‘If Taylor Swift Can Do It, Why Not Us?’: Karthik Kumar on Screening Comedy Special ‘Aansplaining’ In Movie Theatres

By Shantanu Sanzgiri 6 March 2024 3 mins read

Karthik Kumar talks to us about screening his special 'Aansplaining' in movie theatres and reaching a newer audience with this experiment.

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Comedian-actor Karthik Kumar is all set to break new ground in Indian standup comedy by releasing his new special Aansplaining in movie theatres. The special will premiere on 8 March in San Francisco, and there are shows lined up in Malaysia, Chennai and Coimbatore by 16 March (as long as the censor certificate comes through). “Depending on how these screenings go, the theatre chains will give us more shows,” Karthik told DeadAnt.

The comedian was inspired by the concert film format, which brings the music concert experience to the movie hall. “Seeing Taylor Swift do it, I was like, ‘why not us?'” he said. “I’ve also had the joy of seeing my own films on the big screen. So I thought, why not my own standup show? It was also charged by the spirit of delving into the unknown. Because I know that if this avenue opens up, a lot of my peers in the fraternity will choose to do the same. And I’m excited to open up that possibility.”

When Karthik approached executives at PVR cinemas with the idea, he expected some pushback, given this wasn’t exactly a proven format in India. But he was delightfully surprised to find that they were ready to jump on board from the get-go. “They initially thought that it was a live act in the theatre,” Karthik told us. “But when I explained to them that we’ll digitally screen the show, there was no resistance from their end. I believe it’s because this is an idea whose time has come. Similarly, when I reached out to a producer in the United States, they were extremely open to the idea.”

The comedian is quite excited about the experiment, hoping that it heralds a new way of making standup available to a different audience. “I’m never nervous when I do something that nobody has done before,” he said. “I think nervousness comes in when people have done it before and there’s a reference. It’s so rare that you get to do something so novel. It’s just a shot in the dark and whatever you hit is the target. The only thing I’m slightly nervous about is the censor certificates coming in on time and them cutting out parts.”

It’s just a shot in the dark and whatever you hit is the target.

Karthik says that the special itself is largely “a piece of feminism”, taking aim at male privilege. “In the process I also tackle questions like, ‘What is manhood?’ and ‘What is the concept of man?'” said Karthik. “It attempts to change the definition of being a man. It’s also about seeing the women in our lives and acknowledging the hardships we put them through.”

Naturally, the show will be best enjoyed with your friends, colleagues and partners whom you want to be “a better ally to,” he said. “Watching it with your girl-gang is possibly the best vibe. You’ll be out there cheering and hooting, feeling seen.”

Karthik’s larger goal is to introduce a new, inexpensive, more accessible way for people to consume comedy. Currently, tickets for live standup performances range from INR 500-1500, depending on the artist and the venue. This prices out a large chunk of potential fans who would otherwise enjoy watching standup comedy, according to Karthik.

“I wanted to create a new avenue to consume standup comedy that is priced similar to movies,” he said. “At INR 300, can we get people to come watch a special who were otherwise inhibited by the cost of live standup shows? At the same time it is still a collective viewing experience. When you release your material on streaming services, it’s an individual or a small set watching a show as opposed to sitting in a club or a theatre and experiencing it with hundreds of people. In the process, we are making this art form available to a newer audience and building the standup community in the country.”

Aansplaining will be in cinemas for a limited time only, so keep an eye out for shows in your city! The special will be available online shortly after the screenings are completed.


Shantanu Sanzgiri


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