Art & Entertainment

Raju Srivastava Brought A Bucolic Charm To Comedy With Malice Towards None

Long before the millennials lapped up and propped up the so-called new-age stand-up comics mouthing inanities with dollops of cuss words in the grab of in-your-face humour at chic clubhouses in metropolitan cities, there was Raju Srivastava, the man who brought about a bucolic charm of mirth and laughter with malice towards none.

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Raju Srivastava
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Long before the millennials lapped up and propped up the so-called new-age stand-up comics mouthing inanities with dollops of cuss words in the grab of in-your-face humour at chic clubhouses in metropolitan cities, there was Raju Srivastava, the man who brought about a bucolic charm of mirth and laughter with malice towards none.

Raju, who passed away at 58 in Delhi today, came on the scene when stand-up comedy was in a nascent stage in India and comics were merely used to give relief in between the tense situations in cinema.

He first made an impression on television and old goggle-box buffs still recall his early days gigs on Doordarshan. An unassuming man from Kanpur, Raju arrived in the nineties when Bollywood was getting tired of loud comedies that had become the hallmark of commercial cinema.

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The era of Johnny Walker, Mehmood, Asrani, Jagdeep and others of their ilk had been left far behind and the leading actors such as Govinda had usurped the role of the traditional comedians.

Also, the cinema of the nineties had little scope for comedians like them. Only a few rare filmmakers like David Dhawan dabbled in comedies with the likes of Govinda-Kader Khan-Shakti Kapoor-Johnny Lever. It was primarily a decade of romantic musicals when top actors turned into comic heroes with films like Andaz Apna Apna, Aankhen and Raja Babu.

The tradition changed a bit in the new millennium with the movies of Priyadarshan which brought to the fore actors like Paresh Rawal and Rajpal Yadav. But comedy still remained the preserve of leading men like Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn. The conventional comedians of yesteryear faded from the scene.

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Raju made a mark for himself at that time not in Hindi cinema but on the small screen with his impeccable comic timing and ability to mimic the top actors and politicians. His mimicry of Amitabh Bachchan and Lalu Prasad brought the house down whether he performed in live programmes or reality shows. What was remarkable about him was that none of the celebrities took offence to his remarks even if he performed before them.

That is because Raju did not make any offensive jibe at anybody’s expense in the name of comedy in any of his acts. It was so unlike many stand-in comedians who came after him. In fact, he inspired a whole generation of comedians such as Kapil Sharma who came to Mumbai from the small towns to tickle the funny bones.

Raju lived the life of a common man and observed it very closely, which was reflected in all his acts. He created a character called Gajodhar based on his own experiences, which connected him with his audiences regardless of the setting of his shows or the profile of his audiences.

His characters were invariably rooted to life, that everybody could relate to. He remained a man from the hinterland and his humour came from there. That is why he was so loved not only in the fraternity of comics but also by his audiences. He underlined the fact that you don’t have to hurt anybody to draw peals of laughter from your audiences.

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He proved that it could be done with utmost subtlety. That is what distinguished himself from all his peers.

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