Art & Entertainment

I Am An Accidental Comedian, Says Kapil Sharma

Comedy star Kapil Sharma says that before coming to Mumbai, he tried to get a job in the police, Border Security Force (BSF), etc like any other lower middle class boy but he did not succeed.

Kapil Sharma
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Kapil Sharma is the only comedian of the current generation whose stardom can turn even the biggest of Bollywood stars green with envy. Rising from a lower middle-class family in Amritsar to the top in Mumbai's tinsel town, the 41-year-old 'Comedy King' has attained the kind of popularity on the small screen that few big screen stars can match today.

Ahead of the release of his new film on March 17, Zwigato, Kapil Sharma talks at length with Giridhar Jha about his extraordinary journey from Amritsar to Mumbai. Excerpts from the interview:

How different is your character in Zwigato from your last two films Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon (2015) and Firangi (2017)?

The character differs from the previous films in the sense that it is not a comic role. It shows the struggle of an ordinary food delivery boy in the times of a tragedy. Many people asked me if this character was challenging for me to play, but the truth is that I have done many such jobs in my real life in my pre-television era. Those experiences helped me play this character.

What was your first reaction when the film's director Nandita Das approached you with the script of Zwigato?

There is a trend in Hindi cinema that if you are seen and appreciated in a certain image, then everyone comes to you with offers to play similar roles. At first, I was surprised when Nandita Das came to me. But again, I was glad that she considered me worthy enough to play this character. When she met me, she said that my simplicity, naturalness and the image of a common man make me eligible for this film and character. I think that the theatre I did during my college days enabled me to play a serious role.

Should your decision to do Zwigato be seen as a conscious move on your part to break out of your image?

No. I love my image. I have got a lot of love and respect from the audience for this image. So, working in Zwigato was not a conscious attempt at all to break out of my image. Definitely, like every artiste, I also wanted diversity in my work. Whenever I get the opportunity, I have tried to give my best.

In cinema, Nandita Das and you are like two opposite poles. She is known for making serious films, you are the king of comedy. How was the experience of working with her?

Nandita Das herself is a brilliant actress and experienced so I got to learn small nuances of acting from her. It was a wonderful experience working with her. Given the kind of meaningful movies she makes, I am glad that I could be a part of her special project.

At this point in your career, how do you look back at your journey from Amritsar to Mumbai?

This journey has been wonderful. I believe that every person at some level or the other is struggling in his life. That's why I do not glorify my struggle. Those times when I had no money in my pocket were also good. I used to do theatre with my friends. The place where I am today and the happiness that I am getting are all the outcome of this journey.

How did you get interested in comedy?

I was very fond of singing during my school days. I used to always take part in the cultural programmes at my school on the occasions of Guru Nanak Parv and Krishna Janmashtami where I used to recite bhajans. Back then, it seemed that I would be a singer in the future. When I joined college, the world of theatre attracted him. But there was no particular thought of venturing into the field of comedy even then. You can say that comedy happened by chance in my life. I am an accidental comedian. It was destiny that made the way for it and I kept moving forward to create my identity in the field of comedy. I used to do comedy skits in college, which inspired me to participate in the Laughter Challenge on TV and that changed my life. I got an opportunity to perform in front of people like Navjot Singh Sidhu and Shekhar Suman. I got name, fame and money from the Laughter Challenge. After that my life took a different direction.

Did you participate in stage shows outside college as well those days?

I used to do professional theatre as well as musical shows. I have also sung at weddings. Today, I feel that these are the most memorable experiences I have had. My acting has been enriched and developed by such experiences.

When did you decide to come to Mumbai to pursue your career?

After my graduation, I came to Mumbai in 2002 to try my luck. But I was 21 then and did not have any experience. That is why nothing special happened and I returned. In 2007, I got an invitation from the makers of a TV show, Laughter Challenge. At that time, I travelled on a flight for the very first time. The Laughter Challenge gave me respect, money and respect. The journey that later started from Comedy Circus has reached The Kapil Sharma Show. Mumbai is my work place and I got a lot of love and respect from there.

Your father was in Punjab Police? Was there no pressure from your parents or family to join the police or do any other government job?

I am fortunate that my parents have always supported me. I was never pressured to become a doctor, engineer. My father was in the police. He could not have created any opportunity to help me become an actor but he always encouraged me. He never stopped me from dreaming big or following my heart. I feel that because there was an artiste in him too, he always supported me. Like normal households, I also tried to get a job in the police, Border Security Force (BSF), etc. But I was not successful. Perhaps God had made some other arrangements for me. I subsequently chose a profession to make people laugh and it gave me everything that I had never dreamed of.

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What kind of struggle did you and your family face after the untimely death of your father?

Six months after the death of my father, we had to leave our official quarter. When the umbrella of protection of your father is removed, you start facing the heat of life. Our family also endured the same things. But my mother never let us feel alone. She always gave us courage. She explained that tough days are also a part of life and it is important to accept them. It is certain that the path I had chosen was not easy. But with the help of my mother's courage and blessings, I achieved that position, which has made my mother proud today. Here, I want to say that it was only after the death of my father that I got a chance in Laughter Challenge, which changed my life. I often think that my father must have recommended me to God and that's why I got success. I still miss him and believe that my fame is the result of his blessings only.

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How did you manage to keep a positive frame of mind when success was eluding you in that phase of life?

I had no choice but to remain positive. I was not proficient in any other field. This is the reason why despite repeated rejections in the field of acting, I kept trying. What would I have done even if I had gone? I believe that if a person is determined and keeps on trying, then one day he will definitely succeed.

You also auditioned for Indian Idol but did not succeed. Do you have any regrets about not being able to fulfill your first dream of becoming a singer?

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I wanted to become a singer as a child, but I did not get any formal training in music. I used to listen to good music only. With age, I realised that music is a spiritual practice. I had not learned singing, so the passion to become a singer kept on diminishing slowly. It is God's grace that I keep getting opportunities to sing as an amateur on The Kapil Sharma Show. Nonetheless, my album was also released recently, which was loved by the people. The love I had for singing is still there. I thank God that I have achieved everything that I could not even imagine. There is no place for regrets in my life.

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In the early days of Hindi cinema, there were star comedians like Kishore Kumar, Mehmood, Johnny Walker. But since lead actors like Amitabh Bachchan and Govinda started playing comic roles, the stardom of comedians declined. Comedians have once again gained stardom with your arrival. What would you like to say about it?

Artistes like Kishore Kumar, Mehmood, Johnny Walker take birth in centuries. They deserved the stardom they got. Also, it was the ability of Amitabh Bachchan sir and Govinda sir to pull off the serious and comic roles with equal finesse. But I would like to say that even today the situation is much better. The graph of stand-up comedy and comedians has only gone up. Earlier, in a musical show, a comedian appeared in between a singing performance basically to give the singer a rest. Today, comedy programmes are being organised prominently in the country and abroad.

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How do you view the rise in popularity of stand-up comedy these days?

The empire of stand-up comedy is getting bigger by the day. This could be called the golden age for stand-up comedy and comedians. It makes me very happy to see stand-up comedy flourishing. I myself started with stand-up comedy. Stand-up comedy in Laughter Challenge and Comedy Circus made me popular. Later, I conceived a show where great personalities from sports, cinema, literature and music would be interviewed in a fun-filled atmosphere. Today, many stand-up comedians are becoming famous across the country through YouTube, Instagram, Facebook. They all express their gratitude to me, so I feel happy. I know everyone has his own share of struggles. It is by the grace of God that I became the medium to popularise comedy shows in our country. But this does not diminish the importance of other artists. Everyone has his own contribution. It is heartening that in our lives full of anxiety, pain, sorrow, stand-up comedians are bringing happiness to the faces of people.

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But some stand-up comedians land in trouble for airing their opinions on certain issues in their shows. They are accused of hurting sentiments in the country?

I believe that feelings have always been hurt. But earlier, people were generous and even today, there are generous people around. The fact is that news travels faster these days due to advancements in the field of information and technology. That's why when someone speaks something, it reaches more people in less time. However, I must say that all of us artistes should keep in mind that no one's feelings should be hurt while we are joking. In an attempt to make people laugh, if we hurt someone, then all our art is meaningless.

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You have also been embroiled in different controversies over the years. Some controversies have been related to co-stars and in some cases it was said that your comedy contains anti-women comments. What would you like to say about it?

Regarding the controversy involving me and my co-stars, all I want to say is that it should not have happened. But we all are normal human beings. We all have disputes with our friends in our life. Because I am in a profession which is associated with fame, controversies related to me are talked about. It is not that such incidents do not happen to ordinary people. They just do not get discussed. As far as making anti-women comments is concerned, I would just like to say that my mother is always present in my show. I cannot say anything in front of my mother that goes against the honour of women. All I would say is that my intention should be understood. My only aim is to bring smiles to people's faces. If anyone ever feels insulted by any of my comments, I apologise to him. We all make mistakes as human beings and there should be no hesitation in admitting the mistake.

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Which has been the most special episode of The Kapil Sharma Show so far? Is there any celebrity still on your wish list?

By the grace of God, it has been 10 years of running the show. I have met everyone on the show who I have been a fan of. So, it would be difficult to say which episode has been special. If I have to mention any episode, I would like to mention the first episode. Dharmendra Sahab was the guest in that. I was just starting out at that time and people were shying away from appearing in the first episode. But Dharmendra Sahab supported me at such a time. The same holds true for my wife. My wife loved me when I did not have anyone.

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It was my great wish to see Lata Mangeshkar someday on my show. But this could not be possible. Even today there are many great people, whom I am eagerly waiting for in my show. I hope all my wishes come true.

Many Bollywood stars are known for their ego and tantrums. The ease with which you handle them in your shows has endeared you to many. How did you acquire this tact?

Everything I got from my own experience in life. Whenever an artiste comes on the show, I try not to disappoint the audience who are watching my show to hear and see those great artistes. That's why I try to give my best. I am comfortable with all artistes. Whenever they are available for my shows, I shoot as per their convenience

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You are an actor, a stand-up comedian, a singer, and an award ceremony host, all rolled into one. Which work do you enjoy the most or which work is the most difficult?

All these hobbies are mine, so I enjoy doing all these things. All these are forms of art and are related to each other. I must say that I do not want to be a producer because for that, one has to think differently. Any other form of artistic expression makes me happy.

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