For the past eight months, Aunty Maggy has been there to remind us that one of the most beloved ethnic stereotypes is not just very much around, but is here to give you an earful.
Created, produced and performed by comedy writer Rozzlin Pereira, Aunty Maggy is the quintessential Catholic aunty from the north Mumbai neighbourhood of Bandra, the one with floral dresses, moralistic bluster, Konkani-inflected English, and foot-in-the-mouth syndrome. As Aunty Maggy wanders through the city, sharing her views on art, a proposed ban on pornography, and the criminal rise in fish prices, she reminds us of all the Esmeraldas, Patricias and Marias we have known. Bandra might be going to the hipsters and the film stars, but as long as Pereira’s will to self-fund and roll out her short sketches and put them up for free on YouTube survives, so will Maggy. Excerpts from an interview.
Who is Maggy? Are you Maggy?
She is my aunt, my grandmother, many women I have observed my whole life. I am channeling all the aunties I have known – the body language is from one, the know-it-all attitude and the dabbing of the hankie to the neck from another, the high-pitched voice from the third.
I don’t speak like her at all, nor does my family. She represents this aunty who is endearing in her own way. These women are not so politically correct and will say whatever comes into their heads. They say things we might find shocking and obnoxious. Everybody is watching what they say so much, but here is this woman who is living her life bindaas, without too much baggage. She entertains herself through other people’s lives, but there is an innocence and sweetness too.
Maggy is also a stereotype of a Bandra Catholic ‒ what Mumbaiites calls the “Mak”.
I used to be one of those people who didn’t like the perpetuation of the “Mak” stereotype. It is not how I speak, so why would I want to project Maks in that particular way? So I tell you a story and I leave you with that. Maggy can only say “what men” and “bugger” so many times, after all.
Maggy is not just a Bandra Catholic aunty. She also represents the average Indian aunty.
You first introduced the character in a comedy routine. What encouraged you to do a series?
The internet can be a vicious place and full of haters, and I have not lived that life. It took me two years to get the guts to do it on YouTube. I didn’t have the costume when I performed the character, but it resonated each time with audiences. A friend told me I had to go online. I decided I would tell stories through the character, so Maggy is going places and doing things.
You have nailed Maggy’s look, down to the glasses she wears halfway down her nose.
I wanted Maggy to be nice and round and cuddly. Half the battle is won in what you see. I wanted her to be round with a big bottom and bosom. I got in touch with a costume designer, Nishita D’Souza, and got a body suit made. She wears the typical dresses, but she also wears kurti tops at times.
Where in Bandra would Maggy live if she were a real person?
She could be from Ranwar, any of the beautiful houses on Shirley Rajan Road.
Is there a story behind the character’s name?
I had to come up with some name. I was on stage in 2012 when I was presenting the character and I was ad-libbing, grumbling about how her husband does not appreciate her. I came up with the name Margaret, which became Maggy. I didn’t remember later who I was talking about.
Maggy also symbolises a dying breed of Bandra aunties – you don’t see too many of them anymore.
You won’t see this accent in the next generation, it will fade as the generations pass. It’s interesting that people living abroad who have grown up in Bandra are enjoying the character so much. There is so much nostalgia.