Biswa Kalyan Rath on his new show Laakhon Mein Ek, and moving on from Pretentious Movie Reviews
Biswa Kalyan Rath, who is also known as 'Mast Aadmi' on the comedy circuit, is testing the waters with his new web series Laakhon Mein Ek. An Amazon exclusive, the show is created by him and directed by Abhishek Sengupta, and is based on a young IIT aspirant — rather, a young boy whose parents are obsessed with the institute. Despite his reluctance, his parents get him enrolled in a coaching centre in Vishakhapatnam, and the misadventures begin.
Biswa plays a teacher in the web series. Ask him what it feels like to be on-camera, and he says, "It feels weird, man. Lots of anxiety and stress but hopefully, the show makes up for it."
The story for the show came to him around two years ago but was intrinsically different. He developed it further, with several writers and went ahead full force the moment Amazon came on board. Contrary to popular belief, the story is not biographical. It's inspired by the people he has met and places he has been. While some parts of the story are based on memories of different people, some are highly dramatised.
When asked about what the casting process was like, he credits it to the director saying that they "wanted to keep it realistic by not making a 22-year-old play an 18-year-old" and that suddenly brings back memories of a bright-eyed Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots (Khan, who was 44 then, played an IIT-ian in the film). "We really lucked out with the boys — Aakash, Bakri and Chudail (the three protagonists). We wanted to have people who could relate to the characters," says Sengupta.
Laakhon Mein Ek has unmistakable archetypes — that one useless teacher who's always hogging away, the South Indian kid who aces every subject and so on. Rath says although "it was a challenge to not make it a typical story", they were confident about the way it was being put forth.
Moving on to stand-up, comedy is diversifying with comics experimenting extensively with television and production. Similarly, Rath is treading into new territories, too. Speaking about this shift, he says, "There's a limitation to stand-up comedy. You can't emote everything. Also, it's hard to generate material but if you just do stand-up, you will get bored." His journey with Laakhon Mein Ek has been different since he considers himself inexperienced in this field. In the end, it's the director's vision which makes a series and that's where he got lucky with Sengupta, he says.
And then the question we've all been wanting to ask him — When is Pretentious Movie Reviews coming back? and pat comes his reply, "Not any time soon. Comedians want to move forward, why do you want to hold them back?" It's interesting because his popularity skyrocketed with these very laugh-riot reviews that he used to present along with Kanan Gill. Ardent fans of the duo will now need a moment to recover from the blow but maybe he's right. Perhaps it's really just us who have to learn to let go and move on.
In the midst of our chat, we forget that there are other people waiting for him, some for interviews and some for pictures. So, another quick question about the 'noise' in the comedy scene and if it's a bit too much now, to which he says, "India has 130 crore people and there's not a single Indian comic whose videos have touched a crore. So the space is not crowded at all".
Before we wrap up, I've got to ask him that one last question — hackneyed but important, nonetheless — his advice to up and coming comedians. "Just be funny," Biswa says. "Do your thing." Ah, if only it were that simple!
Watch the trailer of Laakhon Mein Ek here: