An exciting series, Round Planet, retells the greatest stories about our planet in a fresh and irreverent way, laced in genre-bending comedy and airs on Sony BBC Earth. Adding the right mix of local flavour with a tinge of humour, the channel has associated with a popular stand-up comedian from Namma Chennai- Aravind SA, who lent his voice to the show! He has dubbed the episodes in Tamil. Aravind SA is an internet sensation whose popularity is not just limited to India. The ‘Madrasi Da’ in conversation with DC talks about his association with the show, stand-up comedy in the regional industry, and more.
What was your reaction when you were roped for Round Planet? What made you say yes to it?
I was very excited when I got to hear from Sony BBC Earth about the show Round Planet, it was something that we don’t often get to collaborate on project like these, where a bit of the foundation is already put in by the people who were working on it. Still it required a significant amount of work to culturally adapt it. Also, I always wanted to do such projects where I could add a significant value with respect to the skill rather than being just part of it. This one project definitely was something which I wanted to do. Even as a comedian, I thought it was totally within the space I am operating in.
What are you planning to bring to the table that will cater specifically to the Tamil audience?
Whatever we adapted for the show in Tamil was specifically drawn from what already exists in our pop culture, but we made sure that there is good balance between what is considered popular. Because if all the references end up being popular people might feel they are watching a compilation of popular memes, so the aim was to keep references to the minimum. But the bigger connect was giving these animals a story that comes across as very relatable and accessible for the average Tamil middle class household who are probably watching the show. You need to give them something which they can watch in the hustle and bustle of the house as opposed to something heavy which requires them to just sit there and be glued, watching every scene/second of it, that’s the reason I wrote it in a way regardless of someone switching you can always come back at any point of time and cherish each section/portion in its own way. And it will hold everyone’s attention.
How do you think stand-up comedy has changed over the years, especially in the regional industry?
There are a lot of changes happening, not only in the regional Industry but at the national level. Every region is doing its own thing and some regions tend to represent the nation in an incidental way. I would say the growth of comedy has purely been regional everywhere be it Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru or even Chennai. Especially considering the last few years the growth has been exponential ever since platforms like Amazon Prime paved way for existing and aspiring comedians. They have opened up a completely new audience base for us whom we couldn’t cater to in the past, and even for the people who sign up on such platforms look out for more options. This has led to developing more interest and therefore more opportunities for the existing comedians. While the upcoming ones are a lot more in numbers, it’s just because of the excitement of having this art form a legitimate one in our lives as opposed to something that was considered niche. Today things are becoming more fashionable than it was, now a lot people are taking it up as a hobby which was not the case when I started.
Who do you look up to in the industry as an inspiration?
I don’t really look up to someone in the industry for inspiration because it’s not something I ended up doing what I wanted to and I did. It’s just something that happened accidently and I am still doing. So my heroes are all in the film world, I have directors who I look up to, legends like Mani Ratnam. Just like telling stories, when we started stand-up comedy, there was no Indian Stand-up comedy scene that we have now to lookup to for inspiration. We all were just friends from different cities; we respected each other’s work and supported each other.
With the political fervour in season, will your next stint have jabs on the current scenario?
I don’t go out there looking for such specific topics. If I have a stronger political opinion than before, then you might start seeing it in my show.
How do you define your style of comedy? What is it that sets you apart from the rest?
I don’t know what separates me from the rest. I believe that’s for the rest to tell. It’s such a difficult question to answer because we don’t have much of a discourse about stand-up comedy like we have for films. The film reviewers come up with all the terms, genres, classifications and later the film makers can later go back and say “Oh! I am a dark comedy guy” as opposed to making a new film they would prefer making that express their style. In comedy the styles are very generic which applies to most comedians, still talking about me I feel that I’m extremely frantic, very ranting, high on energy and very self-deprecating. I can never claim this to be some unique style.