Rajasthani stand-up comedian Shyam Rangeela, who is in the news for his sequence mimicking Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, has chosen his next target: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath.
“People forget that the previous prime minister and the ones before him were also mimicked,” 22 year-old Rangeela said. “People should understand that defaming, shaming or protesting against someone is not the same as creating light humour from a person’s traits.”
Sequences of Rangeela performing pitch-perfect imitations of Modi and Gandhi were deleted from the reality show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge on Star Plus, but went viral this week when they were leaked on the internet. The episode was shot on September 1 in the presence of the show’s mentors, comedians Zakir Khan, Mallika Dua and Hussain Dalal, and celebrity judge Akshay Kumar, all of whom appeared to be delighted by Rangeela’s performance.
Emboldened by their response, Rangeela was preparing a second skit on Modi, but was reportedly told by the channel’s representatives late in September to drop the idea. A replacement spoof on Rahul Gandhi was nixed too. Eventually, Rangeela performed a set about Rajasthan on October 2 and a set on Gandhi, without mimicking his voice, on October 11. After the Gandhi episode was aired on October 22, Rangeela was disqualified from the show.
Star India did not respond to requests from Scroll.in for a comment.
“This is not how comedy is done,” said Rangeela. Unlike the other contestants who audition to be on the show, he was invited to participate because of the popularity of his Facebook account and YouTube videos.
“I never received any opposition on stage anywhere when I mimicked Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal or Lalu Prasad [Yadav],” Rangeela said. “Even on the internet, at most there would be seven or eight odd comments like ‘How dare you say this about our prime minister?’ They should understand the difference between humour and criticism.”
The Great Indian Laughter Challenge has long been an inspiration for the man who was born Shyam Sundar in Mokamwala village in Rajasthan’s Sri Ganganagar district. After watching Raju Srivastav and Sunil Pal on the show at the age of 14, he decided to become a stand-up comedian.
“I come from a village and the people there were really looking forward to my television debut,” Rangeela said. “If I did not come on TV because I walked out or something, the village people would come and tell my mother, ‘Your son lied to us. He said he would come on TV.’ So, it’s alright that things did not work out but at least the country saw me on two episodes.”
Mimicry soon became Rangeela’s stock-in-trade after he decided to become a professional comedian. “I started by mimicking our school headmaster in front of my friends,” he said. “From there, I went on to mimic my grandparents and my relatives. Then I began mimicking Bollywood stars.”
While pursuing a three-year course in video editing and animation in Jaipur, Rangeela moved on to sending up politicians. His friends would shoot his public performances and upload the videos online. Soon, he began shooting his own. Among his videos that became particularly popular featured Rangeela’s Modi lamenting the rising price of pani puri after demonetisation.
In another video, Rangeela, as Modi, comments on the Sonam Gupta meme: “Sonam Gupta may be unfaithful but, mitron, should one write it on currency notes?”
“When I mimic Modi, I feel that I too am Modi,” Rangeela said. “When I mimic Rahul Gandhi, I become him. When you think that you are that person, his mannerisms will come through you automatically.”
The comedian says that his mother was worried when the Modi video went viral. She asked Rangeela if would get into trouble. “Don’t worry,” the comedian assured her. “People are enjoying this. They are on my side.”
However, Rangeela’s brush with television has made him rethink his approach to stand-up comedy. The next time he faces a television camera, he says he will perform material that will definitely get telecast.
He is now working on his Adityanath imitation. “I am trying to get his voice,” he said. “When it is perfect, I will perform.”