I was first introduced to Sumit Sourav via the Gaana.com short format podcast JokeVani a couple of months ago, and found his voice and jokes very relatable in a very specific way. They remind you of that colleague who makes the entire group laugh during chai and sutta breaks without cracking up himself. This relatability comes from his choice of language (Hinglish), his delivery and his tone. Then there’s jokes like the one from his new Amazon Prime special Vansh Ka Naash where he talks about overenthusiastic interns and says, “Jis bande ko apne chair pe control nahi hai woh poori duniya ka theka kaise le raha hai? (How is someone who doesn’t even control his own chair taking responsibility for the whole world?)”
So when I saw the beautifully animated trailer—created by Debjyoti Saha, who also directed viral short film Korona on the migrant crisis—for his Amazon Prime special Vansh Ka Naash, I was expecting a special that would not only make me laugh but also introduce me to new insights about human behaviour. However, a small voice in my head wondered if that deadpan colleague could carry an entire hour based on just chai-sutta comedy.
Sourav doesn’t believe in taking big dramatic swings or delving into the Big IssuesTM of our times. His method is to pick on the inanities of everyday life and show them to us from a lens that is casual in tone but pretty dark when you scratch under the surface. Like the time he accuses his father of drugging him to sleep, just so that his parents could conceive his sister. Sourav carefully walks a tightrope, blunting the darker edges of his humour with good-natured warmth.
Sourav’s first target in the special are his parents and childhood. This is the strongest part of the entire special, especially the way he talks about money or the lack thereof. This is exemplified by the bit where he remembers how he put himself up for adoption outside a temple, waiting for a rich family with a fancy car to take him in. Sourav plays with fire when he seemingly punches down on his parents’ financial instability but then pivots to observations about how growing up without money can leave lifelong scars.
Sourav segues from one bit to the next with accomplished ease as he moves through a variety of subjects from his parents to his school days, from toxic masculinity to his own love life, from his inter-caste relationship to his first job and onto the titular joke about vansh ka naash.
Unfortunately, the special starts its slow downward descent soon after, and Sourav starts going for the low-hanging fruit. However, despite the easy pickings, he does manage to bring in some deep insights like how materialism is just treating money in the bank as delayed happiness; or how some life skills that matter aren’t taught to us at a much younger age. This part is less stand-up comedy and more oratory rhetoric, earning applause rather than straight-up laughter.
It’s not that he talks about things we didn’t know, it’s his twisted perspective that makes it funny.
While Sourav’s comedic style is to not take aim at the big issues, he does manage to sneak one in. He starts by explaining how motivated people are causing climate change and ends up calling out Bill Gates (and the likes) as being responsible for it. With that also comes his laziest joke where he deconstructs a motivational quote he read: Where is your money? Where is your fame? In the end, nothing matters. While the overall bit about motivation versus demotivation is funny, this joke falls flat because he didn’t use a strong enough quote by an actual bigshot management guru and chose to go with a random WhatsApp forward.
After meandering through subjects like relationships, porn and exams, Sourav lands on baniyaans and gives us not only the best joke of the second half but also strikes observational gold. It gets a big enough laugh to end the show on, but Sourav has a more “philosophical” ending in mind. He drops back into a conversational tone, musing about ambition, desire and the inherent meaningless of it all. In a charmingly intimate exchange, he humble-brags about his Rs. 10,000 shoes and the show’s paycheck, before wrong-footing everyone with a left-field callback to the show’s title and central theme. It’s a clever bit of trickery that’s typical of the special’s highs.
All in all, Sumit Sourav’s special Vansh Ka Naash is worth a watch if you’d like to borrow his lens and start to see your life in a twisted but fun way. While his observations aren’t all fresh, his jokes and their delivery are worth an hour of your time. And if it doesn’t work for you that’s okay, because as Sourav reminds us on Vansh Ki Naash, waste is just the meaning of life.