The success of male actors essaying female characters in comedy shows is not new. I had essayed scores of female characters earlier on television. In fact, I had taken a one and a half year break from doing such roles as I was afraid that the audience would think that this is all that Ali Asgar can do. So, when I was offered the role of daadi in Comedy Nights With Kapil, I hesitated at first.
The manner in which an actor carries off the female persona is important. This includes the way he talks and walks. The first impression is most often the last, and if you succeed in making an impression in the first instant, 50 per cent of your job is done. The rest of the work is done by how good the script is. If the audience likes the character, then 50 per cent marks pehle hi mil gaya, par yahi agar bahut loud ho gaya, mazaa nahi aata hai, toh wohi 50 per cent minus ho jaata hai. In Comedy Nights With Kapil, my character of daadi or Kiku Sharda’s Palak is not trying to imitate any person. We are not caricatures, a spin off or playing a gag on any person. I have been playing daadi with her loud mannerisms, voice, which are typical of her in the last 70 episodes— we shall complete a year this June. I flirt with the guys, I am ‘talli’. Basically, I do not play the typical daadi, the kind, who hands over the keys to the bahu and goes to Haridwar. My character knows that she has lived her life, and that aaj nahi toh kal usse marna hai, but this daadi believes that, jab tak zinda hoon I will live life queensize. There is a thin line in being cheap and throwing yourself at the men, but here daadi flirts; she is naughty, but not chalu, uske guthno mein dard hain, but abhi bhi dance karti hain. None of the characters have spoken below the belt lines or are crass. Although there is a limitation for an actor to play the same female character in the show, luckily for us we have been accepted by the audience, and in fact, when I do not say my usual dialogues like ittu sa, or imarat kamzor hai par buniyaad abhi bhi mazboot hai, I instantly get messages and tweets that we haven’t heard you say these lines in a long time.
Comedy Nights With Kapil came at the most opportune time, when the audience was craving for a change. Comedy Circus has been running for the past five to six years, but iss mein kuch naya nahi aa raha tha. Comedy Nights With Kapil was like a breath of fresh air. Its success can be attributed to the fact that there is active participation from the audience. Besides, the celebrity quotient has added a lot to its success. Imagine Bachchan saab giving me the shagun ki pappi, rather than the other way round.
When I entered the film industry, in 1984, it was so difficult to even get a glimpse of actors like Dilip Kumar, Rajesh Khanna. But here, in Comedy Nights With Kapil, the audience can ask questions, dance with the celebrities and even hug them. There are no definite formula for success. But, yeh hai ki jo pehli baar aa gaya woh chal gaya.
While some may say that the characters are loud, as opposed to English comedies, which are subtle with more emphasis on the play of words, the Indian audience enjoys loud comedy. Do you think that if daadi spoke lines like, tu bhool gaya bittu, tu ittu sa tha.., in Durga Khote’s tone, it would have made such an impact with the audience? There are certain things that we need to hammer into our audience’s head, to get the desired results. I think Mehmood saab was a greatest comedian. His very presence in the film evoked laughter. For me, the mere appearance or presence of the actor evokes mirth, then he is the best comedian. If the mere thought of the person can bring a smile to my face, then that is comedy for me, especially when you are feeling sad. For me, actors like Charlie Chaplin, Sanjeev Kumar, Jerry Lewis were amazing. To quote Chaplin, “Although you may be crying from within, but when on stage, you are making people laugh,” and this, to me, is comedy.
As told to Farida Khanzada
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