'Brightened our lives with laughter, humour and positivity': PM Modi – Sambad English

‘Brightened our lives with laughter, humour and positivity’: PM Modi – Sambad English

New Delhi: Articulating the sentiments of Raju Srivastava fans across the world, Prime Minister Na…
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Remembering Raju Srivastava, the comic who found humour in everyday life

Bollywood mourns Raju Srivastava’s demise; Ajay Devgn says comedian gifted India laughs, Rajpal Yad…
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Raju Srivastava: Comic who found humour in everyday life – Tribune India

Raju Srivastava. File Photo The first brush of fame came as an Amitabh Bachchan lookalike but Raju Srivastava soon grew out of that shadow to carve an identity all his own as a stand-up comic and sometime actor who kept the laughs rolling in. Srivastava, who died on Wednesday after more than 40 days in Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences, was only 58. It was a life well lived, his career in comedy segueing into politics over the last eight years with him joining the Samajwadi Party and then the BJP. The boy from Kanpur kept his audiences in theatres, on television and lately on social media platforms engaged with vivid societal sketches, be it about travelling in Mumbai’s famous locals or lampooning queues at wedding buffets. Srivastava, whose career predated the current comedy club culture, was first noticed for his resemblance to Bachchan and then gradually attained popularity as a mimicry artiste impersonating the superstar as well as politicians such as Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lalu Prasad Yadav. Different from the stand-up artistes of today who are more satirical in their approach, Srivastava’s humour – always in Hindi – made him hugely popular across the spectrum. He played nameless bit parts in films such as “Tezaab” (1988), “Maine Pyaar Kiya” (1989), and “Baazigar” (1993). He launched a series of audio cassettes and video CDs and had a role in the popular 1990s Doordarshan superhero show “Shaktimaan”. And then in 2005, it all changed. That’s when Srivastava was catapulted to fame with his set-pieces in the first season of the stand-up comedy show “The Great Indian Laughter Challenge”. The kind of familiar face in the comedy and cinema circuit suddenly became a household name. His sharp humour played out through his alter ego ‘Gajodhar bhaiya’, the lazy common man who had his finger on the pulse of the people. As Srivastava climbed the ladder of fame, he was rarely political, restricting his stand-up pieces to daily observations, parodies and impersonation of public figures. Ironically, though, Srivastava was clearly politically inclined. In 2014, he got a Samajwadi Party ticket to contest the Lok Sabha election from Kanpur. He returned it, however, to board the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi nominated him to be part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and he was also chairperson of the Film Development Council of Uttar Pradesh when he died. His last Twitter post on August 9, just a day before he had a heart attack while working out in a Delhi hotel, is a video of himself endorsing Modi’s call to hoist the tricolour in every household between August 13-15. He slammed Amazon Prime Video’s show “Mirzapur” for its graphic sexual and violent content. “Certain guidelines should be issued, the government should intervene and people should also boycott such things…,” he said. And in 2021, he targeted “Tandav”, also on Amazon, for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Hindus. While several BJP leaders raised concerns, FIRs were lodged in Mumbai and Lucknow against the producers of the show, starring Saif Ali Khan and Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, as well as officials of the OTT platform. “I have been saying this for a long time that our feelings are being toyed with. A conspiracy to defame Hinduism is afoot. You should be ashamed of yourselves for mocking our Hindu gods and goddesses,” Srivastava said in his strongly worded video. Filmmaker Vinod Kapri, for instance, posted an old video where Srivastava can be seen in a spoof talking to Lord Brahma, promising him to arrange a meeting with actor Madhuri Dixit. More recently, Srivastava spoke out on the controversy over Ranveer Singh’s ‘nude’ photoshoot.  Srivastava also wrote columns for Hindi dailies, including Dainik Bhaskar. “The comedy streak has subconsciously come into us too. He struggled before he attained huge popularity and became everyone’s favourite,” younger brother Dipoo told PTI. It was a family of six brothers and one sister. Their father Ramesh Srivastava, a retired government employee, was a ‘hasya kavi’ (humour poet).  The comedy was perhaps foretold but the young Raju may not have known it when he boarded a train from Kanpur to Mumbai. Bachchan had sustained a near-fatal injury while shooting for the 1982 film “Coolie” and Srivastava just had to get there – to be part of the crowds standing in vigil outside the hospital. “Raju bhai would eat vada pav every day and stand outside the hospital and pray for Bachchan ji’s life,” Dipoo recalled. Bachchan recovered but Srivastava, then just a teen, stayed on in Mumbai, determined to make a career in showbiz. Like many others before Srivastava, this story of fame also started on the grimy streets of Mumbai. According to his brother, Srivastava slept on pavements and parks, staying in slums and making do somehow. He made it a point, however, to track newspaper ads about comedy shows being performed in the city. The turning point came when T-Series’ Gulshan Kumar saw him performing at an event and offered to do an audio cassette show named “Hasna Mana Hai”. When he died on Wednesday after 41 days on the ventilator, thousands mourned the man who made them laugh through the years. Among those were the prime minister, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and a host of other politicos. Srivastava’s showbiz colleagues, including Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan and Anil Kapoor, also remembered the man who “gifted them laughs”. The Tribune, now published from Chandigarh, started publication on February 2, 1881, in Lahore (now in Pakistan). It was started by Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia, a public-spirited philanthropist, and is run by a trust comprising four eminent persons as trustees. The Tribune, the largest selling English daily in North India, publishes news and views without any bias or prejudice of any kind. Restraint and moderation, rather than agitational language and partisanship, are the hallmarks of the paper. It is an independent newspaper in the real sense of the term. The Tribune has two sister publications, Punjabi Tribune (in Punjabi) and Dainik Tribune (in Hindi).
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