Comedians Dolly Singh and Varun Thakur are set to star in the Netflix series Bhaag Beanie Bhaag, which releases this Friday. They talk about coping with rejection, staying relatable and the strangest pitch they've got from brands:
Sneha Menon Desai: You guys have built such a popular universe, just by the virtue of the characters you've created. What is the challenge of becoming someone that you had no role in writing at all?
Dolly Singh: My audition for the show was really bad. I was over the top. I was doing what was not needed and I completely bombed. I don't know why director Debbie Rao still gave me a chance. I was overdoing everything, I was literally enacting every word. So, that comes with the kind of things we do. It's hard, but at the same time, when you ace it, it just gives you so much satisfaction. I was also given a chance to do a three-day workshop with Pooja Swaroop who's brilliant. I learnt so much on set. I feel like more than giving anything to the show, I have taken back a lot more. So I'm very happy.
SMD: I saw this really heartfelt post that you put out recently about the dream house that you bought for your parents. I feel like it's important to talk about how long it taken you to get to where you are in terms of just making this content creator life sustainable.
Varun Thakur: As somebody who's trying to dabble in acting and simultaneously have a comedy career, which involves stand up or content creation on social media platforms, the list of movies I've auditioned for far outweigh the movies I've got. So trying to find that balance has been a struggle. I love both professions equally. I don't ever want to give up stand-up comedy and I don't want to give up acting, so I have to find that balance. There are days when you're auditioning and nothing is working out, that's when smaller content creation things like sketches and the Wiki videos keep you going. Because it's very important to not lose your mojo. After you get rejected ten times, you're not going to go in the eleventh time. You're going to be like, 'You know what? this is not working'. I've done that consistently now for ten years and the only way I've been able to do it is because I get to do so much of my own content. It's an outlet for me. As content creators you have to keep at it, because many a times you're doing it for the content and many a times you're doing it so that you don't completely get deflated by the stuff that's not working out.
DS: It's taken me five to five-and-a-half years to reach where I am, be able to afford that house. It's a job that keeps giving but it also keeps taking. It's so unstable. We work on the internet, we work on a platform that can stop existing after a day, like Tik Tok. A lot of people who were doing so well on it lost their jobs. The passion and the love of the craft makes you keep going. I can't give anyone a number or tell them that they'll feel like they've reached somewhere after a certain number of years. You can't say that about any profession, but I feel like after five years, I've got that satisfaction.
SMD: So many brands approach you guys because they know that you reach a demographic of people that probably even the biggest actors can't reach today. What are some of the strangest pitches you get just from brands to sell something?
VT: When this whole influencer boom of promoting different brands on social media platforms happened, everybody was sort of testing the waters, right? Five to six years ago, nobody really knew how they were going to approach something like this, so at that point of time the one really ridiculous request you would get from the worst brands was, 'So, we want to make a viral video'. And I'd be like 'Oh, hello, hold on, hold on, hold on, sorry to burst your bubble, I can't just guarantee the virality of the video.' All of us, at some point of time, have had a brand person call them and say, 'Humein ek viral video banana hain, aur usmein hamaara brand daal dena'.
DS: A lot of the time, my manager herself is like: This looks shady. I have a boyfriend, so a lot of the time I get requests like, 'Can you and your boyfriend do this together?' And one of the requests was for an underwear brand. They were like, 'Can we put out a picture of him wearing this underwear with nothing else?' I had no part to play in this.
VT: Now that's a viral video.
SMD: I was watching The Hollywood Reporter's actors' roundtable a couple of years ago. Jamie Foxx said that if you want to be in comedy and do stand-up, you can't be caught up in being too starry or too good looking because then people find it hard to relate. Is that something you guys agree with?
DS: I do. I feel like the moment too much glamour happens or the moment you only present the best side of yourself, people stop relating to you. And relatability is a big part of comedy, so the moment people stop relating to you, your jokes are not going to land, they're not going to understand your jokes. They have to come from a place of relatability. So sometimes when I do some glam thing, then I post something that's very non-glam at the same time and say: Listen, this is the reality, okay? I am still with you. It's a constant thing, this reassurance that you have to give yourself and to people, to say that you're not a star and don't have an attitude. That's how comedy works – when people can relate to you, talk to you.