If you were to go by the intro of Biswa Kalyan Rath’s new special on Amazon, Sushi, there’s a lot of effort and ingredients that have gone into creating Sushi. Much like the titular dish, Biswa’s new stand up special’s format is a collection of varied takes, with a common ‘rice and seaweed’ thread of India and its absurdities.
In Sushi, he’s back with the same flair, and this time the jokes play as a ‘best of’ in terms of catching and releasing those little absurdities that make this country whole. Biswa’s blitzkrieg delivery is of course a bonus. He is a man who is confident of his material and his delivery, and even when the occasional joke falls flat, he just powers through to the next one effortlessly.
The special opens with telecom sector jokes; the set up and punchlines are simple. While on such a topic, there is a definite chance to go political and “Ambani” on the gag, like you’d expect other comedians to do, Biswa steers clear. It works. He expects the relatability and enactment of the set-up to carry through, without the need to come across as politically inclined to be smart.
But that doesn’t mean at the core of it Biswa’s Sushi is not delivering on the ‘political’ – it’s just deftly hidden in the guise of India’s absurdity. In the first act, one of my favourite punchlines was “Dard Batoon kya”. It’s simple, it’s hilarious and timed to perfection. Of course, as we move onto the second act, Biswa has declared war on “Mutual Funds”. Normally, mutual funds as a stand-up segment would be subject to market risks, but not in this case. There are big payoffs to be had.
What I liked the most about Sushi, and this remains consistent across, is Biswa’s ability to slide-in occasional international pop-culture reference or even scientific ones to elevate his gags. Biswa is talking Mario, trigonometry and parallel universes, while he’s running you through taps in Indian households, SBI and manholes. Biswa doesn’t shy away from theatrics either – a set up in the middle that would have otherwise been a ‘ho-hum’ joke is elevated to comedic gold, just by the sheer use of lighting and timed set-up.
With Sushi, Biswa cements his position as India’s leading streaming stand-up special champion, next only to perhaps Vir Das and debatably followed by Zakir Khan.
Sushi, like any other assortment in life, is not without its flaws or dull moments, especially in the third act. But as I said before, Biswa knows how to pivot. He’s a ‘smarty-pants’ comedian, and he knows how to show it and work it. If Sushi’s key ingredient is its content, then Biswa is the wasabi on top of it all. There is a segment, and it is one my favourites of his work so far. It’s the one where he takes on the audience’s “need” for comedy. It is funny, damning, poignant and reflective – all at the same time.
With Sushi, Biswa cements his position as India’s leading streaming stand-up special champion, next only to perhaps Vir Das and debatably followed by Zakir Khan. I have my money on Biswa delivering a Daniel Sloss-esque “Jigsaw” comedy special one of these days.
Biswa’s work is deceptively bold and unequivocally smart, so I hope that ‘path-breaking’ special lands soon.