You may know him as Varun Thakur or his alter-ego Vicky Malhotra, but if you are a fan of stand-up comedy in India, there’s no way this funnyman could be a stranger to you. “M’self Vicky M’lhotra, but you can call me Rocky,” he smirks, in a comedy set from 2016 that has since spiralled into a viral phenomenon and is currently sitting pretty on YouTube with over 2 million views.
Credit this success to his scintillating observational skills and bang-on comic timing, but Varun Thakur’s got something else going for him. We think it’s the whole ‘boy-next-door’ thing and for Mumbaikars, he’s literally that: a Maharashtrian-Sindhi hybrid from the filmiest of Mumbai’s suburbs — Andheri. It should come as no surprise then that Varun has the city’s varied and colourful imports down pat, besides an extraordinary Nana Patekar impression in his arsenal.
Here’s a guy who exemplifies the adage ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ and it is this very ability that appears to have endeared him to legions of fans. Happy to be sharing the stand-up comedy boom in India with the likes of Atul Khatri and Angad Singh Ranyal, here’s the lowdown on Varun Thakur — indisputably one of the most popular comedians in the country today.
MILKING THE GOOD (LOKHANDWALA) LIFE
In a country where almost everyone secretly aspires to be a Bollywood star at some point in life, Thakur’s resume is tailor-made for gags that crack up full houses. His journey is sufficiently non-linear; interesting, yet identifiable. Shunning his dad’s business for a BMM in advertising from Jai Hind College, he put in four years script writing for TV channels. He later went to the University of Bristol for a Masters in filmmaking, returning to Mumbai armed with dreams of becoming an actor. The inevitable round of photo sessions and auditions followed; a journey that thousands go through and which is depicted in his stand-up routines with hilarious accuracy. Thakur is endearingly candid — following up his punch lines with his own giggles before the audience can follow — and strikes an instant chord, even if you haven’t hung out at ‘Sisidi’ (that’s ‘Café Coffee Day’ for the uninitiated) way more than you should. From auditioning for a eunuch’s role in Agneepath (the new one) to his world-famous 15 second cameo in Jab Tak Hai Jaan — which his mother says ‘also stars Shah Rukh Khan’ — his chronicles from a short-lived actor’s life are rib-tickling and bordering on the tragic-comic, sans the pathos. This 30-year-old curly-haired comic keeps things light and rarely gets bitter or prone to rants, but acting and comedy aside, Varun is undeniably a fine editor of his own work. Sample this for brevity: “I am a method actor. I only do one movie a year… The one movie I get, I do it.” That’s the sort of humour we like: no-frills, straightforward and spot on!
A HA-HA-HARD DAY’S WORK
He may crack one wise one too many at the expense of the Maharashtrian gym trainer and have the room sniggering at the foibles of everyone from his parents to girlfriends, but this funnyman is anything but another good-looking slacker, scribbling jokes and flirting all day at ‘Sisidi’. For a self-confessed “accidental comedian” — he won Vir Das’s open mike night in 2010 — Thakur has carved a solid career on the comedy scene in India. He’s the co-founder of Schitzengiggles (SnG), a comedy collective specialising in stand-up, improv and sketch comedy, which has garnered over 5,50,000 subscribers and 61 million views. While they’ve opted to be identified by the company name ‘Schitzengiggles’ (say it out loud to figure it out; apparently it means doing something for the fun of it), Thakur and his irreverent band of boys (including co-founder Karan Talwar, Neville Shah and Aadar Malik) can hardly be described as professionally nonchalant. Varun admits to logging between three to nine months for an hour’s worth of stand-up gold — and this work ethic stands him in good stead. When he isn’t unleashing viral content — Gore Gote, a testicular cream advert he starred in, was a whip-smart parody on India’s obsession with fair (ahem) skin — Thakur is much in demand on the corporate circuit, regaling work-weary executives with his breezy brand of laughs. He’s also found time to anchor shows on MTV, MTV Indies, UTV Bindaas, Hotstar and Radio Mirchi. “A genuine fascination for making people laugh, a slight bit of intrinsic humour and lots of hard work is what makes a comedian. Continuous improvisation and re-inventing is mandatory to avoid a state of stagnancy,” he says.
BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE
It takes a certain amount of talent — and decent writing skills — to stretch a popular character from a one-hour stand-up routine into an independent series. Thakur has successfully managed to branch his Vicky Malhotra alter-ego into wildly popular Snapchat stories and Facebook feeds. Daily situations between Malhotra and a cast of random characters (from his dad and casting agent to a certain Nargis Fakhri), are sending netizens into fits of guffaws; even if the struggling actor (Malhotra, that is) is obnoxiously sexist. It’s the kind of personal comedy that Thakur adores sharing with his audience. It is also to his credit that Thakur’s own good-boy image doesn’t blend into Malhotra’s dim-witted character in the ‘Vicky This Side, Varun That Side’ vines. The occasional offending missile is couched in a disarming grin and another self-depreciating dig — and you’re hooked. Of course, then he goes and Instagrams a picture of himself shaking a leg with renegade-du-jour Kangana Ranaut in a song sequence in the upcoming film, Simran. With his good looks (Cyrus Sahukar calls another artiste the George Clooney of comedy though), great sense of humour, infectious energy and a presence in the right place at the right time, it is really difficult not to fall for this funny guy.
Varun will host Black Dog Easy Evenings in Kolkata on December 8, in Bangalore on December 9 and in Hyderabad on December 10, 2017. Save the date!
Image Credits: youtube.com; navhindtimes.in; eventshigh.com; twitter.com
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