| Small-screen comedians in The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, on STAR One. Picture by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya
If laughter is the best medicine, Calcuttans are queuing up for a liberal dose of it. And that, too, fresh off the small screen.
After the Bollywood biggies and the Indian Idols, the stars of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge are the most wanted ' at marriage functions and private parties.
Sunil Pal, Ehsaan Qureshi, Navin Prabhakar, the stand-up comic acts, have become household names with the success of the show on STAR One hosted by Shekhar Suman and Navjot Singh Sidhu. The show is over, but the fun has only just begun.
The comedy calendar in Calcutta is full up till March. 'Participants in the Laughter show have become a craze at marriages and private parties. At least one of them is in Calcutta every weekend performing either at a club or at a family function,' says Sanjay Agarwal, whose Solitaire Events has already booked these artistes for a dozen Holi bashes in March. Kavi Sammelans all, with a funny twist in the festive tale. 'But before that, we are bringing some of them down for two weddings by the end of this year,' he adds.
These far-from-glamorous comedians are even pushing off stage small-screen stars and starlets.
'People hosting big parties do not want to lag behind and are desperate to be in tune with the latest craze. The actors from the saas-bahu sagas and Indian Idols have been hot, but this season belongs to the Laughter brigade,' says Avinash Singhania, whose event management company Encore is bringing down the comedians for three back-to-back marriages before 2005 bids goodbye.
But what do these comic characters bring to the wedding feast' Loads of laughter and loud cheers. Big-screen stars, say event managers, make a brief appearance, pose for few pictures and exit before you can say Bollywood. A few others mouth a few lines and then break into a song-and-dance routine. But the comedians really get the family crowd going with their jokes and one-liners. They have everyone in splits, which adds to the variety.
And unlike cine stars who seem to be here for a lark — and the lakhs, of course — these comedians put in quite an effort to tickle the funny bone. The script must revolve around the hot topics of the day to strike a chord with everyone.
“The topics are current, like the Mumbai bar girls episode (Mumbai’s Navin Prabhakar specialises in it) or Shah Rukh Khan’s Inner and Outer World. One artiste alone can carry a show for an hour on the trot and if he has a support, the performance can last two to three hours. These artistes hail from different parts of the country and bring a distinct flavour with them,” says Gurpreet Kaur Sethi of RGV Events.
Sunil Pal, winner of the Great Indian Laughter Challenge, charges upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh for an appearance. The rest fall into the Rs 40,000 to Rs 1,00,000 club, depending on duration and popularity.
“People are most intrigued about how we conceptualise and execute our shows. The idea is to give a funny twist to day-to-day incidents,” says Pal, whose take on Veerappan and Abhijit Sawant are regular requests from the audience.
If Sunil Pal can mimic just about anybody, Ehsaan Qureshi, a poet from Hyderabad, has a unique way of delivering his lines, Deepak Prabhakar mimics even judges Shekhar and Sidhu.
Laughter loud and clear has even made its way from the wedding dais to the dance floor. DJ Girish of Shisha Bar has successfully remixed Ehsaan Qureshi’s one-liners to bring a smile to the party people on Saturday nights.
“Almost everyone has watched this crazy show on air and they identify with it. Whenever I play it, people on the dance floor pause, look at me and burst into laughter,” smiles the DJ.