I don't know how to do 'comedy': Sunil Grover

I dont know how to do comedy: Sunil Grover

The comedian and actor who recently performed in Dubai, tells City Times why making people laugh comes quite naturally to him.

By Enid Parker

Published: Tue 20 Aug 2019, 7:38 AM

Last updated: Mon 26 Aug 2019, 6:39 PM

We always appreciate people who can make us laugh here at City Times, so when comedian and actor Sunil Grover dropped into the Khaleej Times office on Sunday, August 19, it brightened up our day for sure. Known for his hilarious stand-up act and comic personas Dr. Mashoor Gulati, Gutthi and Rinku Bhabhi, who are adored by subcontinental audiences, Sunil endeared himself to us almost immediately when he revealed that fans from the UAE hold a special place in his heart.
"I love to come to Dubai. Each time I get an opportunity I come rushing to Dubai. I love spending time here, I love shopping here, I love the vibe and especially the people. I went on stage on Saturday and received such a warm welcome, I'll share the video with you, if you don't trust me (laughs).
"It's always overwhelming whenever I perform here, I get so much love. I'm thankful to Dubai and the organisers of the show, and especially the audience who came to watch; we had a lovely time together."
How is the audience in the UAE different from other audiences he's performed for back home?
"The good part is the audience here (expats) miss those jokes, they want relatable things, so they look forward to the entertainment a little more than (the people) in India. The vibe here is such that yesterday I thought I would perform for about one and a half to two hours but I ended up performing for over two hours; after the curtain call also, everyone was sitting. They didn't want to go and even I didn't want to go - when you have such a good audience, they're enjoying, they want to watch you and listen to you, they're laughing; it was really overwhelming and I have immense gratitude for everyone who came."
Is it easy to extend a show, to improvise, to cater to the audience? Sunil says he obliges because his fans mean a lot to him. "They decide to spend that time watching your show and not doing something else, like spending time with family or going to a mall (the beautiful malls here), or anywhere else, but they decide to take that effort to come to the venue, and wait for the gates to open; it's a tedious process; then it takes an equal amount of time to go back home after the show. The show was on a Saturday, the next day was a working day and the audience was sitting till almost midnight! So for such an audience how can you say no? As performers we want a good audience and if we get them it's our luck."

An endearing character
Sunil, who brought the Dr. Mashoor Gulati Comedy Clinic to the Sheikh Rashid Hall, Dubai, on Saturday, spoke about what inspired him to create this much-loved character. "I had a lot of free time (laughs) and nothing to do, so I kept observing such characters - we had a doctor close by, he was a genuine doctor, but the way he used to talk, many people in North India talk like that, they're not as intelligent as they show themselves to be; the conviction, the unapologetic behaviour - I enjoyed making an exaggerated character, a caricature out of it, to make it funny."
As a comedian there is sometimes pressure from people who expect you to be funny all the time. Sunil revealed how he de-stresses. "I de-stress by watching my shows (laughs). The other day I was at the airport, this security guy was checking me, he had seen some of my work and admired it, so he said 'arre aap to bahut serious hain' (you are very serious) and I'm like, 'main sari pehen ke aaoon, kya'? (why, should I come in a sari?) I was being checked by security, and not in a position to tell jokes. but then, that's their love, that's how they know you, that's what they expect from you. I think more than humour, it's the love, the soul, your intention which goes through to them. They don't know how to define it, but they can feel it."
Comedy as a career can be quite a struggle. Is he happy with what he's achieved professionally so far.
"I don't know how to do 'comedy' actually. I make caricatures out of characters, and with time, after working with good people, writers, I've been the learning the art of framing a sentence or a line and I appreciate that. I'm a happy being. I was happy when I didn't have work. Of course I'm happy that work came along. I've always been popular - in my gully where I lived, in school, in college, even my relatives loved me because I made them laugh. I've been doing this since childhood."

A sparkling 'sparkler'
"Showing my talent to the public was a gradual process," Sunil reminisces. "It didn't happen overnight. I started from school and college, participating in dramas and while I was doing graduation I was doing cultural shows, then I did my Masters in Theatre from Punjab University. After that I did odd jobs for a year, I moved to Mumbai and started doing voiceovers. I found that interesting because I used to get a chance to work everyday with 4-5 creative minds - I could take out many voices, various celebrities, cricketers, in various languages.
"Then I started doing funny radio sparklers (a sparkler is a character that endears a station to its listeners) it was called Sud, which I did for almost three and a half years and that (its popularity) gave me confidence. TV was happening simultaneously. So it all happened very, very gradually."
We know it's not easy getting up on stage and facing hundreds of people and trying to make them laugh. Sunil confesses to getting stage fright 'every time' before a performance.
"Sometimes it's fright, sometimes the circumstances are such that you think 'how will I make it work?' The other day we had to perform somewhere, in the afternoon, after lunch. The audience had travelled for two days and the show was post lunch. So I was thinking, here's a sleepless bunch of people who are irritated with everyone (they weren't even looking at their family members!), I was watching them from the back of the stage and thinking, how will I make these people laugh? But then, you find a way or two!"
Sunil says there's no particular technique when it comes to comedy.
"I'm just scared that everyone will start doing that and there will be competition soon!" (Laughs) Actually, each time there's a different technique, but it has to come from the heart, it has to be your own expression, and what you think is right."
'Salman finds me very photogenic!'
Sunil uploaded pics shot by Salman Khan while shooting Bharat and had this to say about the Bharat experience: "Salman finds me very photogenic (laughs)! He has been very kind. I've been a fan of his work and it was very difficult for me to act like his friend on screen, because of my admiration for him. But he made me comfortable, as did the director Ali Abbas Zafar and others who were working on the film. It was lovely, I felt at home."
He's a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan
Sunil says the Amar Akbar Anthony actor has been the biggest inspiration for his work. "I've been a fan of Mr. Amitabh Bachchan since my childhood. Films like Hum, Mr Natwarlal, Chupke Chupke, Coolie (does a scene from the film), Deewar... When he appeared on screen whether in comic or serious scenes, that triggered in me a desire. So I started imitating him to my relatives and friends. Then there were so many other actors I admire - Mithun Chakraborty as well (here he imitates perfectly a trademark line of the actor's) - as a child I was like 'what an aura this guy has'."
Message for fans from a tea lover!
Sunil, like us, is a big fan of a great cup of tea. When he walked in for the interview his first words were, "Thank you Khaleej Times for inviting me here. You have a wonderful office, the vibe here is great and the best part, I realised, was the tea. Superb!"
And towards the end of our conversation when we asked if he had a message for his fans in the UAE, he had this to say: "This is tea time. Have tea, respect your family, love your family. Respect elders, love children. And if you're married, God bless you (laughs). Stay happy - that's the most important thing." We agree with all those sentiments!

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