‘Being on stage is nerve-racking for me’: Varun Grover

Grover, who is mostly known for writing dialogues and lyrics, translating his writing on stage has been one of his biggest challenges for him
In frame: Varun Grover
In frame: Varun Grover

A name synonymous with insightful storytelling and poignant humour, Varun Grover has carved a unique niche in the Indian creative landscape. From writing dialogues for masterpieces like Masaan to breaking the OTT space with the adaptation of Vikram Chandra’s 2006 book Sacred Games, Grover is now touring the country with his first standup solo Nothing Makes Sense, which will be coming to the city on January 14 at Prestige Srihari Khoday Centre for Performing Arts, Konanakunte.

“The standup solo is called Nothing Makes Sense because it came out of my frustration at how nothing is making sense right now around me, whether it be on a global level, or even at the micro level where we don’t even understand how Covid happened and how it took away three years of our lives and so many of our friends. It is a humorous look at this bizarre world we are living in,” says Grover.

Grover, who is mostly known for writing dialogues and lyrics, and translating his writing on stage has been one of his biggest challenges. Hard as it may be to believe, being on stage for Grover is nothing short of nerve-racking, even after a decade of performing. “I am not a stage person naturally; I am more of a recluse, not really an introvert but someone who prefers solitude. So, being on stage is always very nerve-racking for me,” says the 43-year-old, adding, “But once I am on stage and I start getting the response from the audiences, then it becomes easier for me. The main challenge is translating what I have on paper to stage performance because, as a writer, it is not conversational. I have to find segues, so it does not seem very scripted.”

Being his first standup solo, Grover didn’t expect the love he has received so far from the audience. “When I did the first leg of the tour, it was exhilarating. I hoped for that kind of response, but I did not know it would be that smooth.” The response, he points out, goes to show that people want to hear more content that is about contemporary issues. “I saw that hunger for humour on contemporary issues. It was good to see that people are responding well to that.”

Grover, who is known to not shy away from being political and touch upon hotly-debated topics with works like Aisi Taisi Democracy, a standup comedy show he performed with Sanjay Rajouri and Rahul Ram wanted to make the show a little more personal this time. “The idea is to make it more of an internal show about my growing-up years, about how and where I saw politics in my family growing up, and how that has influenced me. The topics this time are contemporary but with a look at my own life and not at people or politicians outside of me. It is about the world inside me and the constant conflict we go through when we think and feel the world around us,” he says.

For Grover, his audiences are not just fans but a part of the show. “People are either admirers, or friends or core thinkers because comedy shows are a two-way process, and I need people to think and complete the joke sometimes in their heads and then give their response. I expect that they come with an open mind and a sense of sharing a space, and go back with some questions and insights. The Bengaluru audience has always been good to me because of the diverse sensibilities and backgrounds,” says Grover.

He is planning to take the tour to more cities as well as internationally to Europe and the United States of America. “Apart from standup, I have directed a film All India Rank, which will be released on February 23 in theatres. It is a coming-of-age film set in the late ’90s and it is semi-autobiographical,” shares Grover. His directorial debut was screened last year at the Mumbai Film Festival where it had its Asian premiere in November 2023. His standup show will also include an exclusive trailer for the film.

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