9 Aug 2010

Juhu Tara Road

Footpath to celebrity. It's possible in Mumbai.

Sunil Pal grew up in a railway colony in Central India, close to Nagpur. As a youngster, this Maharashtrian boy was fascinated by Hindi movies, especially the comedians. He listened to tapes of comedians like Johnny Lever and it was only a matter of time before he was in Nagpur with his small acts that he presented as part of local orchestra groups.

But the lure of Mumbai was strong. His next home was a footpath in Santa Cruz (W). He used to work at a roadside tea shop which was also him home. He used to scan Loksatta and other newspapers for orchestras and bands and approached them with his acts. He was lucky to get a few breaks and he built on it until he could find a roof above his head in a chawl. He now earned enough to quit his job at the tea stall.

This also gave him time during the day to sit and write. He used to frequent the New Jumbo Cafe where he used to observe life and cook up jokes for the evening shows. Here are his scribbles behind the menu card.

It was in Mumbai that he met his inspiration, Johnny Lever who liked his act and directed Pal to his brother who helped hone his skills as a stand up comedian. Hundreds of shows later, he slowly developed the confidence and skills that that would help him leapfrog into the Mumbai life he always dreamed of.

His calling came when he became part of the Laughter Challende show on Star One. Satellite television took him to millions of homes across India and he has one person to thank for the instant connect. It's his imitation of a drunk taxi driver who used to frequent Cafe Jumbo past midnight, fully drunk. Pal's imitation of the drunk was an instant hit and it helped him win the first Laughter Challenge, beating Raju Shrivastva who was one of his guides and mentors on the stand-up circuit. That's the reason Pal has a bar counter turned into a shrine in his living room for the drunk taxi driver. However, Sunil Pal himself does not drink alcohol, even though he endorses a gut burning country liqour brand.

What sets Sunil Pal apart is that he took his hit dialogue from his act in Laughter Challenge to a new height. He went on to write, produce and direct a movie named 'Bhavnao Ko Samjho'. He brought together 51 stand-up comedians in the city to star in the movie, a task that got the movie into the Guinness Book Of World Records.

Sunil Pal's son, Saral plays with a poster of his movie.

The original print of the movie occupies a corner in Sunil Pal's office. The film, wholly produced by Sunil Pal didn't do very well in the box office. But the video sales are believed to be good.

Sunil Pal. Stand up comedian, Writer, Director and Producer. Today, he lives in a spacious apartment in Juhu, a short distance from the footpath he called his home when he landed in Mumbai over a decade back.


Bit Hawk said...


flaming coppercat said...

wow wow wow!
'gut burning' hahaha
awesome story

Shruthi said...


Chandan Shanbhag said...

nice story!!!

Paresh Palicha said...

You're a real fan! :-)

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