’ve done with this government pretty much what we did with the previous government.
You’ve known each other for 26 years now.
CB: In fact, it was in the summer of 90, and we met in this very building [They auditioned for a children’s play by Padamsee]. He used to wear an earring in his ear. He thought he was damn hep.
KV: I was young and experimenting with fashion. I used to wear those really short pants too.
Friendships in the entertainment industry are often fickle. What’s kept yours going?
CB: I try to get rid of him every day. I do my best but he doesn’t go. I’d love to ask some senior actors what they’ve done to get rid of their friends.
KV: I have to find food yaar. Because he’s half Parsi, the food at Cyrus’s house is great.
CB: Kunal’s closer to my kids now than I am. After work, he comes to meet the family. I’m quite happy because then it takes away some of my load.
How has working together changed your friendship?
KV: We’ve worked together for so long that it has merged.
CB: Not just us, we have the same team. We’re not two people locked in a room. We’re not ABBA composing together. In fact, we even write a lot separately and argue to and fro. We fight when he loses his temper at work, not while writing. For example, if I’ve written something and I give him to clean it up, I won’t even double-check it.
What: 40 Shades of Grey (Hair) will be staged on May 21 and 22, 7.30pm .
Where: May 21: Tata Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point
Tickets: Rs 500 onward on bookmyshow.com
Where: May 22: St. Andrews Auditorium, St Domnic Road, Bandra (W)
Tickets: Rs 100 onward on bookmyshow.com