'Doing good work is the only way you can differentiate yourself'
...says stand-up comedian Bhargav Ramakrishnan, whose solo special, Kung Fu Bonda, released on Amazon Prime Video last week
One of the biggest reasons for the success of the stand-up scene in India is the relatability an artiste brings to the content. This is quite the forte of Chennai-born comedian Bhargav Ramakrishnan, better known as Baggy, whose special, Kung Fu Bonda, released in Amazon Prime Video last week. "I got the idea for the show after I turned 30. This special connects with everyone because it's something everyone has or will go through in life," says Baggy, who has done 45 shows.
"My live show premiered in July 2017 and since then, I have taken it all over India and countries such as Singapore and Malaysia. When you do a special, you have anywhere between ten months to two years to showcase it," says the comic, who adds that this is the best part. "It is fun to be on tours, perform to a live audience, and do shows day in and day out. This is why a lot of comics do what they do. I miss it during this lockdown. This show on Prime is content I performed in Chennai and I think it's a great time to be released."
Baggy doesn't think repeated performances get monotonous for him. "Every show has a different set of audience. In live shows, I start off by conversing with the audience. Just talking with them is a lot of fun and the show starts when it starts. The show takes a new shape and form every time it's performed. On the day this special was shot, the show in fact started 45 minutes late. I enjoy the unpredictability," says Baggy. The special has him pairing a pancha kacham with a blazer and bowtie. "I think it represents the content in a sense."
His jokes are South-centric, and Baggy explains, "They are drawn from my sensibilities. I would love to perform more in Tamil but I studied in English, so I think in that language." The comedian also says that he tweaks his shows when performing in other cities, especially when performing abroad. "That's a challenge because a joke has a context. When performing in India, I can make a joke about how our first pizza experience is a visit to Pizza Corner and so many people would connect with it. But when abroad, I have to introduce that world to the audience to sell the premise. Based on where I am performing, there will be a good 30-35 per cent difference in each show," says Baggy.
Speaking about OTT platforms and the influx of stand-up specials, Baggy says, "Original content is doing wonders. We have a market of about a billion people who are consuming different content. If we add up the number of people who have seen my shows in the last 12 years, it will be nowhere close to the number of views I have for a video. These platforms give us access to so many people."
Stand-up comedy in the last decade has become a vibrant space, with more and more entrants coming in every day. "When art of any form thrives, it is good. If we have to draw a scale and differentiate shows into two piles — good and bad — consumption of live art should always be piled on the good side. More performers mean more audience for this space. Doing good work is the only way you can differentiate yourself."
Baggy does believe that not everyone would be on the same page as he is, when it comes to style of humour. "My humour comes from what I have observed. I talk about sex in my show, but some might find it to be taboo. The point is, I have something funny to say about it. If you come to me and say you did not like it because you don't like people talking about sex, then I would not be interested in that conversation. But if you come up to me and say that my take on that topic resulted in a bad joke, then I would relook it. I am yet to say something that's too controversial (laughs)."