Five years ago when Rahul Ram of Delhi-based band Indian Ocean watched Sanjay Rajoura debut with a Hindi stand-up comedy act, he had a good laugh and an idea. Over drinks, which they refer to as doodh, later, Ram said, “Yaar isme, peeche gaana hona chahiye. Tu kuch bole aur peeche se kuch gaana ho.”
Rajoura did not forget this and, in May, Ram got the call he had been waiting for. The Delhi-based stand-up comic had just conceptualised a new act called Aisi Taisi Democracy along with lyricist Varun Grover, well-known for his work in Gangs of Wasseypur.
Last weekend, the three debuted with this performance at Epicenter and India Habitat Centre.
The two-hour-long act is about how democracy is an abused gift in India. Punctuated with personal stories of old romances, Aisi Taisi Democracy takes digs at the Aam Aadmi Party, ridiculous Facebook updates by politician Subramanian Swamy, and Rahul Gandhi.
“Sanjay and I wanted to do a show on the manifestos of parties before the election results. Then this idea came up, of how Indians cannot handle democracy,” says Mumbai-based Grover. Ram’s presence on stage, as he breaks out into a politically charged-up song every now and then, makes Aisi Taisi Democracy a must-watch. “Things we couldn’t say in our material, we put them in the songs,” says Grover. Ram sang the eponymous title of the act as well as Kanpura, a song on bijli ki chori, written by Grover for an upcoming movie called Katiyabaaz.
The trio never leaves the stage and the audience witnesses a great camaraderie and a fair amount of leg pulling. They jab into quintessentially Indian habits — in one sequence, Rajoura talks about the tradition of blindly obeying our parents. “By democracy, we don’t just mean what’s happening in the state or the country, but also our attitude. There are so many things happening around us that we don’t question — that’s our greatest problem,” he says. He says he fears the police in Uttar Pradesh more than a goon, and goes on to talk about women’s safety and living across the border (Ghaziabad) in the ’90s and spending the summer without electricity.
In a way, this show is also a result of the frustration that Grover and Rajoura have felt about the stand-up scene in India. “Comedy is the language of the proletariat and now it’s become about pop culture. This act aims at changing that,” says Rajoura. The three are planning to take this around the country, and will perform in Mumbai in July.