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Everyone loves Pammi Aunty

We’ve all got her in our life, that middle-aged aunt who knows everything. Whether it’s a remedy for ailments (from conjunctivitis to cancer), her opinions on current affairs (she’ll break down Brexit for you) or a piece of juicy gossip, she’s always got something to offer. And no one knows her as well as actor Ssumier Pasricha.

After 54 videos of embodying the gossipy-nosy Pammi Aunty, the television actor’s portrayal of the Punjabi aunt has become a viral phenomenon. So much so, that everyone from senior editors at this newspaper to the very women he’s parodying seem to be in love with the loudmouth. It all started with a few rants on Snapchat in May this year: “It was not planned at all,” says Pasricha. “At first, I thought I was entertaining my four-five friends, but then it reached the whole world.”

In past avatars, Pasricha has been a marketing professional and public relations officer to the government of Perth, before pursuing his passion for acting. And in a short time, Pammi Aunty has graduated from a few seconds of a Snapchat video to performing onstage at various corporate events.

Liberal to the core

“Pammi Aunty is a simple lady who talks about everything under the sun,” says the actor. “She’s a reflection of a middle-class woman who’s not scared about anything.” Even though she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, Pammi can border on being mean, racist even. “But she’s not a person who creates jagdha (fights),” says Pasricha. “She’s a liberal person.”

As part of her plans of world domination, Pammi Aunty recently made an appearance on Agents of Ishq. Paromita Vohra’s brainchild is an online space that encourages a safe discourse on sex: a subject that has been taboo forever in India. Within Hindi popular culture (like television) at least, Vohra, a filmmaker and writer, believes there aren’t many avenues addressing these topics.

Agents of Ishq aims to invite people to start a conversation instead of lecturing them. The website has everything from articles to podcasts and videos in different Indian languages, including English, Hindi and Marathi. “Pammi Aunty and Agents of Ishq could collaborate because we want to communicate without preaching,” says Vohra. “Her campy style [and] irreverent humour is also very desi and encourages you to not be earnest and literal, but open yourself up to other possibilities.”

When Paro met Pammi

Vohra herself encountered Pammi Aunty “just before [Pasricha] got famous”. Everyone’s favourite Punjabi aunt came Vohra’s way through a Whatsapp forward from a friend. An obsession followed since the Punjabi Vohra completely got Pammi and it was only natural the two would, in time, collaborate. “I wrote to him because I could see [that] underneath the surface and silliness, it was very clever and there’s an intelligent strong grasp of character,” says the independent filmmaker. She continues, “He’s awesome, doing this as a way of having a different kind of self-expression.”

But Vohra knew that should Pammi Aunty come on over to Agents of Ishq, she’d most certainly have to retain her flavour. “She has to retain her own set of prejudices and attitudes which make her identifiable,” says Vohra. “If she’s too politically correct it will ring false — as PC stuff often does — but the message has to be woven into her own world view and logic.”

Within an hour of jamming on scripts, the two zeroed in on the theme for their three-episode collaboration. “You can’t write a script for Pammi Aunty, you have to write with her,” explains Vohra, “It’s admirable, he really understands the character.”

So far, two episodes are already out and sadly, there’s only one more to go.

Nothing is taboo

The first episode, released a week ago, features our newest agent of Ishq, Pammi Aunty, navigating the murky world of online dating through Tinder looking for a beau for ‘Dinky’. What follows of course is hilarious discovery of eligible (or not) men and the misunderstanding of the word ‘sapiosexual’.

The next one, however, takes on a sensitive subject, when Pammi finds out her friend’s son is gay. Aunty surprisingly is very accepting of homosexuality, going as far as to say that her friend can now keep her jewellery for herself and that one gay son is better than several straight ones.

The third and final episode releases next week. “It’s about older women’s sexual curiosity,” says Vohra. “Let’s just say that Sarla behenji gets a Facebook request from a certain young man.” Pammi Aunty’s never going to talk about sex openly, but it will be fun to watch her try to mince her words.

What lies ahead

Pammi Aunty’s tenure on Agents of Ishq may be only three episodes long, but there’s plenty more on Pasricha’s channel.

“A combination of Pammi Aunty and Ssumier is coming soon on TV,” he says. “It will be a talk show but something fun.”

But before you take her for granted, Pasricha says the character has a shelf life. “As an actor and creative person, everything has a time limit,” he says, but also admits he hasn’t set this time limit yet. “I want people to love her forever instead of them saying ‘let her die now, please’.”

As for Agents of Ishq, Vohra’s got plenty of tricks up the website’s sleeve. After Pammi, the filmmaker will launch two new series of videos online. One busts various masturbation myths and another recounts menstruation experiences through animation.

See the Pammi Aunty episodes on the Agents of Ish q’s YouTube channel

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 1:15:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/entertainment/Everyone-loves-Pammi-Aunty/article14574324.ece

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