BANGALORE: In Bangalore for the finale of his extremely successful comedy show, The World Wants to Know, funnyman Anuvab Pal takes on the quirks of the Indians in the nation and the world with equal ease.
At first glance he looks like your average middle-aged Bengali man next door, but behind this unassuming appearance lies a man with spectacular sense of humour who dons several hats depending on the time of day. He is a novelist, a playwright, a screenwriter, a columnist for newspapers and magazines and one of the early Indian stand-up comedians who has taken his modern, upper-middle class humour to the world stage.
Pal and his producer, city-based comedian and writer Ajit Saldanha staged the latest version of the original show, The Nation Wants to Know, in the city on Thursday and Friday.
With nearly 25 performances in Bangalore since its premiere four years ago, the sketches have mutated a fair bit. "Bangalore has been an important crucible for the show and has contributed to how the content has evolved," says Saldanha. "Our comedy is different in the sense that the content is nuanced and is targeted at the highest common factor rather than the lowest," both Saldanha and Pal agree.
Although much has changed, the humour quotient continues to rise. Anuvab Pal greets the full house at a posh city nightclub by apologising for his appearance which he describes as that of a middle-aged and balding ULIP salesman nagging you to invest in his scheme.
This is followed up by jibes at the entrepreneurial non-English speaking Gujaratis who are marching towards the ‘acche din’ with unmatched gusto, the well built Punjabis who grunt their way through daily life, right from the gym to their Audis, and the self-deprecatory jibes at the cowardly London loving Bengalis.
That pretty much sets the tone for the night as he unravels the history of modern India with his razor-sharp wit.
"The show is about the loss of the English-speaking Indian and how he has become a relic from the colonial world in an India which does not balk at saying 'jab we met'," says Pal.
Through Pal's comic lens, the eccentricities of modern India are presented to an unsuspecting and equally modern audience, who by the end of the night are compelled to take a break from typing ROFL tweets about the performance and actually do the deed.
Language is his weapon as well as the target and Pal's alternative history of the country studies the fallout of the colonial heritage and whether as he puts it, "We have succeeded in doing to the English language what the English colonizers did to us."
Language is also something that Anuvab Pal has appropriated as his own and transformed into multi-hued works of comedy. "Good comedy is good storytelling and I am interested in the art of the narrative," says Pal and this comes across in the various media that he experiments with.
Among the early performers of the Comedy Store in Bombay, this one time banker has come a long way as he has performed in the top comedy clubs in the world and is the first Indian comedian after Russell Peters to sell out shows in New York.
His inimitable and wry humour is apparent as he banters about Mithun Chakraborty - the foremost disco dancer, Bengalis who revel in the stiff-upper lip British ways and their longing for a life and an accent (that obviously does not exist) in the old 'Blighty' and real estate nomenclature — "In Bangalore people seem to put together their son's names with a Greek God and thus you have gods like Zeus gracing skyscraper projects on Hosur Road!"
It is perhaps fitting that his show ends with an absurd event.
A lanky old man waves his hands and marches up on stage to tell a joke that he has probably received by a group SMS.
Unfazed by it, Pal pats him on the back and leaves the audience in splits with a last joke.