Anuvab Pal gave up a thriving career as a scriptwriter in Los Angeles and came back to India as he did not want to be pigeon-holed as an Indian writer abroad
Anuvab Pal has a pretty impressive resume — graduate from NYU, scripted for “Frasier” and “Law And Order”, and more recently “Loins Of Punjab” and “The President Is Coming”.
Pal confesses he has a weird interest in statistics and keeps tabs on which multiplex earns them the most revenue, “The last time I came to Bangalore I bought a shirt from Garuda Mall, because ‘Loins Of Punjab' got its best collection from there.” He was in town for the Bulchee Comedia Del Arte, although he swears he is not funny.
Standing up for comedy
“I'm really not funny. You know who is funny? My dad is. The other day we were driving somewhere and out of the blue he asks me, ‘Who is Sonu Sood?'.” Anuvab narrates the story to me with the same wide-eyed amusement that he felt at the moment and although it was a ‘you had to be there funny moment', he still told it like the craftsman he is.
“Stand-up is something I have gotten myself into and lately I have started thinking about humour. The funniest people I know have nothing to do with the entertainment industry. I don't see humour as prepared, but, for me, my idea of humour is more anecdotal, with no punch-lines,” says Anuvab.
He hates writing books, actually he likes it. No, he is pretty sure he hates it — it was amusing to watch him swing to and fro. “I like crafting scenes and disappearing in a character; a novel does not let you do that. Right now I've been working on the book version of ‘The President Is Coming' and there is nothing I could say to make it any funnier. It's all been written.”
Having been deeply involved in theatre, Pal does admit that he finds it difficult to write large. “I think I tend to limit myself because I worry about the skill set that a large scale project requires. I would never be able to throw someone off a building.”
Although Anuvab had a thriving career as a scriptwriter in Los Angeles he came back to India and started work here. “I did not want to be pigeon-holed as an Indian writer abroad. Also I had things I wanted to work on. I came back when Manish Acharya and I started work on ‘Loins Of Punjab' and then things just started working out,” says Anuvab, who is currently fascinated by the bygone generation of safari suits versus the current generation that builds farm on the Internet.
“I cannot wait to tell a story about bureaucrats. I love the idea of the corridors of Delhi and authorities siphoning off weapons to Uzbekistan.”
“All you need is a good story and you have to market it well. The only trend I have noticed is that there is no trend. They say that by not doing work in English you can reach a larger audience, which I don't necessarily agree with,” says Anuvab who doesn't necessarily agree with a lot of things in the industry.
So while Anuvab has to live edit in comedy, he has the benefit of time in writing. “Live editing teaches you to be sharper when you are on stage. I am a lazy writer and tend to slip in a bad joke here and there when I am writing, but the younger lot are a lot less forgiving these days. And I am more critical of my work. I think of stories and find myself connecting the dots a lot more.”
Pal has so many ideas, it is difficult to keep up with him. Among the many books, plays and scripts he is working on, the one that stands out is where he goes back to a Calcutta that belonged to Ray.
“I want to make a film in black and white. There are so many things that you cannot do in Bombay. I want to fuse the old Ray Calcutta with a Wes Anderson comedy,” he explains as he continues to talk about an old man who wins a lottery, disco dancers and Mithun-da.