Stalking to fame

Standup comedian Sumukhi Suresh’s most popular video series is on a woman stalker whose hilarious episodes are the talk of the town

Published: 14th February 2018 10:16 PM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2018 07:53 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

KOCHI: She is the girl of the moment who doesn’t have to act funny to make you laugh. Whether she is playing the part of the shrewd, humourous and brilliant ten-year-old in her YouTube series ‘Behti Naak’ or the crazy, desperate stalker woman named Pushpavalli who moves cities to be near the man she has a huge crush on, Sumukhi Suresh has the talent to tickle your funny bones to the point of making you cry. 
Her most popular ‘Pushpavali’, which started airing on Amazon Prime in December has gone viral.
The stand-up comic, who was in Kerala to host a show jointly with fellow comedian Naveen Richards, tells us about how and why ‘Pushpavalli’ was born and her journey so far as a comedian.

How did the concept of a woman stalking a man come into being?  
I am tired of watching women play black or white roles. There aren’t grey traits to women on screen. It’s almost like everything a woman does has to have a social message. She can’t play a flawed character. Sub-consciously, we only want women to play pure roles. Though I chose stalking as a concept, I also show Pushpavalli fall flat on her face because she has chosen a path where there is no redemption. 

Have people accepted the character? 
I was pleasantly surprised that people understood that Pushpavalli is an anti-hero and watched the show with an open mind. It’s obviously amazing to know that people have ended up binging on the show when they only wanted to watch one episode. 

What were the creative struggles you faced while working on Pushpavalli?
Things became easy when we decided to commit to the fact that Pushpavalli is a stalker and Nikhil (Manish Anand) isn’t interested in her. Our show seems simple but the making was a magnum opus that would have been close to impossible if I didn’t have Debbie Rao (director) and Ankit Mhatre (DOP). Debbie is a star and thank God she was by my side. 

Which is your favourite character?
‘Sumukhi Chawla’ from Better Life Foundation. Naveen gave her to me. 

How has it been working with co-stars and popular standup comedians like Naveen and Kannan Gill, among others?
Working with comics is very exciting because most of us have the same core beliefs but our expressions are different. Naveen and I have written and performed our sketch show, ‘Go Straight Take Left’ together and we will write the next version this year. He is that friend who I call when I am lost when I do stand-up (which is a lot of times). Naveen wrote Pushpavalli with me or rather saved Pushpavalli in ways I cannot explain. He is my joke soldier.

So, how did your stint as a comic work out fruitfully?
I used to work at a food lab and do comedy on the side. My first stint in comedy was The Improv. Then Naveen and I wrote our live sketch show, ‘Go Straight Take Left’. Eventually, I decided to quit my job to pursue comedy full time. ‘Behti Naak’ was my series on ‘YouTube’ and made me realise that if I wish to play different characters I need to write them for myself. With Pushpavalli on Amazon Prime, I have gained confidence in exploring long-form content extensively. And now with ‘Beauty and the Feast’, I am exploring the talk-show angle.

What has been the feedback over the years?
I hopefully don’t wish to be in one just box. I like to do all types of characters and different voices to ensure many people connect with me. Hopefully, people like me for being the girl who works hard and wants to try everything. 

How do you come up with creative content and comic scripts for shows and series? 
A lot of it stems from personal experiences and my desire to play different characters. Sumaira Shaikh is one of my key writers. She was part of the writing team of ‘Pushpavalli’ and now my cookery/talk show ‘Beauty and the Feast’. She will also write Season 2 of ‘Behti Naak’. I think she will inevitably be part of whatever I write because we are interestingly similar yet different. Also, she is hilarious. 

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