“My friend Imran Ahmed said to me, ‘Man, Bal Thackeray dying is the worst thing he’s done—now the Swedish House Mafia gig is cancelled!’ I said to him, is that really the worst thing he could have done?”
This is a small stage in a 300-seater auditorium in a glitzy Mumbai mall, with spotlights on the speaker, a large laughing-mouth logo in the background. Instead of offended tigerish snarls and a broken head, the young man at the microphone gets a roar of laughter and applause, grins, and cheerfully proceeds to demolish other holy animals.
A little more than half a decade ago, that scenario would have been unimaginable. Most on-stage comedy was slapstick or, at most, poking fun at public figures through mimicry, performed by actors who peddled the same wares in the cinema. Hindi comedians found their spot on TV shows like the raucous Indian Laughter Challenge; Shekhar Suman did the talk-show route, with Movers And Shakers.
So what changed?