Sumukhi Suresh Curated

Stand Up Comedian, Actor, Writer & Show Runner

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This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Sumukhi Suresh have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Sumukhi Suresh's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming comedians. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • What do you think is the problem between our country and humour?

    The problem isn't the lack of freedom. The problem is intolerance. We as a nation have become very touchy and somehow criticism, a joke on politics has become sensational. We want to and some of us actually use comedy as a tool to speak about politics and I hope the audience is ready to take it rather than threatening and shutting it down.

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  • Stalking is a very serious issue. How do you think the audience will react?

    The show is humorous and playful initially but as the series progresses, you see that Pushpavalli falls flat because of her actions. Regardless of what your gender is, stalking never works out and thus you see this lively character broken by the end of it. As a writer, I don't believe in spelling things out and I am sure the audience is smart enough to see her failure and understand stalking leads to nowhere.

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  • What was the thought behind Pushpavalli?

    I love playing different characters and I really wanted to play someone who seems bubbly friendly but has a greyish layer to her. That's also because women are either shown as a positive or a negative character, we hardly explore her greyish layers. That was a strong motive. Secondly, every woman has made that one mistake or fallen head over heels for someone and done irrational things for him or her and that is a very strong memory. I wanted to tap into that trigger.

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  • What are your hopes from these new female comedians?

    I just hope that more women write roles and characters for themselves and not wait for someone else to write for them because a man can't always understand the complexities a comic who is a woman can portray. All I really want is for more women to be part of the comedy circuit so that we will be called as just comics and not 'female comedians' and that will be the biggest change.

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  • Is the number of female comedians growing?

    There are more number of us than before. Not many, but still a lot more. More women are trying stand-up, there are more – not too many but it's a start – sketches/content being written with women in mind. All of this hopefully gets more women to come forward and be part of the scene.

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  • Any suggestions for those aspiring to be like you?

    Don’t be like me. Be like yourself.

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  • Who is your idol and why?

    I don’t have an idol. I like Bill Burr, Tina Fey, Merck Streep and Tabu. Their work is super inspiring.

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  • What are your other passions apart from stand up comedy and acting?

    I love cooking. When I am not on stage, I am in the kitchen.

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  • What impact do you want to create on this world? What is your goal for the future?

    I want to do as many specials as I can, make shows and be the lead in. It and also learn how to make ragi bread that rises well.

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  • What has been the lowest point in your career? And how did you overcome it?

    I don’t have a particular low point. I mean when comics bomb that’s also a low point. The industry is such that there will be highs and lows, so we are learning how to stay afloat on a daily basis.

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  • Did you feel you were included in the industry from the time you started? Have you ever felt excluded for any reasons?

    Comedy is an inclusive industry. People have each other’s back. All my fellow comics have helped me throughout. I started Improv with Kenny and Kaneez pushed me to move to Mumbai, sketches with Naveen who also saved Pushpavalli season 1, Kanan helped me with BehtiNaak. If you ask me – Are there bumps on the way? I will say yes, but which field doesn’t have bumps?

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  • Have you ever been body shamed?

    Hahaha. Ask me ‘have I ever not been body shamed’.

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  • How important do you feel are good looks in your industry?

    Comedy doesn’t expect someone to look picture perfect. It is more inclusive. It’s about you and your voice. Although since I am making shows and web series where I want to act and be the lead I am realising how much looks matter.

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  • If you did face issues, what gave you strength to continue?

    I know how to work hard. That is my strength. So any issue comes my way I go back to my basics.

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  • Did you go through any issues on your way to be a stand up comedian?

    Like any comic, I took time to find my funny, find my voice. Since I shifted from the food industry to comedy, I am still learning and researching about the industry and the content that has been made.

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  • When and why did you decide to become a stand up comedian?

