Who makes funnyman Biswa Kalyan Rath laugh out loud?
Ahead of his Abu Dhabi show on August 22, the Indian comedian tells us about the five acts that crack him up
We are not saying that all Bollywood movies are melodramatic. However, the ones that are contain such over-the-top theatrics that it’s almost unfair to not come up with a spoof of them. Case in point: hero is confronted by two goons; hero has one bullet left in his gun; hero shoots and throws a knife behind the bullet; the bullet splits in two and kills off both the baddies. Can you imagine the memes?
It’s scenes, storylines and crackpot histrionics like these that helped catapult Biswa Kalyan Rath into the comedy spotlight. Alongside fellow comedian Kanan Gill, Biswa, who studied to be an engineer, hosted the popular YouTube series Pretentious Movie Reviews. In it, the duo took apart Hindi movies that overstretched their creative licence – think logic-defying plots, questionable dance moves and, indeed, anti-gravity action.
One year and a dozen or so reviews later, Biswa moved on to stand-up, with tours such as Biswa In Your Face and Biswa Mast Aadmi. The comedian will present parts of his act at the Jai Ho Comedy ka Double Dhamal show in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, August 22.
Comedy aside, Biswa, 30, had a cameo in the 2016 coming-of-age film Brahman Naman, and co-wrote 2017’s Laakhon Mein Ek, an Amazon Prime original series that traces the life of a budding mimicry artist who’s forced by his father to study to become an engineer.
Biswa collaborated with now-defunct creative agency All India Bakchod and also appeared on the comedy talk show Son of Abish. He will tour North America in September and October.
Biswa has also been a judge on both seasons of Comicstaan, a reality-TV-style comedy series that seeks out and trains a new generation of talented Indian comedians.
He counts among his own mentors Bangalore comedians Sanjay Manaktala, Sundeep Rao, Praveen Kumar and Vipul Goyal, host of the web series Humorously Yours. “I learnt improv from Kaneez Surka,” Biswa says. “That helped a lot in my comedy career as well.”
We ask Biswa about the five other acts that crack him up, and he comes up with a list that’s at once entertaining and eclectic.
Parel Rawal from Hera Pheri
The 2000 film features Rawal as Babu Bhaiya, a foul-mouthed but soft-hearted garage owner housing two broke tenants, played by Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty. The trio end up answering a ransom call not meant for them, pretending they are the kidnapped child’s relatives and trying to make an extra buck from the real family. A comedy-of-errors plot aside, Hera Pheri is a fan favourite thanks to Rawal’s character and comic timing. From the thick bifocals he peers out of and his hangdog expression to the street-style profanities he spews when annoyed (which is every other minute in the film), Babu Bhaiya is the star of this multicast show.
Eric Cartman from South Park
The obnoxious character from the American animated adult series is on Biswa’s list because he “likes that he says whatever comes to his mind”. And boy, does he ever. Cartman, who is voiced by series co-creator Trey Parker, has been described as a sociopathic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, racist child all rolled into one. With observations such as “selling out is sweet”, Cartman is one of the funniest antiheroes in sitcom history.
Hugh Laurie in House
The British actor played the aloof and acerbic Dr Gregory House in the medical drama between 2004 and 2012. Like much of the show’s fan base, Biswa says Laurie’s sarcastic wit and withering putdowns – delivered to his patients and fellow doctors alike – was what drew him to the show. Laurie won two Golden Globe awards and six Emmy nominations for his portrayal.
Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Arguably one of the funniest books written, it introduced to the world of science fiction a character who, say friends of Biswa, is the comedian reincarnated. In the book, Bowerick Wowbagger is described as an immortal being who “after a period of total boredom ... decided to insult everyone in the universe in alphabetical order”. “[Biswa] Kalyan is Bowerick Wowbagger, only he didn’t need a particle accelerator to get on with the job,” says Ankit DP, co-founder of consumer platform Witworks, who knows Biswa from his Bangalore days.
Entertainment Weekly once called Regan “your favourite comedian’s favourite comedian”. The American performer’s style mirrors Biswa’s own stand-up act: sharp, wry observations that range from everyday events to self-deprecating punch lines. It is a winning formula Biswa promises to bring to his Abu Dhabi show. “It’ll be relatable stuff from daily life, from [India’s] obsession with cricket to the traffic situation. My style keeps changing: from a pseudo-angry rant to more observational humour. I’m also trying to do more characters and voices rather than only plain written jokes.
“I stick to my Hinglish-language jokes as that’s my natural style of speaking and I expect to perform for desi audiences even abroad. This is the first time I’m coming to Abu Dhabi, but I have performed in Dubai before, and it’s always a great crowd. They make you feel right at home.”
Biswa will perform alongside Amit Tandon on Thursday, August 22, at Abu Dhabi National Theatre. For tickets, visit Platinumlist.net
Updated: August 20, 2019 05:42 PM