Yours sincerely, Kanan Gill review: Netflix’s comedy special weaves a poignant narrative about personal growth
All of Kanan Gill's introspective moments come with brilliant jokes having high call-back value in Netflix's Yours sincerely, Kanan Gill
Kanan Gill’s new Netflix stand up special titled Yours sincerely, Kanan Gill comes as a welcome surprise for devoted fans of the affable comedian who was conspicuously absent from the scene for more than a year. At first glance, the title may seem ambiguous, or more precisely, a quirky layered joke. However, throughout his 80-minute special, Gill meticulously unpacks the meaning via a letter that his 15-year-old self had written to a future Kanan.
Gill is a master at word-play and double entendres. A unique bit on how Indians have coined the term “time pass” as opposed to the epicurean western concept of “pastime” greets audience members into a special heavily filled with puns and absurdist humour.
Gill opens it on an autobiographical note to give insights about his recent absence and apparent weight gain. “I was told I had a hernia. Where a portion of my intestine slipped into another section of my body. Now you see, I did not know organs could do that, just roam around where they wanted to,” says a theatrically baffled Gill to hearty laughter and applause.
By means of each statement set as “goals for future”, Gill dissects his life, ideologies, insecurities and depression in a beautifully poignant thread — never too didactic and seamlessly non-judgemental.
The comedian’s incisive take on matters seems refreshingly uncomplicated — whether it be his philosophy on life, and how much he’s actually lived it till this point or the ridiculousness of people having apps on phones that remind them to drink water.
Simple as it may be, the set addresses important topics like bullying in schools, body image issues, mental health, and the importance of confidants.
In a particularly forthright bit in the set, Gill describes how his “friends” would often choose to “playfully beat him up” in the guise of birthday bumps even if it was someone else’s special day. But Gill’s narrative is always self-deprecating, painting the image of a logical, but highly naïve teen. “After I decided to participate in the ‘side missions’ and live life at 100 percent, the first thing I did was to get a motivational book and read it. And you know what they say inside them, ‘Don’t stop, go on. Never stop.’ But I’ll have to stop – the book will finish at one point.”
From that day on, he confesses, he began writing his goals and conquering them. “But I somehow realised that having achieved most of what I had targeted to, did not make me feel happier.” Comparing his career arc with software engineering, Kanan then says, “I quit my job and then started doing software. Kept getting better, began making software YouTube videos. In the beginning, my software shows used to have one or two people, now I have packed auditoriums. It was f**king exciting. What a time! Then I did a software world tour and right now I am doing a software special. But it’s not fine, I’ve done notebook full of goals, but it never made me feel anything.”
All of his introspective moments come with brilliant jokes having high call-back value. Gill stitches mini-sets within his special and rounds up his punchlines as a commentary on his own humour.
Throughout the set, Gill establishes two on-going narratives — one on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and the other on letter-writing formats taught to school children. Though these may seem very far apart, Kanan’s comedic expertise weaves it into an absurd meta-set that critiques itself continuously.
Gill introduces a rib-tickling bit on how Caesar’s final words to Brutus always stand out as the hook-line in the play. Kanan then points out the importance of having a heavy-weight phrase as someone’s final goodbye in case they want to be remembered. “Noone’s going to write plays on you if you say something like ‘Arrey yaar’ moments after you get stabbed. So, you’ve got to choose phrases that are in dead languages, something like Sanskrit – something like Aham Gachhami, which literally means I am going. That’ll definitely get you into plays.”
The comedian ends the set on a high with a dialogue between himself and his friend where the two discover that the letter is only a metaphor (or a ‘letterphor’ as Kanan puts it) to understand how he (and by extension his viewers) may have lived life in futility. All his secret ingredients come out on the table and viewers are given full access into his intricate web of meta references and comedic layers.
At the wee end, Gill’s set feels a lot like his final words in it — This is not art, it’s just timepass — but one which I’d gladly take up to humour myself at any time.
(All images from Netflix)
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