    Comedy was incidental. I didn’t seek to become one. I auditioned for a show called THE IMPROV based out of Bengaluru. I thought it was a play. Turns out it was a comedy show. Then I started doing videos, sketches work RichaKapoor and Naveen Richard. Finally I took up stand up. By this time I realised I should put all that I have in this and make it work for me. So I quit my job and moved to Mumbai.

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  • How does Pushpavalli behave around her male characters?

    Even all the male characters around the protagonist -- the good-looking Nikhil she stalks, the ever abusive but sweet librarian-friend Pankaj she constantly manipulates for her little schemes.

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  • What can we expect from Pushpavalli season 3?

    If we get to the third season, we will have to up everything.

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  • What suggested you that it would be a lot better when Naveen also joined your show?

    Naveen and I, we keep giving each other characters that others won't give us. For example, Naveen wrote 'Better Life Foundation' where I play a very strict, angry boss and that's not someone I am. I'm very jovial. Also, Naveen and my chemistry is really good. We keep discounting it, take it for granted. We did not feel it during the shooting because we have worked so much that we did not realise. But we realised that it has turned out well.

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  • What is the reason for adding such female energies?

    The reason I like creating female energies around my male characters is because my father is like that. He is a proper feminist and it is so regular for him that he does not even register that.

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  • What kind of character is Pushpavalli's fiancee Vidyut?

    Vidyut is a quintessential rom-com character from India. He is very local flavor. He is tall, sweet, likes tennis and says stuff like 'you are feisty, I like that'.

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  • Why does the men in the show seem to have problems similar to those mostly faced by women?

    I like to give boys troubles that girls have. For example Pankaj (played by good friend Naveen Richard) is verbally very abusive but he is also the guy who accepts a flawed best friend. Pankaj is also the guy who likes to wear pink shirts and is more insecure in his relationship with Swati (Preetika Chawla). There is a female energy to all the male characters in the show. They are not feminine, they just have female energy.

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  • Why was Pushpavalli made to be an insecure character?

    Pushpavalli is the most manipulative and a problematic character in the show but she is also so insecure that you are like 'somebody please give her something'. You are constantly on 'didi' (elder sister) mode with her. I wanted audiences to feel that.

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  • Did you ever move cities for a guy?

    Moving cities for a guy? Honestly, I have done that. I have worked at a library so I created that environment in the show. It is sort of personally inspired as in I wanted to explore the whole thought of insecurity.

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  • What did you want to say with Pushpavalli?

    With 'Pushpavalli', what I wanted to say was that 'yes, she is a problematic character but she is also a nice person with insecurity'. You relate to her not because she is a stalker, you relate to her because she is insecure.

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  • Is Pushpavalli a protagonist, or antagonist in the show?

    Initially, I just wanted to write a funny show. I'm not a big fan of female characters that are painted in black-and-white even though a lot has changed over the years but subliminally, we still slot women as 'sati savitri' or 'vamp'. Why can’t they be both? All women are grey.

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  • Any word about season 3 of Pushpavalli?

    Ah... If only screenplay was that easy to crack!

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  • Do you feel the success of your show, Pushpavalli?

    Yes, it has made people realise that I am not just a stand up comic. I am also an actor. I can hold your attention for 8 episodes and make you feel things. I can be a lead. Also I am beginning to be considered a better showrunner, better writer from S1 which is a good sign.

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  • Do you feel the success of your show, Pushpavalli?

    Yes, it has made people realise that I am not just a stand up comic.

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  • Why does Pushpavalli have to get hurt all the time?

    As writers we are very brutal and mean to Pushpavalli. She is a problematic character and that's why she constantly gets hurt and pays a price throughout both seasons.

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  • Why did this story have a female stalker?

    We always knew the lead is female because I wanted to be the lead of my own show. I mostly get only best friend roles and I was tired of that.

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  • Why were you shocked to see people loving the flawed character of Pushpavalli?

