PunchTantraa, a radical mime group from Bangalore made up of students, doctors, and many engineers weld together entertainment with a social message. They feel it works because every one wants a good laugh in their stressed out lives
They are energetic, young, vibe really great with each other and set off the funny in each other. And to think just a few years ago some of them were on rival teams! They bring together the world of theatre, mime, humour, spoofs, exaggeration, mad-ads, films, song, sound, and burst on stage with perfect timing as PunchTantraa.
This young team of 21 people in Bangalore call themselves a “radical mime group”, and use punch lines to entertain, as well as deliver a message to the audience, who seem more open to the idea because they are laughing away. They talk of things that bother Bangaloreans everyday — garbage, traffic, parking, road rules, autorickshaw trouble, and of course now, elections… and are able to take audience into their act.
They are the props, the actors, the background, all rolled into one. They can morph into a car, a ship, Lord Krishna, an auntie from a famous advertisement, saas-bahu duos, Kate Winslet, the local goonda, the narrator, or anyone else you may please.
At some point in their college life, they were part of Mad-Ads teams from their colleges. Many of them had competed against each other at inter-college festivals. But when they grew out of colleges and into their careers, they went back as judges for such events to colleges in the city. They came back to what they did well and missed most. Perform on stage.
Engineers, doctors, students — all form part of this group where ages range from 23 to 28; they have been around two years as a group. They bring together elements from Hollywood, Bollywood, Sandalwood, Tollywood. They derive their name from the traditional short Indian stories with morals at the end — the Panchatantra, points out teamie Ashank Bhandari. “And after every single act we have a punchline,” pips in fellow teamie Vikas Sangam.
They put their heads together and write a script, improvise. “We do multilingual acts and everyone can relate to us. Even if someone doesn’t know the language, our actions are enough to understand,” points out Arjun Nadig.
“Our biggest challenge has been getting together and finding rehearsal space,” says Ashank. “All of us have day jobs.” Ashank traces out their journey and says Mad-Ads brought them together, but now it’s only one element of their act. The group has just given their 14th public performance, once again to a full house ticketed show.
They get together on weekends to practise, because, after all, their act is about synchronisation. “We have creative ideas. We take them in a raw form and polish them,” adds another teamie Ram Charan. “Imagination is the prop we use.”
“We have a think tank of about six people. But at the end of the day, it’s a team script,” says Saveen Hegde, one of the narrators. They keep in mind the demographics of the audience they will be performing the show for, and are able to tweak it to make it inclusive. “Our art form is dynamic,” adds Saveen. “Between the acting practise session, we also have scripting sessions. We have ideas and jokes ready to be worked on,” pipes in Amit Mohan. Many have to take a break in between while they travel on work or go abroad to complete studies.
Saveen points out that they keep their act “clean” and avoid below-the-belt jokes. “No woman should walk out of our show because they find it derogatory.” We wanted to show that you can be entertaining without being vulgar, reiterate Ashank. Their acts have been spread across three “seasons” — Laughter Punch, Laughter Storm and Laughter Fusion. They have done shows for corporate companies for their Women’s Day celebrations, product launches, special shows for children on road safety. They have had special segments in their shows on the seven Wonders of Bangalore. They appeal to people to segregate garbage, say no to child marriage, drive safe on the roads and more.
What really works for them in the laugh factor, the humour. “Humour is a neutral emotion. Every one tends to enjoy it. Rarely will you find any one who doesn’t want to laugh. And our script incorporates all forms of it — be it spoofs, slapstick comedy or ‘intelligent’ jokes,” says Ashank. Each of their acts has a single narrator, who takes to the mike and provides everything, including a capella background music and sound effects! Laughter is missing in our stressed-out lives, they all reiterate. And it was one o the reasons that brought them together too. “People look forward to forgetting problems around them, and just laugh.”
Other members of the team are Ajay Samson, Abhilash Ravindran, Abhishek M.V., Aarohan B.N., Amith A, Ashwin Bharadwaj, Avinash Meda, Avinash C.S., Pawan Kumar, Shreyas Shrikanth, Sanjay Shivanna, Sharath Rao, Sohan Raghavendra, Vishnu, and Prajwal Muddi.
The group can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org