Biswa Kalyan Rath – ‘Ladies ke Saamne’ and Student Suicide
Classes till five thirty on a Monday just got even more depressing. It just meant you reached Syndicate Hall later. That meant a long line awaited you. The queue starting from the venue serpentined all the way to Cad M Cad B. Smiles trying to peek out from beneath the eagerness but being saved for the rest of the evening. Hurried steps, a moment of pandemonium as they figure out how to get nearest to the stage. And once they get there, there was palpable anticipation, an infectious exhilaration that filled the space, almost uncontainable in the little Golden Jubilee Auditorium at Syndicate Hall. It was time, Manipal. The fluorescent-lit stage stood there, unsuspecting of the magnitude of its meaning to every comedy enthusiast that was there that evening.
The lights dimmed. The barely containable smiles now found no reason to remain inconspicuous. A single spotlight shone. Full attention to the stage, breaths held, the excite-o-meter bordering the red region now. And out jumped Priyansha Mishra, the perfect hype master, with her small talk before the real reason everyone was here, rewarding trivia about aforementioned reason with chocolates. And for no reason at all, nachos. Flawlessly executed by the DL 101 crew. Again, the metaphorical drumroll played, the excite-o-meter almost reached the end of its scale, and out came Sumaira Shaikh. The audience expected this, though an underlying hint of impatience was tangible. Manipal was more ready for this than it ever would be.
Starting out with something that could instantly trigger everyone in that room, the Indian education system, she then bantered on about toilets, societal positions, and the inventions the modern age brought with it, her set consisting of a slightly disorienting sprinkle of comedic insensitivity. A spiel on pepper spray, Hindi movie songs, ghosts, and eve teasing and a wisecrack on fire exits later, the audience was politely warmed up enough, set to laugh at the real jokes, the real reason.
And then, it was time – time for Manipal to witness its most major stand-up comic yet. Time for every thumping heart under that roof to explode with exhilaration. The comedic sixth sense was tingling now, every action heightened, in expectation of what was to come. Their all-time favourite right before them, living and breathing, ready to entertain. And boy, was it a welcome. The excite-o-meter blasting into the sky. Eyes wide in what could be perceived as disbelief, fingers clenched, at the edge of the seat, all phones to the stage, multiple small screens, relaying to Instagram and Snapchat what they almost couldn’t comprehend as reality. Surreal energy zapped through the air. And Biswa says hello. And the audience almost falls to the floor laughing, ten times louder than they cumulatively did for the previous act.
Kicking off with some good old audience roasts and the omnipresent take on the trials and tribulations of an engineering student, everyone roared at the humour, Biswa style. A story about online advertising later, he then jumped to a topic that is very far from the unicorns and rainbows of comedy that were currently prancing around the room. Death. And that’s not the most tabooed thing he ventured to explore. Depression. That wasn’t where the sensitivity stopped either. Suicide. That still wasn’t high enough on the list of things to be discretional about. Student suicide. Upon closer inspection, it was deduced by a few members of the audience that this might not have been the best move, especially in an environment like this. Insensitive or not, however, all this was carefully veiled by logical but funny observations, slightly obscuring the crude face value of these subjects with Biswa’s characteristic over dramatic face expressions and exaggerated hand gestures, a true performance on its own. The routine on marketing pitches made by colleges seemed familiar for some strange reason. He then went on to a topic that wasn’t so relatable for college students but was funny nevertheless – tax. Specifically, income tax. His delivery was interspersed with giggles at his own jokes, which just made it funnier. The spotlight was then drawn to mundane everyday objects and actions we deal with on a daily basis, and easily relatable humour set in. The audience was tenfold more animated by this time, almost stomping their feet in approval. The routine contained quite a few actual moral truths, entwined with applications to this in real life, ultimately leaving the audience in splits. But all this was just the calm before the storm that whirled up the audience in a hurricane of laughter not long after. These were all stepping stones to the grand finale, the final showdown. Something with suspicious black stuff. This was it. Biswa had satiated Manipal’s comedy cravings. Clutching their heads in mirth, half out of their seats, rocking back and forth in pure elation, the audience was left incredibly high-spirited, consumed with the contentment of a good show. But not before the customary knuckle crack video.
All in all, in the stream of people coming out of the auditorium, every face held a reminiscent smile, floating on the cloud of pure joy that any good stand-up show sends you off on, that was perfectly carried out by the DL 101 crew.
– Photographs by Akshat Chourasia, Sumeet Kumar, Baisil Kunjumon, Arvind