Director: Angshuman Ghosh
Featuring: Prashasti Singh, Kaneez Surka, Supriya Joshi and Niveditha Prakasam
Streaming on: Netflix
Four women comics, 15 minutes each. That's the premise of Netflix's new comedy special Ladies Up. Prashasti Singh, Kaneez Surka, Supriya Joshi and Niveditha Prakasam each take to the stage for episodes titled 'Recently Empowered', 'It's Kaneez, Let Her Do', 'Love Hurts' and 'Don't Mind Me'. (There's a conversation to be had on what it says about the Indian comedy scene if male comics are on their second and third full-length specials while four women get bunged into just one, but maybe that's a topic for another time.)
While there's no overarching theme, common topics become ripe fodder for laughs – the oddities of one's hometown, age, relationships and sex. Despite the comics' varied styles, the sets smoothly segue into each other – Niveditha's opening joke about being confused for a mic stand mirrors Supriya's take on people's unhealthy obsession with her body. The comedian's bit about what a condom taste-tester's day must be like, in turn, feels like a natural extension of Kaneez talking about potential kids and handing an audience member an invisible condom in the previous segment.
Of the four, it's Kaneez who delivers the standout performance. She starts off shaky, but finds her groove, immediately winning the audience back after a joke falls flat by getting them enthused about chai. The comedian has great stage presence and her thorough enjoyment of her own jokes goes a long way in making her act work. As she breaks into a reenactment of the aunties dancing at her vidaai, it's hard not to get caught up in the moment.
Unlike Kaneez, who takes a topic we've heard her talk about before (divorce) and pushes it in strange and exciting directions, Prashasti's observations about her dating life feel too familiar and well-worn to be fresh. She does have one great callback to the poetry her mother writes about her on Facebook, which nicely caps off a too-long anecdote about a man she met on a dating app. Supriya mines her dating experiences for much darker material, her ruminations on writing the perfect suicide note after a relationship gone sour complement her assured takes on revenge bods and fuckbois. Niveditha's set is last and while her more laid-back style of delivery might not always work, her material is the most refreshing – it ranges from observations on why all women want to get with the Coimbatore bus conductor to the specific 'self-loathing' brand of Indian racism.
Most of the comics' material veers more towards the personal, though both Kaneez and Prashasti land one sharply political punchline you won't see coming. At 15 minutes each, the sets can be enjoyed as standalone episodes. Sometimes outrageously funny, sometimes predictable, there's no denying they're all quite relatable, and if nothing else, a great first step towards hopefully seeing more women comics on streaming.