    I was shocked that they like Pushpavalli. Although I think it is because we never take a stand on her behalf. We show what is happening, what she is doing and the audience decides what they feel. We never feed that to them. I think when we had gotten to the shoot draft Debbie and I were very clear that she is sweet, naive but extreme too. I was sure in my head that I was playing an antagonist and there is no way people will like me. In fact, the more you hate me but can't help but feel empathetic towards me the more it means we have succeeded.

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  • What is the essence of the show Pushpavalli?

    Pushpavalli is about a girl who is smitten by a charming man and she decides to pursue him by moving cities and ends up inadvertently stalking him while he is clueless. It addresses the issue of stalking in a lighter vein.

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  • What do you like about the show Pushpavalli?

    I mean the lead is a stalker who is insecure! But I think the fact that a big girl is the lead and got 2 seasons to be the lead sounds nice.

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  • Is it possible that you have to face confidence issues?

    It's been a long journey and I am still working on my self-worth and my confidence. I have realised loving yourself doesn't happen overnight. It's a marathon. I am trying to make sure I love myself before the people around me do. If this makes other girls also accept themselves and work towards liking themselves then I would love that.

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  • What are your plans for the near future?

    I hope to be touring a lot in the near future. I also want to sell at least one more show this year so that it’s all fun and sorted for everyone. Hopefully, someone likes the idea and buys it.

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  • What can we hope for in this situation?

    The live space has taken a hit but hopefully, all of us will continue to create new shows and online properties.

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  • Has this lockdown have any affect on your live entertainment?

    I was so excited because I had so many shows lined up but they all got canned because of corona(virus).

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  • Why does Pushpavalli operate without an active partner in crime?

    Pushpavalli is a lone wolf. She’s too insecure to trust anybody.

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  • What are your and your co-writers, Richard and Shaikh's plans on a third act?

    As much as everyone is like ‘When will we get a season three?,’ the three of us are like, ‘What if we write a season three that they don’t like?’

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  • Do you finally feel closer to your show?

    As a showrunner, I think I covered more bases in season two. I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is my show.'

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  • What similarities remain between Pushpavalli and Fleabag?

    You don’t like or dislike Fleabag. You are Fleabag. Likewise, you don’t like or dislike Pushpavalli. You are Pushpavalli.

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  • What characteristics of Pushpavalli make her connect to us?

    She is insecure. And that’s why you connect with her experiences. Because at some point in time, you have also been insecure, regardless of gender.

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  • Is penning a script for a full-fledged show is a separate ball game altogether?

    If you think that ‘If you can write sketches, you can write a full-fledged show,’ that’s an absolute lie.

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  • What was your learning from Pushpavalli?

    Nothing can replace good writing.

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  • What about ironing the chinks in Pushpavalli’s flat on-paper persona?

    It’s like you’re doing watercolors and then suddenly you start a new color. But you’ve got to merge it, right? You have to look at the yellow leading to the orange. You may not get irritated if I put yellow and then orange immediately but if I merge it, you’ll be like, ‘Oh, there’s a flow to this. Nice, thank you!'

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  • What did you enjoy the most about Pushpavalli?

    More than scale, more than anything, I enjoy watching good performances and the audience is actually very good at catching bad acting. Just because they’re used to it doesn’t mean we put on a showcase that’s jarring.

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  • How was the dialogue writing for the character played by Vidyuth Gargi?

    When Vidyuth Gargi (who plays Pushpavalli’s fiancé in season two) auditioned, I had to rewrite that character. We never accounted for chemistry when both of us were rehearsing and I knew if we didn’t address it and just wrote lallu (stupid) lines for him, it’s gonna be very unfair to the actor.

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  • What did you think about the tonality of the characters?

    Pankaj shouldn’t sound like Naveen is acting like Pankaj, Pushpavalli shouldn’t sound like Sumukhi is acting like Pushpavalli. You know what I mean?

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  • Why did you and the writers write the roles outside of a black or white lens?

    We just let the character be and I’m very particular about having women as gray characters. The moment you treat them as women, people with flaws, they immediately seem human. This also goes for any gender and I think that’ll stay for all my writing.

