At 9 pm, my household would drop their work and collect in entrance of the TV, as was maybe a typical observe in most middle-class Indian households within the early 2000s. It was an hour of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge (TGILC), an ideal distraction for me, as my dad and mom even neglected my homework. While the entire household tuned in, together with my three-year-old diaper-clad brother, I, as a starstruck nine-year-old, would intently research the chops of Sunil Pal, Navin Prabhakar, Ahsaan Qureshi and my favorite, Raju Srivastava.
Growing up in suburban Mumbai, we spoke Hindi at residence, or a bombaiyya cousin of the language. My father’s mom tongue is Telugu whereas my mom’s is Marathi and each of them grew up in Mumbai. Watching Srivastava on TGILC was my first brush with North Indian dialects. I picked up the nuances (as a lot as a child might) and perfected the aye Gajodhar, arey sankhata or the eeya aao alongside the best way. Here was a baby, hundreds of miles away from Uttar Pradesh, attempting to talk like somebody from the state. When I lastly did meet individuals from North India, I’d amuse them by talking in these dialects. It was secure to say, Srivastava was in my bones.
Back in 2005, Srivastava rose to prominence as a standup comedian within the first season of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. Following his movie debut within the 1988 Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit-starrer Tezaab, he supplied comedian aid in hits like Maine Pyar Kiya, Baazigar and Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiyaa. Though these have been small roles, Srivastava’s dedication to a personality was what made him memorable.
Mimicry was an excellent a part of Srivastava’s standup acts, nevertheless it was a peculiar idiosyncrasy — the best way he would cross his hand behind his head and stand within the laidback posture — that left an indelible signature on his performances. If social media tendencies are any markers of recognition, a sound clip from Srivastava’s act goes viral on social media, the place the comic is heard saying the quintessential line: “Yadav! A Sankatha! Gajodhar! Birju!” As a Class 4 scholar, I used to be bitter when Srivastava didn’t win the Laughter Challenge and got here in third.
Then life occurred and as any angsty teen with Internet entry, I devoured up the world of western standup comedians. Arguably, it was Russell Peters that first caught my eye. Soon, it was time for ‘edgy’ comics like George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Dave Chappelle, Louis CK and Mitch Hedberg. I pulled myself out of this hippy gaze the place comedy was imagined to be ‘clean’ and immediately discovered myself empowered by the anti-establishment commentary that ran parallel to those comedians’ acts.
Simultaneously, I used to be having fun with the sketches of, the now dormant, All India Backchod (AIB). It was heartwarming to find that they tipped their hat to Srivastava, by talking to him on one in all their podcasts, in 2013. Coincidentally, after the controversial AIB Roast in 2015, Srivastava condemned the present and I discovered myself at odds with my childhood hero and my recently-found gusto for freedom of speech and expression. Srivastava, with fellow comic Pal, additionally went out on a tirade in opposition to the new-age comics on a number of information channels.
Srivastava went on to do different issues and I fell out of admiration for the comic. He was additionally fielded by the Samajwadi Party in 2014 however the comic later shifted loyalties to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In March 2019, he was appointed chairman of the Film Development Council within the Uttar Pradesh authorities. He was additionally the model ambassador of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014.
On Wednesday, Srivastava handed away on the age of 58 after preventing for 41 days. As condolences began pouring in, former AIB co-founder Rohan Joshi displayed his displeasure in direction of Srivastava on Instagram. Srivastava, together with fellow comic Pal, did criticise the comedy that I loved as an grownup however I couldn’t settle for the stifling of expression. Srivastava had opened the world of standup comedy to youngsters of my age. His efficiency made me consider within the magic of standup comedy as a efficiency artwork type and the way an individual could make individuals giggle with their sincere dedication to the craft. Thanks to Srivastava, I can have a pleasant banter with individuals from the Hindi-speaking belt. I’ve by no means met Srivastava in actual life and because the jury remains to be out on whether or not one must criticise Srivastava for not understanding in the present day’s comedy and placing down new comics, I’ll take consolation within the previous adage: by no means meet your heroes.