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Why stand-up comedy has had a sluggish begin in Tamil Nadu Specific Occasions

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In Might 2019, the BBC printed an article titled “Nesamani: Who’s he and why is the world praying for him?” The explanation the #PrayForNesamani hashtag had change into a worldwide fad was the intelligent method by which it was performed. It began when somebody resurrected the long-lasting character of Nesamani, a constructing contractor performed by the comedian-actor Vadivelu in Buddies, a 2001 Tamil movie, who’s knocked unconscious by a hammer falling on his head. In a single day, the Tamil Twitter viewers constructed a fan fiction across the clip and began providing digital prayers for his “restoration”, leading to hilarious messages. The hashtag quickly overtook the then trending BJP hashtag #ModiSarkar2. Subsequent, followers began including the phrase “contractor” to their Twitter handles, a spin-off on the “chowkidar” prefix that BJP leaders and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been including to their names forward of the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Tamil Nadu has a historical past of talking reality to energy, each critically and satirically. The Dravidian motion had many audio system and writers who used wit, wordplay, and poeticism in speeches and writings to amuse audiences, with Periyar, M. Karunanidhi, C.N. Annadurai, and Vaiko being a couple of of the main examples. They infused satire, political cartoons, and fiery oratory within the State’s politics. Moreover mainstream cinema and music, artwork varieties like villu paatu, bommalattam, and veedhi naadagam have liberally sprinkled modern political references into their traditional routines. Tamil folklore researcher and literary historian A.Ok. Perumal has written extensively about Tamil Nadu within the years following the Emergency. He instructed Frontline: “There was a time when stay comedian routines and performs had been carried out within the open air and the place politicians, leaders, and upper-class individuals had been brazenly satirised.”

Additionally Learn | Intolerance and outrage depart Indian stand-up comics with much less to snicker about

Tamil periodicals, too, have historically used editorial cartoons to ship stinging editorials. Vikatan’s political cartoons had been famend. Equally, Thuglak, based by the late actor and political commentator Cho Ramaswamy, didn’t mince its phrases when taking down politicians.

Pudhugai Boopalam Pragatheeswaran doing his show.

Pudhugai Boopalam Pragatheeswaran doing his present.
| Picture Credit score:
YouTube screengrab

In 2015, when the favored people singer and activist Kovan sang “Moodu Tasmac-ai moodu” (Shut down TASMAC), holding the then AIADMK authorities chargeable for rampant alcoholism (the liquor commerce is managed by the State authorities), it received him arrested. Kovan’s work follows within the footsteps of Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram, a socialist lyricist whose songs delivered messages towards non-public property, superstitions, and so forth.

Across the mid-2000s, when “stand-up comedy” had not but gained foreign money, well-liked Tamil tv exhibits like Kalakkapovadhu Yaaru and Asathapovathu Yaaru had been already that includes mimics, comedians, and mime artists. They had been the breeding floor for a lot of performers who went on to change into movie comics.

Highlights
  • Moreover mainstream cinema and music, artwork varieties like villu paatu, bommalattam, and veedhi naadagam have liberally sprinkled modern political references into their traditional routines.
  • Tamil periodicals, too, have historically used editorial cartoons to ship stinging editorials.
  • Tamil Nadu additionally boasts a wealthy custom of public debate often known as pattimandram.
  • Stand-up comedy, as a style in Tamil Nadu remains to be nascent, but it surely may be as a result of caricature, parody, and political satire have all the time been an integral a part of the Tamil stage and cinema tradition.

Custom of public debate

Tamil Nadu additionally boasts a wealthy custom of public debate often known as pattimandram. The televised pattimandram, slotted for prime-time morning slots on competition days, is an article of religion, with a lot significance given to pun, witty repartee, and switch of phrase. These periods, that are presided over by Tamil students like Solomon Pappaiah and seasoned debaters similar to Bharathi Baskar and S. Raja, nurture the wealthy argumentative custom of Tamil society.

