An alumnus from National Law University Odisha, Rohan Mukherjee moved to Mumbai the day after he graduated to pursue standup comedy. He began his career with the Awkward Fruit, paying bills by earning “funny money” and writing comedy scripts. Standup came to him as a natural fluency. At present his is the Dy. Manager – Writer at Reliance Jio Infocomm.
highlights of this episode
- Moving to Mumbai after graduating from NLUO to commence his career as a standup comedian.
- The variance of life observed by him during local train journeys and how it helps him to germinate the idea for his next script.
- Understanding how cinematography becomes more intriguing without dialogues.
- Writing scripts which can make people visualize.
quotes and takeaways
- A germ of an idea flies in, you let it marinate for a while, see if something worthwhile forms an embryo in your head and then start writing.
- Whenever you get an offer to do something that comes to you naturally, wisdom says to take it.
During the five years of law at National Law University Odisha, when was the time you decided to start standup comedy?
In my fifth and final year. Prior to that I had no idea that an English comedy scene was so up and thriving in some Indian cities. College being in Odisha, I was kinda looking for places close by I could try this out. Nearest place was Kolkata that time. And Vishakapatnam. So, 6-8 hours of train journey one way, do 3 minutes, spend the rest of the weekend away from campus, at the end of it get HD profile pictures uploaded by sniper camera folks. Fun stuff.
It was not a very difficult decision. I realised what I wanted to do, and make money out of thinking and writing weird. Make money (crowd laughter audio track fills the scene). I gave law a shot. This seemed like a better option because I mean, the idea that I could be excited about my work seemed like a decent way to stay alive. I absolutely love the legal profession. I romance with the idea of being a good lawyer. But well, no matter what I say, there are times when you just take a leap of faith. I didn’t work a day in my life as a law graduate. Came straight down to Mumbai after graduation and don’t intend to take the bar exam anytime soon. Touch wood. I’ve considered that twice so far in my stay in Mumbai. Yeah. Dark times (Swift pan to wide eyes. Swift pan to under-eye dark circles. Swift pan to sweat on brow.)
To put it in a better way, imagine someone walks up to you and says, “Hey, you’re pretty tall. Why don’t we pay you for being tall?” That would be a pretty sweet deal right? So whenever you get an offer to do something that comes to you naturally, wisdom says to take it.
How crucial was the support of your family and friends in this journey?
Pretty much, pretty much. My parents had never pinned down career choices on me, that’s a primitive way to live. I mean, it must take a certain amount of gall to let your kids do whatever they want. But was it crucial? Yes. Would I not have done it without it? No. Colleagues and other people in this small trip have played various major roles as well. It’s been anything but dull.
How has been your experience of working with The Awkward Fruit?
Damn nice. They are family. I wouldn’t have the courage to bounce to Mumbai straight after graduation with no intention to look the legal way, if it weren’t for Akshata and Kamal. I did some very exciting projects in this duration, picked up some industry street-smarts. Writing wise, within a few months I managed to cover various aspects of writing comedy, and this I know for sure, made me better as a writer.
While writing the script for a standup, how do you build your jokes? What genres of comedy do you like to talk about?
I like to write about anything that essentially is funny to me. Then at least, I have two things checked off from my process – the concept and the flow. I know nothing of screenplay, but I’m picking up a few tricks and it seems to be getting better. Cinematography wise, there is so much one can do with a scene without dialogues and that intrigues me the most. I make it my personal mission that every script I submit is tight, and any other person reading it can visualize what I see. That is also something you pick up in this line of work. You don’t want a second interpretation from a creative perspective. Actually, you might. But chances are it will suck.
Who has been your greatest inspiration in your journey so far?
Will I make you uncomfortable if I say something a tad bit profound? Every local train journey. You see these scores of people walk from A to B. Everyone thinking they are unique and special, yet being a part of the same silhouette of heads and figures. I get inspired by various creators and their inputs in a particular project. There is never one person in particular – then you’re just idolising someone, and then it gets weird pretty fast.
When it comes to writing how much influence do you extract from everyday life?
So much. Where else can we draw inspiration from? You take a bit of reality, exaggerate something that could have gone wrong, and voila comedy! Like any other writer, I usually borrow instances where I could have reacted differently or I know someone to have reacted in a particular manner. But it’s strange you know, I really have no clue how to answer this question. This is such exciting work, that before writing, I never know how or what the end result will look like. A germ of an idea flies in, you let it marinate for a while, see if something worthwhile forms an embryo in your head and then start writing. Wherever the writing takes you, is your thing, and the best part in this work. I also have this annoying habit of the final draft ‘looking’ nice. Like, someone should just by a mere glance want to work on this. Strange obsession.
What is your message for fellow comedians/comedy writers?
There are so many insane writers out there. It’s just that what they have in mind, will take some time to gain appreciation, acceptance and, funding out here. But we’ll get our Pineapple Express and Shaun of The Dead soon. To anyone thinking of making a career in this, freelance a bit, get some experience and party money from it at first, but always look for a stable alternate with the same creative involvement. What I mean to say is bills have to be paid.