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When Aravind has the last laugh

Aravind Photo: R. Ragu  

In July, Aravind Subramanian caused Bookmyshow’s servers to crash. Ticket sales for his first solo show, ‘Madrasi Da’, which was to be held two months later, had just opened, and within eight hours, 550 tickets were sold. The same sequence of events, but this time for 1,200 tickets, followed when bookings for his show, that was staged again last weekend, opened in October. Decidedly, a remarkable feat for the 28-year-old stand-up comedian. His reaction? “ Dei, even I don’t make plans so much in advance da.”

Aravind, popularly called SA, is one of the city’s first stand-up comics. But his tryst with comedy, which started three years ago, was unplanned. A post-graduate in film making from the LV Prasad Film Institute, he started off as an assistant director. The job, he says, gave him much to vent about. “If a psychiatrist wants to make money, they should direct their efforts at assistant directors.” While not all his experiences were bad, he says they were most certainly dramatic. Coupled with his flair for story-telling, this worked wonders on stage, when Bhargav Ramakrishnan of Evam, who had heard his many comical rants, invited him to audition for Urban Turban in 2011.

However, the first stretch of his journey, he says, was rocky. He failed miserably the first 25 times he took the stage, and then, his fellow comedians took to using him as the opening act. “It means you are the worst of the lot. You are performing to an audience who haven’t even been warmed up yet. It’s a thankless job; but, nothing toughens you up like going first.” Now, SA is often the closing act in many shows, meant to leave the audience on a high. He’s travelled with his act — U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore and many metro cities across India — and has done public performances, corporate shows and festival line-ups. “Lots of people are funny. But it’s the ones who want to be heard who become stand-up comedians.”

Yet, just like his brand of humour, the comic too is often self-depreciative: he says he can’t act, has stage fear and is conscious of his linguistic skills. “My insecurity is the mystery that fuels my art, and yet, cripples me.” His “broken” English, which initially inhibited him, he says, is something that has now worked in his favour. For his act, largely about his personal experiences and observations, is laced with local lingo, and strikes a chord with anyone who’s encountered Tinder dating, traffic hating and bride baiting.

His winning stroke as a performer, however, is his ability to engage with his audience. His act is energetic and full of theatrics — with a few jokes he lets his genius shine through, but mostly, he just wants to strike the right note to get his audience laughing. His Facebook page, with over 35,000 followers, buzzes with activity. His stand-up comedy videos are shared widely on WhatsApp and social media. He frequents the city’s open-mics because, he says, “It’s like tuition class.” Now a popular face in the city, he even indulges intrusive strangers who stop to inspect his face and wonder why he looks familiar.

So, has the young comic found his calling? “It’s a great time for stand-up; the scene is exploding. But all that I have achieved in the last year was while I was writing a script and wanting to become a film maker.” A fully-finished script waiting to happen constantly reminds him that this is time he has taken off to indulge his interests. His stand-up journey has brought him far, and he hopes it will hold him in good stead when he is ready to bring his script to life, but, in the meantime, Aravind, who is already working on his next solo show, has many more laughs to hand out.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 5:33:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/laughing-his-way-to-success/article8000388.ece

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