Amongst at this time’s stand-up artists, the style of political satire is saved alive by performers like Pudhugai Boopalam Pragatheeswaran, who laces his exhibits with scathing and deeply political satire about points like inflation, unemployment, caste, faith, and politics. Surprisingly, nevertheless, the hoary current realities of Tamil Nadu aren’t alluded to by most English or Tanglish performers. The main ones, after beginning off with themes round filter espresso, Mylapore, and vegetarianism later moved on to secure subjects like NRIs, State board schooling, and many others. When somebody like Vikram Arul Vidyapathi tried to broach a subject like reservation in 2019, he was shot down by privilleged-caste critics.

The stand-up comedian Vikram Arul Vidyapathi performing in Erode. His recent “Christian School vs ‘Normal’ School” comedy video sparked discussions. 

The slapstick comedian Vikram Arul Vidyapathi performing in Erode. His latest “Christian College vs ‘Regular’ College” comedy video sparked discussions. 
| Picture Credit score:
Instagram

Karthik Kumar based the collective Evam Stand-up Tamasha in 2009 and was one of many first comics within the State to carry out stand-up. In keeping with him, it’s dangerous to brazenly mock or poke enjoyable on the ruling social gathering of the day. “Whether or not Munawar [Faruqui] or Vir [Das], there’s consciousness that authorized weapons like sedition or defamation could be slapped on us.” Whereas Karthik admitted that comics within the South have a security internet their northern counterparts don’t, he additionally argued that the shape had not but come of age. “It’s been round within the West for about 80-90 years, so there’s an understanding about the way it works and the way it must be obtained. Individuals are but to grasp it right here.”

Sudarsan Ramamurthy, aka “Soda”, cracks jokes about Chennai visitors, marriage, or consuming, whereas Ramkumar Natarajan, aka “IT supervisor Annachi”, sticks to office dynamics. His Tirunelveli slang and IT workplace jokes are a giant hit within the company circuit. Paradoxically, stated Sudarsan, Chennai is the one metropolis the place a key comedy venue, The Medai, stands lower than 100 metres from the Chief Minister’s home, however most stand-up artists keep away from politics. As does Sudarsan. “I don’t observe political information,” he stated, “and secondly, I’m conscious of my caste privilege.” That stated, he does imagine Chennai “will in all probability see political units a couple of years down the road.”

Stand-up comedian Ramkumar Natarajan.

Slapstick comedian Ramkumar Natarajan.
| Picture Credit score:
YouTube screengrab

One cause why Karthik and Sudarsan advise taking part in it secure is as a result of a number of English and Tanglish stand-ups additionally carry out on OTT. “Folks don’t take offence when they’re listening to a set stay; they take offence when they’re viewing it digitally,” stated Sudarsan. Additionally, the medium’s attain eliminates the comic’s management over content material and the way it’s perceived or seen.

Additionally Learn | Editor’s Word: The facility of political comedy in instances of propaganda and censorship

Tamil language units like Pragatheeswaran’s, in distinction, are carried out stay and sometimes backed by progressive teams. Jenson Dhivakar’s units on caste and caste-based politics are massively well-liked. He additionally takes on an array of BJP leaders in his exhibits. His exhibits are aired on Kalaignar TV, which is owned by the DMK, and they’re additionally obtainable on YouTube. In keeping with Ramkumar: “Many smaller, upcoming comedians have content material with darkish humour, caste, faith, social evils, and politics, however they don’t have a digital presence but.”

General, nevertheless, Chennai sees low viewers turnouts for stand-up exhibits, regardless of the materials. This may very well be as a result of the style remains to be nascent, but it surely may be as a result of caricature, parody, and political satire have all the time been an integral a part of the Tamil stage and cinema tradition. There’s sufficient political content material right here for individuals to reply to, quote, and snicker at, making the stand-up format a typically dispensable choice.

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