Sorabh Pant is out with this sixth stand-up special, and this time, the comedian is ranting about India. Titled Make India Great Again, it was released on Amazon Prime on Friday.
The title is a play on Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, or MAGA if you will, but knowing the absurd levels of pseudo nationalism in the country, we had to ask Sorabh if he’s been confronted about why he thinks there’s a need to make India great — does he mean that India is not great already?
“So far nobody’s commented on the title. But if I had released the show about a year back, there would have been some commotion. ‘Who are you to make India great again, huh? What is your qualification? You only know how to make jokes!’ and all that would have happened,” he says.
Jokes apart, as a citizen, he does have an opinion on how to make the country a better one, and his solution is pretty simple. “Everyone should just do their job. I mean actual job, not just rant about it. As a comedian, I just rant about stuff, and it sounds so similar to what political advisers, rather political goons, do. I think that’s why people prefer to listen to us than them. Politicians should exploit India positively instead of fuelling negativity and targeting one another, which they think is the only way to get votes,” he says, adding that all this hate floating around must also be cleared. “I don’t know why people are so hateful towards each other now. Nobody wants to be friends or even have a conversation with someone they disagree with, it’s just ridiculous. We need to stop hating,” says he.
Talking about the show, which was shot at Balgandharva Rangmandir, Mumbai, he says, “We had two shows, one of which was completely sold out. Oddly enough, I actually wanted to do the shoot in Pune, but due to logistical issues we couldn’t. Bengaluru and Pune were my first preferences, but we scrapped the idea because it costs a lot more money to get people down to these cities. Every time I have to spend extra money, I’m like ‘Yaar, mere bete ke playschool ki fees chali gayi (dude, there goes my son’s playschool fees)’.”
He shares that he had a great time shooting the video. And though he connected with the audience, there were some who had to do some rapid research to keep up. “One girl met me after the show and said, ‘Sir, I really loved the show but I had to keep googling your jokes because I didn’t understand the reference.’ I explain everything I’m talking about because I know my fan base includes teenagers who aren’t really aware of everything political, and I don’t blame them because when I was a teenager, I wasn’t aware of that stuff either,” he says.
Many comedians have been threatened by right-wingers, but that doesn’t stop them from doing their job — making jokes. Sorabh says that there are no political parties who are able to take criticism constructively.
“Regional parties in West Bengal, Maharashtra, UP and across the country are the most threatening ones. It’s funny because they are offended by Facebook posts and tweets. I am not anticipating any trouble though, because I have made fun of the things the Government did, as opposed to what I think of the people there. I have spoken not only about the current Government, but also the Opposition parties and all that stuff. I’ve done my research. People could still come up to me and say, ‘You’re so anti-national, go to Cambodia!’ or something like that, but at least I’ve made an effort to not be more derisive than most people are,” he says.
Talking about his favourite political personality, the comedian says, “So many of them are capable of such hilarity that it is just sad. But one guy I am fascinated with, but haven’t read up much about, is Nara Chandrababu Naidu. I think he’s done a good job with Hyderabad and Andhra Pradesh.”
Sorabh shares that there was a time when he was considering doing a stand-up special about every Indian Prime Minister there has been. “That would have been super fun, but given the ‘climate’ in India, it is difficult. And people still need to develop a sense of humour for such stuff,” he says.
All this comes from a guy with no ulterior motive to join politics. Ask him what he would do if he became PM for a day and he says, “I would follow myself on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and subscribe to my YouTube channel. That’s all I want, to be followed by the Prime Minister,” he ends.