Comedian and screenwriter Anuvab Pal on life and success
Anuvab Pal, one of the renowned comedians in the country, is also a playwright, screenwriter and an author. He co-wrote movies like Loins of Punjab Presents, Chaurahen and Baar Baar Dekho and his book The President is Coming was made into India’s first mockumentary film. The eloquent Pal welcomed us warmly on a Saturday afternoon for a chat over a cup of coffee at hi residence on Ballygunge Road.
“The first time I went on stage was as a seven-year-old lad. I used to be a part of a Bengali theatre troupe and we used to do plays based on fables. This particular play was probably about a lost walking stick and I had to play the role of an old man. There were about a hundred people on the other side and I really hammed my character up. Back then, because Bengali people were very much acquainted with the Jatra culture, I believe, they actually liked it,” reminisces Pal, from the depths of his chair.
For the author of Chaos Theory, a play that has won numerous accolades across the world - making people laugh with his storytelling has always been of greater importance than the number of people in the crowd.
Around two decades later, when he went to write an article on Mumbai’s famous Comedy Store, he ended up auditioning for the gig and that proved to be a turning point in his career. “I had gone to write an article about the rise of English comedy in India and the person I was supposed to interview insisted that I must perform a stand-up in order to get my job done. That happened to change my life, and for the last eleven years I have been touring around the world as a stand-up comic,” says the La Martiniere alumnus.
Talking about the evolution of comedy in the last ten years, he says “I was not ready for the power of YouTube as being transformative for Indian Comedy. I could never anticipate how powerful the smartphone will be for disseminating comedy and I thought I could continue doing just live shows. So the biggest change, I think, in terms of entertainment, has been digital.”
The city-bred funny man will soon be debuting in a Bengali film Ahaa Re directed by Ranjan Ghosh, that revolves around the art of cooking. He will be seen donning the role of a Punjabi restaurant owner who runs a Bengali food take-out. “I have never acted in a Bengali film before and I’m really looking forward to it,” shared the Ohio Wesleyan University graduate. “I am very interested in writing and doing a comic act set in Calcutta about which I am in talks with Venkatesh Films,” adds he. Anuvab will also be working with the BBC this year for a tv show set in Darjeeling.
Pal believes every part of the country is now developing its own comic scene and with time English will only be a small niche. “Language has its own nuance. What you write in which language is very critical. You have to make the content relatable to the region specific audience. A joke that would work in Calcutta, might not in London.”
When asked about the pros and cons of being a performer, he smirks, “The only pro is you get to wake up late on Mondays because you work on weekends. The con is you are never anywhere as you are travelling all the time.”