BANGALORE: They are young, funny and energetic and they swear by the philosophy ‘Laugh and Let Laugh’. PunchTantraa, a group of 21 young Bangaloreans, is spreading laughter through a unique art form called ‘radical mime’.
What is ‘radical’ about what they do? Says Avinash Meda, a member of the core committee of PunchTantraa and a senior software engineer at SAP Labs, “Conventionally, mime is about actors with painted faces portraying different emotions- anger, sadness, joy, humour without uttering a single word. Our acts deviate from this method. We emote only humour with constant narration in the background. Each of our acts is 90-minutes long and has a narrator who provides voice-over, sound effects and a cappella music.”
Whatever the theme, the common thread is comedy and they piece it together through mad ads, spoofs, mime, theatre, song, sound and their unique imagination. “Laughter is a neutral emotion. But nowadays people have forgotten to laugh and are often depressed, given the pressures of work and their stressed-out lives. So, we try to do our bit to make Bangalore laugh,” Avinash opines.
But the important differentiating factor, according to Avinash, is the way they juxtapose humour with social messages. “In all our acts, we delve into common issues that plague the city and current affairs and we express it all in a humourous manner to drive home a message.” In the past, subjects like child marriage, waste segregation, traffic woes and more recently the Indian elections and Indian Premier League (IPL) have been the focal point of their shows.
Engineers, doctors and even students- form a part of this group. So how did this diverse group come together? Arjun, a member of PunchTantraa and a final year M Tech student, says, “When we were graduating, we used to take part in ‘Mad Ad’ competitions for our respective college teams. We used to even compete against each other at inter-collegiate fests. But when we passed out of college and moved into different professions, we had a longing to do what we loved the most- make people laugh.” With a zeal for comedy and determined to popularise stage forms like mad ads, movie spoofs and mime at a professional level, they decided to put up a ticketed-show a the KH Kala Soudha in Hanumanthnagar in August 2012.
“It was only our first show then and we were unknown. But the tickets were all sold out and the audience loved our performance,” Arjun recounts. This response encouraged them to take their act to many other places.
Radical Mime, as a distinct form of comedy theatre, is picking up in the city. Following the first performance, the group has completed over 40 shows- stage events as well corporate gigs. He explains, “We have held over 15 shows at Ranga Shankara, KH Kala Soudha, MLR Convention and various other places in the city. Apart from this, we have conducted shows for companies like HP, Wipro for their annual days, team get-togethers and other events.”
Their acts are spread across three seasons- ‘Laughter Punch’, ‘Laughter Storm’ and ‘Laughter Fusion.’ A property that they are currently concentrating on is ‘Open-Up’ that happens every Sunday at Rangasthala, MG Road Metro station. During this gig, the stage is thrown open to well-known and amateur performers alike. Arjun says, “We have shared stage space with the likes of Kanan Gill, Praveen Kumar and Rajshekar. We also invite aspiring mime artistes to register through our website and get a chance to perform with us.” Avinash believes that the idea behind this initiative is to give these aspiring artistes a platform to showcase their talent and test their skills.
Recently, PunchTantraa won the People's Choice Award at the Short+Sweet Bengaluru 2014, a festival that recognizes emerging talent in theatre. They say, this is only the start and are raring to go places.