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  • What kind of person is Pushpavalli's mother?

    Pushpavalli’s mom is just brutal. It’s not that she’s an asshole. She just doesn’t have time for your bullshit. For this character, it’s a struggle to even survive. She can’t empathize with you.

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  • What did Pushpavalli change in your life?

    I was very tired of not being approached to play the lead. Then Pushpavalli came together.

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  • How difficult is it to pull up a show?

    Show running and creating a show is way more than just writing and acting in a show. You are supposed to be there from end to end and every segment of the process teaches you something. You’ve to be ready for some sleepless nights

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  • What happened when she first presented the draft of Pushpavalli to the folks at her management agency Only Much Louder?

    Everyone told me that it’s a shit script.

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  • Is this lockdown a difficulty for you?

    I know there was a time in my life when if something like this would have happened, I would have had a hard time.

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  • How did you make the decision to act in Pushpavalli?

    I am done with playing the supporting role. Those are the kind of roles that come to me and I also get bored easily as a person. So I knew I wanted to act in this.

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  • Do you have any particular comics that you look to for inspiration?

    Tina Fey. She wrote 30 Rock. She’s a universal for all comics. I’m very very fond of Sarah Silverman’s comedy. I find it very awkward. She starts of slow and you think she’s going to bomb, but her story structure is phenomenal. I’m going through her older YouTube clips and interviews.

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  • You’ve collaborated frequently with Naveen Richard. Tell us more about how you partnered on Pushpavalli.

    When we started writing, he was in the US. When he came back, literally that day we had our first reading and I said, “Thanks, you are here now. Please leave your work aside and sit and write with us.” It’s just that we’ve written a sketch show together and we gel very well as improvisers. And as different as our style of comedy is, he likes honesty and so do I. That is our biggest connect. I know he’s not a big fan of grey characters but he let me go for it. His character is screaming and abusing throughout the show which he was so irritated with. But friend to friend, comic to comic, I want him to play characters he’s never had. How else will we play other things if not for writing for each other? He gave me Sumukhi and got me out of the ‘Aunty’ and ‘Maid’ zone and I wish to hopefully give him a different angle altogether. I don’t think I would have written the show without him, as simple as that.

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  • The CW show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend also features a woman who stalks a man she’s infatuated with. Even though that show is a musical, your show has a similar premise. Do you fear people will draw parallels?

    To be fair, this is my story. This is what I did. When I wrote it, I drew from personal experience. And I have seen Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, it is an extremely funny show. It uses the musical sequences so well. But it’s committed to its universe of funny. And it’s still a laughter ride. Pushpavalli is a laughter ride only to a certain extent. You are part of that character’s highs and definitely her failures. I didn’t want to make it very funny because regardless, stalking is wrong. It’s not going to take you anywhere.

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  • In Indian content so far, we’ve mostly only seen men stalking women. Also lots has been said about how what we see influences our actions. Do you think that some people could see this as problematic?

    No because if you see the entire show, she falls on her face. If a person is going to resort to something where the lines are blurred, it is going to lead to failure. Till episode 5-6, you’re still think she’s stupid and it’s harmless. Post that, the spiral becomes worse and you think, “What is wrong with you?” There is a role reversal but I’m sure the show is clear in saying that it’s wrong and it’s not going to take you anywhere. You’d rather just take rejection.

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  • You’ve always done unconventional roles like Sumukhi Chawla in Better Life Foundation or as 10-year-old Behti in your sketch show Behti Naak. In Pushpavalli, you play a stalker. Is that a conscious decision?

    Partially. Better Life Foundation was something that Naveen had thought and written for me. But any other character that I’ve written, I’ve tried to stick to a grey-ish zone because I don’t think women characters should be written only as positive or only as negative. To be fair that applies to any character for that matter, but I see that a lot of people get into circle of writing for women. There are no grey zones. Pushpavalli’s just a flawed person which we all are, especially women. That’s the thought process I come from when I play characters and especially when I got to write this one, I definitely stuck to a flawed zone because it’s not relatable in terms of experience but she’s relatable as a person.

