What better way than standup to prove that women can be funny? If men can be funny, women can be funnier. And while it’s true that there are a lot more male standup artistes out there, the scenario is changing steadily.
Punya Arora, 26, who broke into the Bengaluru standup scene in 2013, puts things into perspective. “Since audiences see less women standup artistes on stage, they are mostly pleasantly surprised when they do, and are curious to see what we have to say. Of course there are still a few who come with the pre-conceived notion, ‘oh it’s a girl!’ but in Bengaluru people have warmed up to standup comediennes,” she says.
Arora’s journey into comedy was rather spontaneous. In school, she would often imitate people, and entertain her friends. “I was welcomed when I first began standup, but I didn’t pursue it for long. I moved on to setting up my photo studio, and got busy with it. But now that I am back on stage, I get complimentary messages from comedians in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai,” she says.
The fact that established standup artistes such as Praveen Kumar, Sundeep Rao, and Sanjay Manaktala encourage young and upcoming standups makes a world of a difference, feels Arora. “Be it a boy or a girl, there’s no discrimination. These guys are always there to listen to us and tell us how we can get better,” she explains. On Saturday, Arora along with Sumukhi Suresh will be part of Gender Wars, and will share the stage with their male counterparts Manaktala and Vamshidhar Bhogaraju. “It’s not that we will be fighting to prove who is funnier. Each of us will get our own time on stage,” says Arora, who is also a professional photographer.
Some of Arora’s favourite acts include imitating the Malayali accent, women drivers, and single parenting. “It’s not my goal to offend anyone but I do enjoy talking about lady drivers, and poking fun at people who are judgemental about women driving. Lately I have also started speaking about having a single parent. Since my mother is also a single parent, in a way, I bring attention to the fact that how people react about having a single parent and so on,” she says.
Incidentally, it was a picture of her mother taken during one of Arora’s acts that made her take up standup full-time. “It was the pride, the happiness on her face that was captured as she watched me perform, which made me realise that what I was doing is worthwhile,” Arora concludes.
January 2. At BFlat, Indiranagar. 9 pm onwards. Tickets (Rs.500) on bookmyshow.com
— Nandini Kumar