A fitting tribute to Manjunath Naidu
Friends and fellow comedians, Miqdaad Dohadwala, Rushdi Rafeek and Amit Asudani pay fitting tribute to Manju - the comedian who passed away during a performance in July this year
Grief looks different on all of us. I may shed a tear, you may wail. He may go quiet, she may get angry. A few of us fight back, many of us watch the grief dictate our lives. Grief, following the loss of a loved one, can take an ugly turn. It may or may not follow the stages defined by the experts and could leave you stranded. As a playwright, I often pen down scripts that talk about this emotion. As a writer, I conduct Writing to Heal workshops. I understand pain - or at least, I thought so, until I attended Doing it for Manju held at The Junction, Alserkal Avenue, last Friday.
It would be highly inappropriate to smile, giggle or (worse) laugh out loud at a memory service for the departed, right? But then, there couldn't have been a more fitting tribute to Manjunath Naidu - the comedian who passed away during a performance in July this year - than the one held. At the outset, let me share that I didn't know Manju; I knew of him and had watched him perform. Yet, by the end of the show (if I may call it that), I was shifting between sobs and chuckles, just like others in the audience.
On the stage, his friends and fellow comedians, Miqdaad Dohadwala, Rushdi Rafeek and Amit Asudani, played improv games. Each of them lit up the stage with their outstanding reflex actions (must-watch body language), perfect timing, and immense talent. In between, they were joined by James, a young comic, and a brilliant one. In true stand-up comedian style, they took digs at each other, Manju included, who was present on the stage; a seat in the middle of the row was left empty for him. And no, it was not grim. It was the complete opposite. There were racist and sexist jokes, true to the concept of a regular comic evening. Further, his acquaintances shared memories of special anecdotes about Manju.
Yes, we got moist-eyed when the friends spoke about the funeral service, which too they interspersed with jokes, with the utmost sensitivity. From Dubai, now Mumbai-based comic Nitin Mirani took to the stage and spoke about the anxiety that a performer goes through. Amit shared how he (Manju) left a mark on him. Rushdi wasn't afraid to guffaw on stage, just as he wasn't afraid to cry. Miqdaad spoke about the ugliness of death, with honesty. A shout-out for the courage and talent of local comic Salman Qureshi, who hosted the show with restraint, respect and, of course, laughter.
Well, there's no preparing for death, except the acceptance that it breathes, sitting right in between us. Go ahead, embrace the pain. Don't worry about how it looks on you. At the show, it looked like a warm celebration of the life of a loved one. A clipping of one of Manju's performance was played right at the end - the applause and sighs were loud and clear. Death, the harshest and unavoidable truth of life, often wins. On Friday, it clearly lost.