What does the nation want to know?

Thursday, 5 December 2013 - 1:29pm IST | Agency: DNA
Comedian Anuvab Pal tries answering this question in his wickedly popular 100-minute, one-man act called 'The Nation Wants to Know'.

What do you do when you complete a 100 shows of stand-up comedy? Top it up with an act that’s even funnier, surely. Precisely what Anuvab Pal’s managed to do with his 100-minute act that’s so tongue-in-cheek-ly named The Nation Wants To Know.


Described as a one-man show that is a culmination of all the shows he’s done before, the act according to Anuvab is “a lot similar to Vir Das’ History of India-VIRitten in terms of its structure” but the topics he will be dealing with are “about current India — the communities, the English language, Old Bollywood and New Bollywood, Bengalis, real estate etc” — and what we think might be the best part — “the last part of the show is not only about Arnab Goswami but also my observations about Doordarshan and what TV debates used to be like then, and what they are today.” “That was rubbish, this is rubbish also,” he quips straight-faced.

As a comedian with more than a 100 shows behind him, Anuvab doesn’t believe in cracking stereotypical jokes. So instead of making tired jokes on the city’s traffic jams or the airport, Bangaloreans attending his shows can expect Anuvab to make hilarious observations on “the start-up boom in the city, of Bangalore being the hub of R&D, how Calcutta can’t become the R&D hub etc.” And while it admittedly does get “exhausting” to hold fort for a whole 100 minutes, Anuvab jests, “It is my job to take the audience along on a journey. Just like you can’t have an engineer going, ‘I have only got three-fourths of a machine ready because I got exhausted, I can’t tell the audience that they are going to get only three-fourths of a show because I am tired, can I?”

Setting the act aside, it is now time to talk about the real deal: The drama that really takes place behind those popular TV debates. Anuvab’s been on quite a few of those, see. “The funniest observation I’ve made,” he says, “are just how soft the debators sound while they’re talking to you through the ear piece from Delhi.” Choosing to explain it with a funny anecdote, he says, “I was once invited  to take part in a discussion on a national news channel. Now, unlike what most people think, as a participant, you are sitting alone in a room, facing the camera with a ear piece tightly squeezed in because the signals are generally weak.

You also have these young interns coordinating with you through their headsets, telling you that you will be on air soon etc. Funnily, it is these people you hear the loudest. So, there I was trying hard to listen to the anchor person’s question when I overheard two young things discussing me.
There’s one girl going, “Couldn’t you get Chetan Bhagat or what? To which the other girl said, “This guy is funny ya. He is a known writer too.” To which the first girl replied, “Whatever, we need someone more mainstream.” “Imagine having to listen to people discussing my credibility even while I had to look serious on the show,” chortles Anuvab.

“TV debates are all about shouting and not listening today,” he wryly notes before he concludes the interview with the answer to our question—  What does the nation really want to know? “I think the nation wants to know who or what this ‘nation’ is,” is his quirky response. There’s nationhood in everything we do. If someone did a story about Indian bakeries, it would never be, “I like bakery food,” it almost always will be, “Are we a nation of bakery food eaters? It is this level of We-ness in everything that we do that amuses me.”

Be at The Nation Wants to Know with Anuvab Pal, 7pm, this evening, at The Humming Tree, 12th Main, Indiranagar; on December 6, 7.30pm, at Templetree Leisure, Marathahalli

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