Crazy Mohan would have revelled with the premise of Time Enna Boss: Alexander Babu
Standup comic Alexander Babu, who made his onscreen acting debut in the recent Amazon Prime video web series, Time Enna Boss, talks about his acting and standup career, and more
Famous comedian Johnny Lever, one of the few talents to make a successful transition from stage to cinema, once famously said, "Stand-up comedy is a different game all together. In a movie or serial, you are in a situation while on stage you create a situation." Popular standup comic Alexander Babu, who is making a similar transition, recognises that web content is the newest trend. "It is a new wave. Maatram ondru dhaan maaraadhadhu. We need to embrace it, and not feel embarrassed by it," says Alex, about being part of Amazon Prime Video's comedy series, Time Enna Boss.
The show features him in a recurring role as a watchman, who is a wantonly off-key singer, which, of course, is a far cry from his real-life singing credentials. "Writer-director Subu has seen my shows and wrote this role with me in his mind. The character is an extension of my standup persona," says the stand-up-comic-turned-actor, who shot to fame with his solo special, Alex in Wonderland, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Although an accomplished name in standup comedy, Time Enna Boss is one of his first acting roles, and within this universe, he shares screenspace with experienced onscreen comics like Robo Shankar and Karunakaran. Alex shares that while he did enjoy the process, he would surely want to explore the concept of rehearsal in the future. "While performing in stand-up, I have the luxury of time to ensure my jokes come out well, and when dealing with sensitive topics, the audience understands my intent. Acting is without this luxury," says the comic, sharing that the initial plan was to have all the actors come in for rehearsals. "Crazy Mohan plays are well-rehearsed and polished. Even Kamal Haasan talks about the importance of rehearsals. The other actors are professionals and shot their scenes with ease. I wish that we bring in the practice of rehearsals into this world."
As Time Enna Boss is an addition to an already nascent genre in the Tamil web series space, the structure and looks feels inspired. "This could be the first series to come out of the Tamil space on this scale. As for inspirations, I am a Crazy Mohan fan. Avara indha space la vitta poondhu vilayaadirpaaru... The backdrop and the premise of Time Enna Boss would have been a goldmine for him," says Alex.
The actor-comedian who has a role in Madhavan's upcoming film, Maara, is simultaneously creating new content for his stand-up shows. I point out that he is one of the few contemporary comics not to do virtual shows during the lockdown. “When I speak, I want people to understand the sentiment and connect with it in the way I intend them to. This connection is easier in person. It can happen in recorded videos too, but I am not sure it can happen on Zoom. Even while testing my new work with my team, I felt that the connection wasn't getting established in the virtual setup. Zoom is good for a conversation, not a performance," says Alex, who evinces hesitation in adapting to the platform. "As I am not happy with the platform, I know my audience won't too."
As a comic, Alex is not new to criticism. "The problem arises when it gets judgmental. We are living in a world where people want to insult and penalise others all the time. Constructive criticism would result in a conversation, in enhanced understanding. Isn't that the primary function of art itself?" signs off Alex.