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India’s comedy space gaining a lot of momentum: Adnan Nalwala

Adnan Nalwala
Adnan Nalwala

By Vishnu Makhijani,

New Delhi : Comedy is gaining a lot of momentum in India and the challenge lies in monetising this space, says comedian-entrepreneur Adnan Nalwala, adding that comedians in this country need to come out of their “local” shells if they are to make a mark on the world stage.

“The comedy space (in India) is gaining a lot of momentum. There is a tremendous amount of talent that is there in India and it is going to continue to grow. I think the challenge lies in monetising the space and it will take some time for the industry to figure out the mechanism,” said Nalwala, born in Oman to Indian parents who has lived in eight countries and who describes himself as an entrepreneur by day and an entertainer by night.

At the same time, he felt “the topics and the creativity existing in the Western cultures is more evolved and mature”.

“The mindframe and tolerance levels towards humour is higher in the West, which allows more comedic freedom. If that happens (here) a lot more can evolve in the industry. The other aspect of the comedy is that most of the Indian comedians more focused on local content rather than global issues. If those topics are also touched up on then the world can be their platform to perform”, Nalwala told IANS in an email interview.

He felt the Indian audience is one the best to perform in front of.

“They are most accepting and are also well-informed. If you talk about things that relate to the Indians, they jump in on it and laugh really hard. They have the appetite and intelligence to take a joke well — and yes, they can laugh at themselves well. If you involve them in a joke they get really excited and the best part is, after shows, many a times people ask you for a photograph or a quick video which feels great,” said Nalwala.

With a rare mix of management and creative skills, Nalwala has a BA in Supply Chain Management from Arizona State University and an MBA from Boston University. He splits his time between Dubai and Oman as the Executive Director of his Al Ansari Group family business.

Nalwala launched his stand-up comedy career a decade ago and has performed across the Middle East and India, including at The Comedy Store and Canvas Laugh Factory. He was part Vir Das’ “Unbelievablish” in Dubai attended by over 1,200 people. He performed on several tours with the Indian Comedy Club and is a regular at Canvas Laugh Club; his solo act “This Thing That Thing” has been well received. His latest endeavour is RJing for Times FM 95.4 in Oman, hosts a show where he shares with listeners his funny insights to current affairs.

He is currently performing (Thursday-Saturday) at Mumbai’s Canvas Laugh Club in Lower Parel.

About his journey, Nalwala said he started out doing comedy in Mumbai when it was in its nascent stages with very few good comedians in the market.

“The concept was relatively new as there were not many venues for it. Over the last decade, several comedians have come up and there are many more venues that promote comedy. My first professional gig in Mumbai was in 2009. However, my first attempt on stage was at Jazz by Bay in Mumbai in 2009. I was performing in front of a crowd that had come to watch musicians and so for the crowd to accept me was a big winner. Two things happened — one of the guys in the front row nearly fell off his chair laughing, and second, after I finished my set, one audience member asked, ‘When is your next gig? I will bring my friends’. That really made me believe in my comedy,” Nalwala said.

Adnan, experts in the field say, is deft in turning social subjects into humour and has an effortless way with observational humour and impersonations.

What’s the difference between the two?

“Observational comedy is something that could occur in front of you or something that you have experienced and you see the funny side of it. Incident-based comedy is something that actually happens to you and you narrate the experience,” he explained.

How does he juggle his performances in different countries?

“At the end of the day,” he explained, “jokes are subjective and many things differ on a cultural level. Human behaviour and the mindframe tends to overlap, which means some jokes are universal. Jokes on relationships are liked by all parts of the world. I have had the good fortune of living in eight different countries where I have been exposed to different nationalities and languages which has enabled me to pick up the subtle differences and present them as a facts and people enjoy it a lot more.”

“In India, I also tend to say many of my punch lines in Hindi as this would sit a lot better with the crowd and the relatability factor increases,” he added.

(Vishnu Makhijani can be contacted at vishnu.makhijani@ians.in)


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