Raju Srivastava passed away today after being in the ICU for 41 days. The comedian-actor had suffered a heart attack while working out in the gym last month. The 58-year-old artiste is survived by his wife and two children.
Born in a middle-class family in Kanpur, Raju Srivastava‘s mimicry skills were noticed at a young age. In an old interview, Srivastava had mentioned how he would wait for school functions to perform on stage. With the dream to spread laughter, he started his journey to become a comedian and moved to Mumbai soon after. He was once noticed while mimicking Amitabh Bachchan and soon started getting offers to mimic him on screen. The comedian has time and again credited Big B for helping him kickstart his career.
After doing blink-and-miss roles in films like Maine Pyaar Kiya, Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiyaa, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon among others, his career took off after he participated in The Great Indian Laughter Challenge. One of the first stand-up shows in the country, the show gave a new lease of life to not only Srivastava but even his co-contestants including Sunil Pal, Naveen Prabhakar and Bhagwant Mann, who is now the Punjab CM.
In this show, Raju Srivastava started performing as Gajodhar bhaiya, a character that he said was inspired by a barber in his hometown. “He had quite the talent for telling stories and would share the most eccentric stories in an animated way,” the comedian had told Zoom TV in an interview in 2012. Gajodhar bhaiya, in his laidback attitude, shared the simplest of incidental stories in the most hilarious way. The character would keep his hands behind his head as he spoke, a trait that’s still copied by fans. His accent and the way he innocently insulted listeners made the character quite lovable, and Srivastava found himself a new identity, which went on to become as popular as him.
In the same interview, Srivastava also spoke about how stand-up was recognized quite late in India. However, after the show, the lives of all the contestants changed overnight. “We used to get Rs 2000 earlier for shows, and then in an instant, we were paid Rs 2-5 lakh. We were invited to perform overseas, and soon we all had bought houses and cars in Mumbai. It was unbelievable,” he added.
After Raju Srivastava ended up as the second-runner up on The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, he starred in its spin-off, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge – Champions, and was awarded the title of King of Comedy. He also got himself a solo show Raju Hazir Ho in 2008 that aired on Imagine TV. The artiste has also been part of shows like Comedy Nights with Kapil, The Kapil Sharma Show and Mazaak Mazaak Mein, and even hosted Gangs of Haseepur on Zee TV in 2014.
Other than comedy, Srivastava also participated in Bigg Boss 3 and Nach Baliye 6. In the controversial reality show, then hosted by Amitabh Bachchan, the comedian was quite popular among audiences and housemates alike. It was only with Kamaal Rashid Khan aka KRK that the comedian once lost his temper, and came to blows. His conversations with Big B also made for an entertaining watch. He was evicted on week 9 after failing to get enough votes. As for the dance reality show, Srivastava and his wife Shikha were eliminated in just a couple of weeks given they were competing not only with great dancers but also with popular TV stars.
Being a star performer of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, Raju Srivastava made a guest appearance when the show made a comeback in 2017. His last television appearance also happens to be on India’s Laughter Champion, a show by the same team.