Monday, 30th October 2017

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The marvellous Ms. Mallika Dua

When she is in the house, you cannot help but laugh

  • Published 19.07.19, 6:31 PM
  • Updated 19.07.19, 6:31 PM
  • 3 mins read
Mallika Dua Picture: Rashbehari Das

When Mallika Dua is in the house, you cannot help but laugh. The clutching-your-stomach-and-guffawing kind of laugh. At the same time, it’s also the conscious, aware and good-hearted laugh that champions the cause of equal opportunity with refreshing honesty and without degrading any gender, as opposed to slapstick, sexist humour that makes your eyes roll, more often than not.

So what’s the most difficult part about being funny all the time? “That — being funny all the time — is the most difficult part! Especially when you are not as much of an extrovert as social media makes it seem,” admitted Mallika, when I caught up with her for a few minutes before she was set to regale a bunch of YFLO ladies gathered at Refinery 091 for YFLO presents The Marvellous Ms. Mallika on July 9.

“In Mumbai, a lot of my work depends on how much I socialise and I am not naturally very bubbly and social, unless I am with my core group. So if I had to sum up, I would say the hardest part is being funny while adulting,” explained Mallika.

Having had an overdose of Mallika’s online accents and avatars, thanks to friends and colleagues who are huge fans, I expected to meet an “influencer” and have her decode what that word actually meant. Instead, the Mallika I met could have been anybody that you run into at a party and have a normal conversation with on anything from the Delhi vs Mumbai debate to how a bunch of American men were legislating on issues concerning a woman’s body!

The lady behind the likes of ‘Makeup Didi’ and ‘Tinder Aunty’ first felt the inklings of a profession that was meant to be during her stage outings in school while playing one of the Von Trapp children and debating a lot. “I was shy in nature but always felt comfortable on stage. Acting ka toh hamesha shawk tha!” said Mallika in that accent that had us at get-go and made her a YouTube sensation.

“My mum is a Tamilian but speaks fluent Bangla, sings in Bangla and cooks Bengali food as well because of her Gole Market neighbours when she was growing up. I have been to Calcutta only once before for two hours during a layover so that does not count. I am not going to use any Calcutta stereotypes in my set but when I used to work in advertising, most of my colleagues were Bengali and there was no real work being done after lunch!” laughed Mallika, when I question her about her set. And true to what she said, she did not draw stereotypes about a city she’s unfamiliar with or even pick on anybody in the audience, contrary to what most comedian/nes rely on to trigger laughter. Instead, Mallika’s jokes were about the city she was bred in and the one she now calls home and were, therefore, more nuanced and funny in the truest self.

“The constant need to make yourself likeable as opposed to a man, who is more easily forgiven, is unfair. I get labelled ‘difficult’ very easily because I hold my ground and say ‘Ye nahi chalega’, which any guy would anyway say! We are judged very quickly and are judged too often on our looks,” summed up Mallika, listing, perhaps, all the pitfalls that every woman faces every day, irrespective of the profession she is in. Like Mallika said, “Asking for what you deserve is always a problem. Always.”

“But it’s also a time when society wants to listen to what a woman has to say and so it’s a pro by virtue of all the cons! There’s a sisterhood culture that’s coming up and it’s never been us against each other,” she pointed out.

Having shifted to Mumbai from Delhi for her profession, Mallika also had a word of advice for anyone looking to make inroads into the same industry, no matter the city — “I think people in Calcutta should make use of the unavailability of not enough comedian/nes and hit up as many open mics as they can — it’s like rehearsing when nobody is watching, which is great! Once they’re ready with a set, they can just put it out online. Even I was discovered on YouTube, babes!”