Theatre

Stand-up comedian Suhas Navaratna says humour is different in one’s mother tongue

Suhas Navaratna

Suhas Navaratna  

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Kannada humour: Suhas Navaratna from the Kannada stand up collective, Gandhi Class, says humour is different in one’s mother tongue

Suhas Navaratna recalls a time when he was staying with room-mates and worked with colleagues who didn’t speak Kannada. “I remember an auto driver abusing me in Kannada and I wanted him to continue because I hadn’t heard my language in such a long time,” Suhas says to laughs from Sonu Venu Gopal, Niroop Mohan and Lohit Kumar S. We are at Sherlock’s Pub in Koramangala, in conversation with Suhas, Sonu, Lohit and Niroop, members of Kannada stand-up comedy collective Gandhi Class, formed this year.

Lohit Kumar S

Lohit Kumar S  

Sonu is a radio jockey, Suhas has been performing stand-up comedy in English for five years and two-and-a-half years in Kannada, Niroop works in IT and has been a stand-up comic for a year, and Lohit is from LodhanLive. While Suhas, Sonu and Niroop are performers, Lohit manages Gandhi Class. In an informal conversation peppered with humour and anecdotes, the group speaks of their performances. Regarding the name of the collective, Suhas says: “We named our group Gandhi Class after the seating in cinema theatres. In Bangalore, especially in the 90s and the early 2000s, in cinema theatres there was balcony class, first class, second class and Gandhi class and Gandhi class was where people could enjoy the film to the maximum.”

Niroop adds: “We are into raw entertainment.” To which Sonu says: “We ensure that none of our acts overlap with the others, though each of us have a style of our own.” Suhas agrees and adds: “We address universal themes so that it is relatable for every kind of audience.”

Lohit, who founded Gandhi Class, says: “There were these amazing open mics happening, and we eventually decided to set up Gandhi Class.” Sonu, who calls herself “a struggling stand-up comic” and is known for Youtube sensation: Baaji Manu Kaaku, says she also explores women-centric issues in her performances. “I am not a radical feminist. But I talk about issues that affect women because some of them feel that their lives are not equally represented as men, as they aren’t too many women comedians.” Sonu is also unfazed by criticism. “The moment I thought that I don’t care if I fail is when I decided to go all out and be a stand-up comedian. On radio I am heard, not seen. Stand-up gives me the opportunity to be seen as well.”

Sonu Venu Gopal

Sonu Venu Gopal  

When asked what motivated him to pursue stand-up comedy Niroop quips: “I wanted to be famous,” (which led to loud cheers from the others).

Niroop Menon

Niroop Menon  

Every language has humour typical to it. The essence of some experiences can only be expressed in Kannada, English doesn’t always do justice to it. The members all agree on this. Niroop says: “If I get stuck while delivering a joke in English, I don’t know how to take it forward. But with Kannada I can improvise on the spot.” Suhas adds: “Humour is different in one’s mother tongue and I feel a complete change in my performance when I deliver in Kannada.” Sonu provides a unique insight on what is lacking in Kannada comedy. “It is not that there is a dearth of Kannada stand-up comics. It has been around for a long time and there are many senior Kannada stand-up artistes. I think the only thing that has changed is how it is packaged...I think the worst thing is that there is no stereotypes for Kannadigas. For Tamilians the stereotype is that they are from IITs and IIMs and Malayalis make great films. What about the stereotype for us? I don’t like stereotyping in general, but I would love to know what stereotype can be used for us.”

This is countered by Suhas, who says: “That Bangaloreans can speak five different languages...” The conversation then veers to what could be the possible stereotyping, one of which includes Kannadigas being nice people with the swalpa adjust maadi (adjust a little) attitude.

Bengaluru traffic maybe the butt of all jokes, but on a serious note, it also acts as a hindrance for audiences to come to different venues. Gandhi Class has performed in north, south and east Bengaluru...and they joke that Kammanahalli is the furthest they have performed. Sonu says what needs to change, though, is that audiences from the north should make an effort to travel to the east to watch performances, lest they miss out on a good show. Before they rush to their performances, Sonu leaves us with one question. “If you can spend money for a Salman Khan film, which does not do much for you, then why not pay for original content, which costs less?”

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 5:23:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/kannada-humour/article30267126.ece

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