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After life became a ‘joke’...

Sanjay Rajoura quit his job as a software professional in Silicon Valley in 2009 and came to Delhi to become a stand-up artiste, Manoj Sharma reports.

delhi Updated: Sep 09, 2012 01:38 IST
Manoj Sharma

Sanjay Rajoura quit his job as a software professional in Silicon Valley in 2009 and came to Delhi. When he gave up a decade-long career in the IT industry, he did not know what he wanted from life.

One evening, he accompanied a friend in Delhi to a Hauz Khas café, where an open mic stand-up comedy act was on.

“It was such terrible comedy. I thought I could do better. I offered my services at the next open mic event at the venue,” says Rajoura.

When he took the stage, the audience went berserk. Three years down the line, Rajoura, a Jat from a village in western Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahar, has emerged as one of better-known stand-up artistes in the country.

But don’t expect jokes when you meet him: What you get is an angry discourse on the education system, politics, religion, caste and feminism — often the subjects of his acts. No wonder that Rajoura considers himself a social critic.

He is a fan of the Hindi poet and satirist Sharad Joshi, filmmaker Kundan Shah and Hollywood maestros Charlie Chaplin and Woody Allen. As a comedian, Rajoura draws inspiration from his own experiences and retells them as satires.

“The real job of a comedian is to show a mirror to the society, warts and all. I don’t care whether the audience appreciates it, as long as I am able to deliver my message,” says the 39-year-old, adding, in chaste Hindi, “Comedy has been devalued in India. Let’s be clear: Comedy is not about chutkalas.”

Only two months after his first impromptu act, he held his first big solo event Jat In Mood at the India Habitat Centre. The act, based on his experiences, was a satirical take on what he calls “the mismatch between the ethos and lifestyles of big cities and small towns”.

“My family migrated from a small town in western Uttar Pradesh. So, I can tell you that this mismatch is hilarious and tragic at the same time. In Delhi, the term Jat itself evokes laughter,” says Rajoura, who does about three shows a week at various pubs and cafés in Delhi and elsewhere.

He also performed a solo show at the All India Comedy Festival earlier this year.

Rajoura is single and describes himself as a “Jat female chauvinist”. He says his outlook has been shaped by the women in his life, though all those associations, he points out, ended “comically”.

Rajoura, who survived tuberculosis of the brain in 2004, is candid while discussing his “failures in life”.

Talking about his student life, Rajoura, who did his graduation from Delhi University and then Master’s from the Birla Institute of Technology (BIT), says he was both good and bad in studies.

“I lost focus and failed in graduation. Then, I worked hard and got admission in BIT, but lost focus again and failed in the second semester,” says Rajoura.

After his Master’s, Rajoura worked for two years in Singapore. He spent another four in San Francisco working as a software professional.

“I was fed up with corporate jobs. They were the biggest jokes of my life,” says Rajoura at his third-floor apartment in Vasundhara, Ghaziabad. Framed posters on walls have the lyrics of John Lenon’s Imagine and Jimmy Hendrix’s Up From the Skies.

And instead of joke books, his personal library has books on subjects as wide-ranging as physics, history and politics.

Rajoura — who has several solo shows under his belt, including Sanjay Rajoura Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai, Gustakhi Maaf and End The Occupation, about the quirks and idiosyncrasies of ordinary people — says he never prepares for his shows.

“My shows are never scripted, though I decide the subject, allowing me to share my experiences with the audience freely,” says Rajoura, who also acted in The Fiction which was shown at the Osians Film Festival in New Delhi.

This July, Rajoura performed at a social media event in Karachi. There, he joked about an encounter he had with a Pakistani police officer who tried to extract a bribe out of him.

India’s obsession with the Indian Premier League and Sachin Tendulkar also featured in his act. He says, “Karachi, in comparison with all the cities I have lived, worked and performed in, was the most receptive to my brand of humour.”

Even as Rajoura’s fame as a stand-up artiste grows, his parents are not happy with his decision to give up his career in the IT sector.

“My father is not amused. He feels that I am an unworthy son, and have failed the entire family. At times, he comes and slaps me,” says Rajoura, who lives alone.