Mrs Janaki and me: How Chennai comedian Abishek Kumar is making heads turn

This lockdown, a phone call changed Abishek Kumar’s life. The call was from his cousin, studying in Class X, who jubilantly informed him that her board exams were cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation.

Barely minutes after that call, the stand-up comedian borrowed his mother’s salwar kameez, created an Animoji of a teacher, and went on to say a few lines before camera. There was no script, no storyboard.

Ishtathukku adichu vitten (I just reeled on without any thought),” he laughs. But in those few minutes was born a fictional character that would go viral — ‘Mrs Janaki teacher from KRSNM Matriculation School’.

Abishek’s humorous interpretation and body language of a quintessential Chennai school teacher has appealed to people of various age groups; so much so that the stand-up comedian gets ‘requests’ every time news breaks.

Even his old school teachers — from Balalok Matriculation in Virugambakkam — have started reaching out to him. “They all loved it, thankfully,” says the 24-year-old, who has been using the lockdown to write new material and binge-watch the latest Malayalam films on OTT platforms.

Mrs Janaki and me: How Chennai comedian Abishek Kumar is making heads turn

Abishek has shifted to what he calls ‘clean comedy’ over the past couple of years. “I was thrown into a lot of corporate and private shows where the age group, mostly above 50, demanded comedy without expletives. Also, I’m a very physical comic: I move around and act a lot. All these physical actions compensate for the lack of dirty humour. The advantage of going clean is that there is no target age-group for the comedy set. That helps it go viral.”

He is now being described among comedy circles as Chennai’s answer to Bengaluru comedian Danish Sait, whose lockdown videos have gone viral. “Danish is among my inspirations, and it’s a huge compliment that people are saying that,” says Abishek, whose latest video packed in three trending topics: the eclipse, Chinese products and FaceApp. “I’m not sure how people would have reacted had I shown my face. Mrs Janaki teacher has given me the freedom to talk about things honestly.”

Abishek holds an Engineering degree, but his passion was always theatre. “I love stage performances, and have been part of theatre since I was young. The company I was part of also produced comedy shows. One day, when the stand-up who was supposed to come didn’t turn up, I became one by accident.”

He still feels that his first show was his best. “There was no plan; it was all on the go, and I felt the audience enjoyed that the most,” says Abishek, who describes his father, Balaji, as someone whose actions inspire a lot of his comic material.

Abishek’s near future promises a lot more Mrs Janaki, a character that has helped him increase his follower count from 5,000 to more than 17,000. He has, in fact, conceptualised two other characters surrounding her life. “I’ll be bringing them out soon, and hopefully, have a few videos of all three of them together.”

Catch his work on Instagram handle @theabishekkumar

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 4:14:06 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/how-chennai-stan/article31906118.ece

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