Stand-up comedy might be the trend today but it has long lived in Maharashtra with alternate names such as “kathaa-kathan” and “one-man stand-up talk show”. Pu. La.Deshpande, Da. Ma. Mirazdaar, Shankar Patil could send people reeling to stitches then and they can to it now. Their scripts however were lengthier, more descriptive, humour was built organically by bringing paradigm shifts to the way we see situations we live rather than by roasting a person/s, event etc. There was grace, deep insights from life fully-lived, heart-warming conclusions to a tale of mirth; something iconic and ever green. Times changed so did comic expression, towards 90s' we see a hurricane called Shirish Kanekar with his slightly wayward style of critiquing. A harsh, acerbic humour but once again very attractive because it was born from deep knowledge, care and fruitful investment in the subjects and persons he discussed which was mainly hindi cinema and cricket (ref: Fillambaji, Fatkebaji). But that’s still 90s, from then till now seems to have been the dry patch of Marathi stand-up comedy.
There were frugal attempts but none noteworthy, hence we saw Marathi lovers of comedy drift to other languages and more often stick to endless repetitions of old kathakathans. I am one such. But this year (I know rather late) I stumbled upon Casting Couch with Amey and Nipun produced by Bha Di Pa. and the name itself made me smile. I think that’s the first feather in their cap. When I saw the show I was zapped. There are many aspects of it that can lead to endless debates of plus and minus points but let me state here what I loved best about them: The thread-bare sets: I have no clue with what intention they have kept them thread bare, is it because ‘these two are always impoverished strugglers, they can’t afford fancy sets’ philosophy or they are consistent with theatre philosophy and they have used it well. I hope it’s the latter. The bare set makes them and their guests and their antics so much more compelling a watch! Master stroke!
The boys and Paula: I mean all three boys here, Amey, Nipun and the ghost of Sarang Sathaye who lives through “casual” mentions in front of and behind the camera and Paula who provides a stark contrast by being realistic and reasonable in face of cumulative chaos that seems afoot. Ameya is great. He is an actor and that is apparent. Sarang Sathaye is great, good direction. And I am going to write a paragraph on Nipun because he is my most favourite thing about the entire show.
The holistic feel: every aspect of the script, their dialogues, dialogue delivery, those t-shirts, sets, general body language everything is much in sync with the general theme of their repeated failed attempts at getting anyone to agree to work with them. With such an atmosphere anyone would refuse. All aspects of it are believable, there is humour drawn from small things, there is a swift clarity that absolute failure always has (I refer to the scripted failure of finding actors, breaks, chances for employment with big banners etc.) NIPUN: he is my personal favourite. His direction I cannot speak of because I am yet to see anything he has directed but he surely has a brilliant sense of comic timing, which, incidentally is more rare than perfectly delivering the script. But I like him more for his subtlety. The subtle tilt of head when someone = praises him, a quick look of disbelief at the camera, the “casual” body language, all of it is deeply engaging. Plus he seems perpetually and truly nervous about hosting all these stars that stray their paths. It doesn’t seem like acting; what can be a bigger hallmark of an actor! Infinitely humorous because you need to see him in context to the entire frame to understand those seemingly minuscule actions that actually play a deeper role at genuine humour generation than a flawless execution of script ever could.
Of course, there will be 100 points of contention. There will be times when we compare this to P.L. or Mirajdaar and talk about “lowered standards” etc. but it is imperative to understand that the two categories are entirely different and so are their audiences. The modern audience lacks the time, patience and cultural context required to absorb P.L, Mirajdar etc. what these boys are doing is good in the context and audience which it is serving. Hence, to draw these parallels is futile to say the least. They have mastered the art of generating an integrated and holistic feel of all that their core message is and that too in these times in an achievement by itself.