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  • You’ve worked extensively in various genres of comedy – improv, sketch, stand-up and more. How was it different working on a web series?

    I’m going to be very honest with you, for the first whole day I was in a bubble that I could do it and the next day the bubble burst. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. Taking a sketch idea which is so small and packing so many jokes into it, it was more detailed. And as a comic, more challenging. You have to write jokes around the storyline and the character. Even though it seemed strenuous at first, it got way more exciting. I would say every comic should definitely learn and do a web series because it’s very fulfilling.

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  • Any advice you would give to budding female comedians?

    Don’t do it. But if you do, please realise that if you can be that resourceful and multi-task that well, you’re sure to be able to do other things.

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  • What role do you play in Humble Politician Nograj, the English-Kannada comedy?

    I play Nograj’s wife, Lavanya. My friend Danish Sait is the lead and I just want to support his journey as a comic.

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  • Is Behti based on anyone you know?

    Children are cruel. She’s based on what my oldest brother and I were like when we were growing up. It was a hard time, my mother was studying for her CA degree and she supported the family. Money was tight, and while I was shielded from poverty by my two elder brothers, I have an opinion on it. Behti will give back as good as she gets.

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  • What is the difference now that you are writing your own shows?

    Before BLF, I was only cast as someone’s mother or the maid, or someone’s best friend. Then they’ll try to make it better by saying that the character is ‘quirky’.

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  • How did you come up with the name Pushpavalli?

    If you’re an English-speaking comic, Bangalore is a haven. I also wanted to set the story there, with a multi-lingual cast because I’m tired of shows set in Delhi or Mumbai. I wanted to have south Indian characters with distinctively south Indian names — not like Neha or Pooja Iyer. Pushpavalli came to mind, and it means a ‘flowering creeper’, so we had a suitable name for our stalker

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  • Can you relate to Pushpavalli?

    Like Pushpavalli, I moved to Bangalore for a boy, and worked at a children’s library. Then, I was with a small government laboratory that did food microbiology; later, I moved on to a certification company. The relationship didn’t last but comedy happened

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  • Why did the character Pushpavalli have to be a stalker?

    When I started writing the show in August, I wanted to make people laugh but also feel uncomfortable about the blurred lines between persuasion and stalking.

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  • What problem did you have to face regarding Pushpavalli?

    Some people have complained that they didn’t like the show because they couldn’t like Pushpavalli; they didn’t understand that she’s an anti-hero. Tell me, have there ever been any likeable stalkers?

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  • How did the idea of Disgust Me occur to you?

    The male-female ratio at comedy shows is like a mechanical engineering class. If I crack a sex joke, the women don’t laugh, because they are concerned about how they are perceived by people around them. But they will laugh when they are surrounded by women and can be themselves.

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  • What can you tell us about Disgust Me, your invite-only, hour-long women-only comedy show at a brewery in Andheri (West)?

    I’d done the first edition in Bangalore in September, a month before I moved to Mumbai. It’s a secret show, and it is open to people who identify as a woman. It’s a safe space.

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  • Did your parents take time to come around to the idea of seeing their daughter being a stand-up comedian?

    Yes. But my mom is way funnier. She is way better. Her special would be hilarious.

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  • Does you gender play a factor in your choices or your brand of humour?

    We don’t box things. Men put people in boxes, relationships in boxes. Females, meanwhile, are overthinkers and can think six different things at a time. And women can bring a different twist to a subject a man jokes about. Boys tend to make a lot of material about their mothers. A female comic would have a different spin on it because her relationship with a mother is different than a man’s is.

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  • Was it easy to play a character who is not merely funny but has other character traits too?

    I enjoy acting and story-driven content. In stand-up, you have a one-sided audience but in a web series, I have to react to another actor then and there, so I cannot be my cockier personal self. There, I have to show my vulnerability.

