Go back to
Home » My Kolkata » Lifestyle » We’re ‘never gonna give up’ the Indian art of ‘Rickrolling’


We’re ‘never gonna give up’ the Indian art of ‘Rickrolling’

The bait-and-switch Internet meme phenomenon gets real IRL writes standup comedian Vikram Poddar

Vikram Poddar | Published 06.01.23, 12:10 PM

If you’re new to the phenomenon of ‘Rickrolling’, you have clearly not been blessed with annoying Gen Z nieces and nephews. The basic idea is tricking the recipient of a link into thinking it is something funny or interesting to them with a misleading title and thumbnail. The initial part of the video is on the real topic, but in a last minute flip, it suddenly starts playing the 1987 song Never Gonna Give You Up by English pop star Rick Astley. The phenomenon of pranking someone this way is called ‘Rickrolling’. My usual response to my niece/nephew pulling this on me is to yell at them like Skeletor from He-Man promising retribution with “I’ll get you next time, you Rickrolling Racoons!”

But as I write this article it got me thinking, isn’t Rickrolling a part of everyday Indian culture? Everything in our society is structured around tricking the recipient into one thing, only for them to get Rickrolled at the end of it.


Like when your MBA college admissions brochure promises you transformational educational experiences only for you to get Rickrolled at the end of the placement season. Or engineering is like a continuous Rickrolling prank that runs for a good four years when you find yourself doing maintenance work on someone else’s code at the end of it.

Or when dating apps promise you “find someone who makes you delete this app” leaving the unsaid Rickroll at the end “and puts you in therapy”.

Indian parents have been Rickrolling their children into arranged marriage for years when they innocently ask you to come home early because a distant relative is visiting.

Being friend-zoned is another form of being Rickrolled by your crush after which your only solace is to crush and roll. On that note, we got Rickrolled by a “sadhu” in Rishikesh who sold us a “transformational experience” only to discover it was tea leaves. But then the whole country has been sold on a “transformational experience” since 2014 only to discover it was tea leaves with a side of lotus stem. But enough about the lotus-shaped logo of India’s G20 presidency.

No one does Rickrolling better than the HR department when your CTC doesn’t transform into take-home on your payslip. They might as well play Rick Astley’s video at the end of every corporate branding film.

As a standup comedian, to me Rickrolling is pretty much a part of the art and science of comedy. So much of standup is essentially based on convincing the audience you are talking about X and tricking them at the very end by substituting X for Y. Like a social media bio that says “male feminist comedian” only to discover the flip at the end is that none of the three words apply in real life.

Perhaps mutual funds are the best form of Rickrolling in marketing, when after a lot of emotional nonsense about “becoming independent”, “getting that big house” and “building that wonderful family life” the ad abruptly ends with a guy suddenly rapping “mutual fund investments are subject to market risk. Please read the offer documents carefully before investing” at a speed that makes you suspect premature ejaculation problems.

But the ultimate Rickrolling is life itself. When, after all the motivational quotes and spiritual gurus and mindfulness sessions, you discover that life is essentially meaningless and all existence is suffering. But for reasons best known only to you, you choose to keep on going by repeating the words of Rick Astley’s song Never gonna give you up. Ironically, it’s Rick’s birthday exactly a month from today.

P.S.: I hope you won’t Rickroll me by leaving this article without sharing it.

The author, Vikram Poddar, is a Marwari investment banker turned corporate comedian. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.

Last updated on 06.01.23, 12:10 PM

More from My Kolkata