Radio ha ha | Culture | Times Crest
Popular on Times Crest
  • In This Section
  • Entire Website
More in this Section
Leaving tiger watching to raise rice Ecologist Debal Deb, who did his post-doctoral research from IISc in…
The crorepati writer He's the man who gives Big B his lines. RD Tailang, the writer of KBC.
Chennai-Toronto express Review Raja is a Canadian enthusiast whose quirky video reviews of Tamil…
Don't parrot, perform Maestro Buddhadev Dasgupta will hold a masterclass on ragas.
A man's man Shivananda Khan spent his life speaking up for men who have sex with men.
Bhowmick and the first family of Indian football At first glance, it would be the craziest set-up in professional football.
From Times Blogs
The end of Detroit
Jobs in Detroit's car factories are moving to India.
Chidanand Rajghatta
How I love the word ‘dobaara’...
Can ‘bindaas’ or ‘jhakaas’ survive transliteration?
Shobhaa De
Anand marte nahin...
India's first superstar died almost a lonely life.
Robin Roy
popular entertainer

Radio ha ha


Here's the punch line: it's pretty tough getting Surender Sharma to laugh. When prodded to lighten up for a photo shoot he painfully summons a grin. The hangdog expression, you realise, is not an act. It's just that he doesn't find the ways of the world around him particularly funny. And the fact that he fixes you with a stern, unblinking stare is enough to take the smile off your own face.

The story of his long face is like something out of an RK Narayan story. "There was this tyrant who taught us in Ramjas School whom we nicknamed Knicker. Back in the '60s he would turn up in shorts, a tie and hat. He had a weird fetish - he would make us laugh by pulling comic faces and then cane us for creating a commotion. I would steadfastly refuse to laugh by refusing to look at him. And then I found that no matter what you say, if you look grave you get a lot of importance, " says Sharma who grew up in the old Delhi. His first attempts at humour began at the Sriram College of Commerce where, he says, he became famous for failing a year.

The decline and fall of Doordarshan sent a whole lot of people into oblivion. Sharma was one of them. The closest any humorist ever came to being a star in the country when ye olde Doordarshan ruled the waves has now found himself a new role. He is the joke-maker for FM radio. You can hear his mournful repartee on the radio as he responds to questions from the public. 'Sharmaji, my son managed to score only 99 per cent marks. Why?' 'Because my son scored the remaining one per cent. ' The sawal-jawaab (question-answer ) series Atpatte Sawaal, Chatpate Jawaab, incidentally, had run in the Sandhya Times for 12 years.

Sharma has also done a recent series of public interest radio ads for the Election Commission. "My wife asked me, 'Do I keep the ghunghat when I take a photo for my I card?' 'I said no, you need to show your face for that photo. But make sure you are veiled in the photo I keep in my wallet. ')

As the stereotypical old-style wife to his henpecked husband, Sharma's gharwali (which the Haryanvi drawl shortens to gharaali) is as much a star of the show as he is. She bullies him (Question: 'My wife and I run into a tiger in a jungle. What do I do?'

'Why do you worry? Let the tiger save himself. '), she blows up his hardearned money, is plug ugly, but still looks up to him for worldly wisdom. He insists that his humour is not misogynistic, that it only makes gentle fun at the expense of women.

His own wife, says Sharma, is nowhere close to being a ghunghat-clad naive matron. She abandoned the veil decades ago, sportingly accepts all her husbands gags because they bring in the money and can go toe to toe with him when it comes to repartee.

As Sharma narrates, "I had once bought some good white fabric for a friend from abroad. When she asked me, I joked that it was for her to use when she becomes a widow. She asked me, 'How do you know what colour I will wear as a widow?'"

In the '80s, Sharma had done a poetry series Kaalu on judwa bhai (twins), one of who was naughty and the other straight on a New Year's programme (this was when the only thing you could do on New Year's eve was watch DD's midnight gala, disco balls et al). His brand of humour was current then, it wasn't as uncool or politically incorrect as it might seem now. The gali, mohalla, ladki, chhed-chhad brand of jokes went down well. And the look, the drawl, the famous char lainan (fourliners ), the beat-up family man, the nagging wife - even those who didn't really understand Hindi loved his harried common man with a sad frown (rather like R K Laxman's Common Man) grappling with a manipulative world. He says it didn't matter where he was performing, Ichalkaranji or Jaipur, people understood his jokes even with lashings of his Haryanvi-Marwari dialect.

But like Doordarshan, kavi sammelans too faded from the cultural scene of north India. There was a time, he says, when he was mobbed wherever he recited. Thousands would turn up to hear him even when he was a small presence on a distant stage.

There would be total silence as the audience strained to hear. He is, he admits, a misfit in cable culture. That explains his absence from the many humour shows and comedy challenges. "I need to see my listener. At home, he can sit around scratching his head when I am reciting and I wouldn't know!" he quips.

The poet has another platform these days for his four-liners - dealer meets. He is a popular entertainer for small gatherings of middle-aged executives. And of course there are the many pravasi forums where he is invited to entertain nostalgic NRIs. But he doesn't complain about not being mobbed any more. "Those were days when the world was a serious place so everyone needed humour. Today we live in the age of the ridiculous. Who needs any more jokes?" he asks. And bursts out laughing.

Reader's opinion (1)

Himanshu MuniJul 14th, 2012 at 16:15 PM

Honestly,for the first time in so many decades,I have come across an update on Surinder Sharma!You are out of mind when you are 'type-cast',as said in bolywood.I wonder if he is on twitter or facebook.How about a chennal on Youtube?It is sad to see perormers mismanaging.-Himanshu Muni.

Other Times Group news sites
The Times of India | The Economic Times
इकनॉमिक टाइम्स | ઈકોનોમિક ટાઈમ્સ
Mumbai Mirror | Times Now
Indiatimes | नवभारत टाइम्स
महाराष्ट्र टाइम्स
Living and entertainment
Timescity | iDiva | Bollywood | Zoom
| Technoholik |


itimes | Dating & Chat | Email
Hot on the Web
Book print ads | Online shopping | Business solutions | Book domains | Web hosting
Business email | Free SMS | Free email | Website design | CRM | Tenders | Remit
Cheap air tickets | Matrimonial | Ringtones | Astrology | Jobs | Property | Buy car
Online Deals
About us | Advertise with us | Terms of Use and Grievance Redressal Policy | Privacy policy | Feedback
Copyright© 2010 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service