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  • Why did you initially try to cram in numerous experiences and characters into the plotline, but eventually stuck to Pushpavalli's track?

    I realised that I needed to commit to one particular concept or plot. That’s why in every scene, you are following Pushpavalli. Writing-wise, the challenge was definitely to delete some very lovable characters.

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  • How difficult was it to create an eight-episode series that lasts for 180 minutes and is packed with character arcs, emotional graphs and plot developments?

    We started writing in May and finished by October. We kept ensuring that we were not running out of the universe constantly by telling a joke.

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  • What did Behti say to Shikhar for acting smug?

    "If you are so smart, why didn’t your father return for three years? I asked you not to overdo it."

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  • What was your idea for Behti, the character?

    For Behti, I exaggerated my idea of a not-so-cute but honest kid, shot in black and white for no reason but my entertainment. Not all kids are cute, right? Some have hairy faces. The unibrow was an idea I wanted to run with.

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  • What dilemma did you have while creating your character in Pushpavalli?

    I initially tried to tone her down because I wondered whether to make her funny or a relatable character to every girl. But then I was just honest and stuck to the universe of the story. We must remember that Pushpavalli is a resourceful girl. Her comedy is a comedy of errors with things happening around her and her reacting to it by making mistakes and falling flat after a spiral of bad decisions.

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  • How would you describe your character Pushpavalli?

    A flowering creeper who creeps in slowly. You think she is unassuming but you never know if she can create a mess.

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  • How was it different working on a web series?

    I’m going to be very honest with you, for the first whole day I was in a bubble that I could do it and the next day the bubble burst. I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. Taking a sketch idea which is so small and packing so many jokes into it, it was more detailed. And as a comic, more challenging. You have to write jokes around the storyline and the character. Even though it seemed strenuous at first, it got way more exciting. I would say every comic should definitely learn and do a web series because it’s very fulfilling.

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  • Do you have any particular comics that you look to for inspiration?

    Tina Fey. She wrote 30 Rock. She’s a universal for all comics. I’m very very fond of Sarah Silverman’s comedy. I find it very awkward. She starts of slow and you think she’s going to bomb, but her story structure is phenomenal. I’m going through her older YouTube clips and interviews.

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  • Can you tell me more about how you partnered with Naveen Richard on Pushpavalli?

    When we started writing, he was in the US. When he came back, literally that day we had our first reading and I said, “Thanks, you are here now. Please leave your work aside and sit and write with us.” It’s just that we’ve written a sketch show together and we gel very well as improvisers. And as different as our style of comedy is, he likes honesty and so do I. That is our biggest connect. I know he’s not a big fan of grey characters but he let me go for it. His character is screaming and abusing throughout the show which he was so irritated with. But friend to friend, comic to comic, I want him to play characters he’s never had. How else will we play other things if not for writing for each other? He gave me Sumukhi and got me out of the ‘Aunty’ and ‘Maid’ zone and I wish to hopefully give him a different angle altogether. I don’t think I would have written the show without him, as simple as that.

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  • What the show, Pushpavalli has done for her at large?

    Immediately, it didn’t do a lot for me. But over the past one year, I have noticed that a lot of people have discovered it, and come for my live events because of it. I don’t play the best friend role anymore.

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  • What can viewers expect from the show, Pushpavalli?

    If you completely finish watching season 2, it is way more frustrating. If you end up watching season 2, you'll get irritated that the season 3 is not available. I am 100 per cent sure. 'Yaar season 3 kaha hai?' they will say. I am sure they have struck that chord.

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  • What can you tell us about the second season of your sitcom Pushpavalli?

    Season 2 is better written. All of us have worked towards making a better-looking show. The show is also slightly darker, a bit more dramatic and comedy is of course there. The beauty of Pushpavalli is that it is neither black nor white. The characters are grey. It has more plugs in terms of emotional quotient.

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