Sometime last year, of the many standup videos tearing through the internet, as usual, one featured a scruffy comedian declaring, “Meri hobby hai letna… aur passion bhi.” Seconds later, he was ranting about an Indian-origin contestant on Masterchef Australia serving up onion bhajiyas during the show, directing even more of his horror at the judges, who’d ooh’ed and aah’ed at the “delicacy”. “Saat rupay ka milta hai!” he bellowed, echoing what so many of us sitting at home were thinking.
A few months later, Karunesh Talwar was back on everyone’s radar as he hilariously took down Bollywood for not investing any energy in creating their songs and having lousy imagination when it comes to creating alien entities (Jaadu). It’s safe to say it takes a lot to impress Talwar. Always incredulous, usually bang on with his observations, he finds a lot of his comedy in everyday things that he finds bizarre, delivered with what is now his trademark exaggerated style.
He’s been on the circuit for about eight years now, introducing internet audiences to his material with clips on his YouTube channel in the last two years, each of which sits comfortably between 3-9 million views each—a reflection of his growing fan base, which seems pretty sorted.
And now he’s got his very first comedy special Pata Nahi Par Bolna Hai—an apt description for most people these days, but also wide enough thematically for Talwar to play with. On a live AMA session on DeadAnt’s Instagram hours before the special released, he said: “The show’s title comes from being a 28-year-old guy who doesn’t know much about the world par fir bhi uska kaam bolna hai… which is me. Aur yeh show hai bhi aise hi logon ke baare mein hai jinhe pata nahin hai fir bhi bolte rehte hain…”
Pata Nahi Par Bolna Hai is Talwar’s self-produced show that released on Indian comedy’s favourite platform currently—Amazon Prime Video. His singular pain point throughout the special is the quintessential Indian Uncle—their existence, how they think, what they do and Talwar’s ultimate fear that he’s getting closer to turning into one himself. He seems peppier than usual on his special. There is a signature stool on the side, and he does succumb to the temptation of sitting intermittently, but it mostly serves as a prop. Between act-outs, impressions and his urgent need to vent, all of it in Hinglish, Talwar needs to be on his feet for the most part.
There is no single narrative that strings Talwar’s special together, besides his repulsion with uncles. And his segues are a constant reminder of this repulsion, almost like trigger warnings. His premises, a mix of anecdotes and observations, are outright exaggerated but his on-stage theatrics have you playing along, keeping you hooked at the very least until the punchline slams into high fiving you on a thought you’ve had yourself, just not with as much clarity yet. His over-the-top expressions can either annoy you or crack you up, and for me, it was the latter.
You know Talwar is taking you for a ride with his stories, even if they did originate from very real situations. He is basically carrying that room of 100-150 people on a completely implausible joyride and there are times when it feels like Talwar is stretching it too far, but the sheer absurdity that accompanies all his leaps makes it work. Possibly because he has the tact to go beyond the line and still keep the narrative under control.
Like when Talwar tells us of a man who was stopped by airport security because he was carrying a half-kilo bottle of honey. “Mujhe ek din bitana hai iss aadmi ke dimaag mein…” Talwars quips. He goes on to narrate what happened next, with escalating detail, act-outs, and imagined dialogues, in a fine show of his craftsmanship. Of course, by the end of it, he’s claiming to miss his flight to watch this man fight for his honey and justify his actions, as security personnel, pilots, even potential terrorists gather around to watch the spectacle. There’s a similarly incredulous story about having to use the bathroom during class when he was in school. Is all of it, or even any of it, true? More importantly, when you’re that entertained, do you care?
Talwar is also seemingly proud of his blooper reel. So much so, that he keeps it in the final edit. Bang in the middle of the show, Talwar messes up an entire line, pauses for a second, says he’s going to do a retake. Instead of getting sucked into the palpable tension on stage, he nonchalantly declares that he’s going to take that line again and edit out the rest, because he can. He dares his audience of 130 people to go out and tell people he messed up, declaring no one is going to believe them. This happens again in a couple of minutes. By the third time, the audience is so into it, they start suggesting edits themselves every time he hits an awkward bit. He leaves it all in.
This has become common enough for me to wonder if it’s a trend with Indian comics? Most recently, Abish Mathew did something similar in his special, Whoop when he had to stop mid-performance so his makeup artist could dab his face on stage because it was getting too shiny. For me, leaving these scenes in the final edit works, because it makes it more real – we all know these things are rarely ever shot in one perfect take. Plus, to see a celebrity falter makes them so much more relatable and human.
Through the show’s duration, Talwar is in full control of the room. And between his elaborate setups, character playouts, and unnecessary details, Pata Nahi Par Bolna Hai ends up being quite a fun watch with hearty laughs.
Stream it now on Amazon Prime Video.