By Meera Pillai
When Deepika Mhatre stepped onto the stage set up in “her” building in Mumbai as part of Women’s Day celebrations last year, she had no idea what she was going to do. When she stepped off the stage, waiting for her was India’s best-known female comic, Aditi Mittal. The stories that Mhatre had to tell were unlike any that had been shared in front of a stand-up mike. To many people in the audience, the truth underlying her trenchant wit was also sufficiently sharp that it drew a wince. But her irrepressible laughter was such that they could not resist laughing along – at themselves!
The spark that Mhatre knew she had, that she knew instinctively would burst into flame when she stepped on the stage, was what Mittal recognised, and knew deserved to be showcased beyond that building, that city…to a world that needed to look at itself with a yet another lens. She helped Mhatre hone her material and find short gigs to acquire experience; the pizzazz she already had in tons. Introducing Mhatre through her Bad Girls series on YouTube, Mittal announced, “Well-behaved women seldom make history…hum itihaas banaane jaa rahein hein!”
Stand-up comics in India have helped expand the range of issues that can be discussed in public outside of political tracts, sociology textbooks and NGO conscientization classes. Adding to what are now old (though never stale!) chestnuts such as the North-South and gender divides is Mhatre’s work on class and work. Wait, I hear you say, of course there is comic material on work: all that stuff on engineers and IT nerds! Wait, I say back to you, till you experience Mhatre’s brand of fun.
“Log samajhte hain ki jo kaam karte hain, wohi unka pehchaan hoti hain,” points out Mhatre, before brilliantly drawing on her very long workday, beginning at 4 in the morning on Mumbai’s local trains and ending at midnight on the nights when she has a stand-up gig, for her material. “I use comedy all the time as part of my life and work,” Mhatre points out, and admits to no fear at standing up before a several-hundred-strong audience, not even the first time she tried comedy on a formal stage. It’s the audience’s job to quake in their boots – while splitting their sides.
Our audience at Leddis Night! is surely going to be alternatively quaking in their boots and splitting their sides tonight, because Deepika Mhatre (and Aditi Mittal and Bangalore-based comic Shrirupa Sengupta) are all going to be performing, along with our other Sridevi-themed entertainment. See you there 🙂