A 10-year-old with a runny nose who insults people. A stalker who ties up men and cooks for them: comedian Sumukhi Suresh is out to play female characters others won’t.
Finding comedian Sumukhi Suresh’s (29) Santacruz (E) residence is a bit of a task. Several wrong turns and winding lanes later, we find her waiting downstairs for us in a quiet, leafy lane. It’s not on Google Maps. But she’d rather live here than get an apartment in Bandra just for postcode envy.
It’s Suresh’s first month in Mumbai, having moved from Bengaluru to test waters, and see where full-time comedy leads her. So far, the city’s been kind. She is already crazy about the pav bhaji at Amar Juice Centre (Chowpatty), and has a specific spot opposite Air India on Marine Drive she loves sitting on. “When Naveen (Richard, comic), says he misses Bengaluru, I’m just like…”, she shrugs, adding, “I even love the local trains, although I only travel non-peak hours.”
She says people have now started recognising her, more in local trains than in restaurants and bars. “Someone asked me, ‘Are you Sumukhi from Better Life Foundation?’, I said, ‘Yes, Sumukhi in real life too.” Suresh is best known today for her role as Sumukhi Chawla in the mockumentary web series, Better Life Foundation (BLF). Set in the office of an NGO, and inspired by the American sitcom, The Office, BLF caught on because of its deadpan humour. It starred other comics such as Naveen Richard and Kanan Gill. Suresh plays an angry, no-nonsense programme head — not the most affable person. “I was surprised that people actually liked my character,” she says.
What worked for Suresh was her subtle acting, the way she portrayed controlled rage and sarcasm throughout the series. We all known such a colleague in our work spaces – the one who’s mostly annoyed, but manages to get things done.
Off screen, though, Suresh is everything her character is not. She’s chatty (we spoke for an hour-and-a-half), animated, and often dissolves into hearty laughter.
So far, she has played quirky, often older characters — Anu Aunty in The Engineering Anthem (a parody song on how the society wants everyone to be engineers or doctors) and a nosey, sassy maid in Maid Interview (a sketch about a young couple interviewing a maid).
Now, with her own ongoing sketch show, Behti Naak, on YouTube, Suresh plays a 10-year-old called Behti. If she doesn’t get her way, Behti is downright nasty, and her insults leave her co-characters speechless, or worse, in tears. “She’s a mix of how I was as a child, and how my elder brother was.”
For Behti Naak, she looked into the production aspect and learnt as much as she could. “I don’t know if it’s a female comic thing, but I think it’s important to be able to make your own sketches,” she says.
But the female comic tag is something that riles Suresh up. “I am a comic. I’m working towards being the best in the field, not just in my gender.”
Going ahead, Suresh wants to create a lot more content, and play more unusual women characters. “So far, I haven’t done the usual girlfriend roles. Even if I were to play a girlfriend, I would heighten it. I would be a doormat girlfriend, and literally lie in front of the door,” she says. “I want to come up with women characters nobody else is creating.”
Coming up next
It makes sense that one of her upcoming characters, Kusum, is a kabaddi player who loves rapping. Also in the planning stage is a funny cookery show. “I will play someone looking for an ideal husband. She virtually stalks guys, finds out their food preferences, ties them up, and cooks for them. All because she has been told the way to a man’s heart is through the stomach. The recipes will be real, though,” Suresh says.
Suresh has many more quirky plans. She wants to do a sketch about the tragicomic things her friends have done in their lives. “All my friends are dumb. I deserve them because I’m also stupid,” she says with a straight face. “I’ll call it Anmol Sumukhi ke Item Dost.”
Suresh will also perform her solo special, Disgust Me, in Mumbai soon. It’s a women-only, private show, held only in Bengaluru so far. You have to write to Suresh or the team to get in. The concept of the show was born out of an interaction with the audience at one of her stand-up gigs. “I made a blowjob joke. The men were laughing and this woman got uncomfortable. I told her, ‘Look me in the eye and say you’ve never given one’.” The lady left the show, but it got Suresh thinking about how women are far more at ease when only in the company of women. “I want women to be disgusted. Delhi will be my Mount Everest. It’s not easy to disgust Delhi women.”