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Raju Srivastava used wit and satire to critique the human condition

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  • Raju Srivastava used wit and satire to critique the human condition

    In many ways, it would be wrong to confine Raju Srivastava to just being a comedian. As a son of Ramesh Chandra Srivastava, the common man’s poet known as Balai Kaka, he learnt to read the pulse of the heartland and course through its veins himself. And though born on Christmas Day in a middle-class family in Kanpur, he challenged his origins in two ways. First, he didn’t let the Western and aspirational worldview to define Everyman from the condescending prism of pity. “Why should a common man be always seen in the context of struggles?” he had asked once. He questioned that presumptuous hypocrisy. Second, he broke down middle-class inhibitions and showed that life could be lived in a far simpler and happier manner if you only learnt to laugh at it a little.

    That’s why he began as a mimic of Bollywood stars, the equivalent of royalty among the masses. He began as an Amitabh Bachchan look-alike for many stage acts, his rib-tickling gags enough to land him small roles in Bollywood films. In the process, he also legitimised the colour and spirit of midland India in the mainstream space. He provided comic relief in blockbusters like Maine Pyar Kiya and Baazigar. But he wanted to be heard instead of mouthing cheesy lines. So he participated in a stand-up comedy and talent show, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and finished as second runner-up, subsequently taking part in the spin-off, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge – Champions, where he was titled “The King of Comedy.”