Comedian Shyam Rangeela says his viral video of an imitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a comedy show was never aired. He speaks up on how events unfolded and the pressures on comedians.
I went to do a mimicry show at the Laughter Challenge programme and the jury loved it. Even Akshay Kumar came and said he really enjoyed it and that he had never seen such a good act. I even performed informally for the Golmaal team and they were laughing really loud.
But the channel has decided not to show my act. I was told after 20-25 days that it won’t run. The production team told me verbally, nothing in writing.
They did not give me any elaborate reason, but just that it is political content and that the channel does not want to get into political areas. I was surprised because I was called to perform and my political mimicry is there for all to see.
I was hugely disappointed. I was, in fact, quite confident about my show and was preparing for the next shoot.
I was preparing to do more mimicry in my second round, but they suddenly asked me to do a stand-up act instead. I did not have time to prepare, neither did I have a script. So obviously, I wasn’t at the top of my game. I was eliminated. My core area is mimicry, and that includes political mimicry.
I am considered among the Top 15 mimics in the country. This TV show was very important for me. I had dreamed of this since my childhood, when I was in Class VI. I grew up watching the Laughter Challenge and admired Raju Srivastava and Sunil Pal.
I am 22 now; I have studied animation and video editing, but for the past two years I have become very popular as a mimicry artiste. I have performed on stage in many Indian cities and also had a show in Singapore recently.
There has never been a problem when I performed my “Mitron” act on stage. The audience loves it wherever I go — big cities, small towns. No person called it offensive.
Nobody said ‘do not criticise politicians, do not say anything about Modi’. They just laugh and have a good time. In fact, as soon I utter the word “mitron”, they start giggling and clapping. They understand what the act is about.
My comedy is political. I have no hesitation in saying that. Today’s youth is very much interested and involved in politics. They share my comic acts on social media and relish the fact that I am mimicking powerful politicians.
This is because political debates are so serious, each politician is screaming at another. Debates are reduced to attacks and counterattacks. So, I bring some lightness to it.
I tell people I am not targetting the Prime Minister. I tell them, ‘Did you not make fun of former PM Manmohan Singh? Did you not laugh at those jokes?’ This is just like that.
I take care that I don’t say anything incorrect or offensive. To make people laugh and yet understand the nuances of public and political mood is not easy. It is an art.
I tell people, I am not aligned with any political party. I watch everybody, then put some thinking into writing my script. I also show it to friends to make sure there is nothing objectionable.
These days it is becoming difficult to do comedy absolutely freely. You say anything, and someone or the other is offended. Why are people beginning to get easily offended? Everything gets blown out of proportion. One has to protect oneself.
I am a straight-forward village boy from Mokamwala in Sri Ganganagar district. I am the son of a farmer and studied in a Hindi medium school. But I have dreams of making it a big in Mumbai. My family was really excited about seeing me on this TV show, but they went into despair when they heard it’s canceled. But now, they are just happy that the audition video is on all phones.
I have never done radio or TV shows before. My videos go viral and I get calls for live shows.
I read on Facebook that there used to be a radio show called “Mitron” and that they had to pull it down. I thought to myself at that time — maybe radio has stricter rules, but YouTube is still free.
I get so many views for my episodes on YouTube. “Mitron” is not the only act I do. My acts on ‘Sonam Gupta bewafa hai’ and braid-chopping are very popular too.
I don’t understand censorship rules. Maybe the channel does not want to get into politics and hurt public sentiment. I don’t know how the audition video leaked and went viral. But I don’t think Modi is opposed to mimicry. He once talked on ‘Mann Ki Baat’ programme about how people mimic him and speak like him. He said he likes that.
Rahul Gandhi videos are funny by themselves. There’s no need to make fun of those who are themselves making you laugh. The real fun is in making fun of those that nobody is making fun of.
As artistes and comedians, we are stuck today: between those politicians who are doing a very good job of making fun of themselves, and those that people are afraid to make fun of.
(As told to Rama Lakshmi)
ThePrint reached out to Star India for a comment on the non-airing of Shyam Rangeela’s act but there was no response.