She takes her humour very seriously and has managed to carve a successful career out of it — she’s witty, cocky and all things funny. Meet the South African-born improv artist, teacher and actor, Kaneez Surka. In a conversation with us, she talks about improv comedy scene in Mumbai, challenges that come in the way of female comedians and more. Also, do check out her new video with comedian Mallika Dua.
YOU HAVE A BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN LAW AND PSYCHOLOGY AND THEN YOU GOT INTO COMEDY? HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?
I originally come from South Africa and I studied there. In 2005, I came to India (Mumbai) to hang around, thinking I’ll just be there for a year but then I just fell in love with the city. I started doing some comedy gigs and things just happened and I never went back. It’s been 12 years now.
THERE ARE VERY FEW WOMEN WHO ARE DOING COMEDY, SO WHEN YOU GOT INTO THIS, WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS. DID YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING TO DO WELL?
I was doing a stage show, and Kunal (Vijayakar) and Cyrus (Broacha) from the show, The Week That Wasn’t, saw me and asked if I would like to be a part of the show. So to be honest, I thought I was going to go back and finish law. I did not think comedy was a career option but then after I got the TV show, I realised, I could make a living out of it and it’s something that I can actually pursue as a career option. So that’s kind of where it all began and after that in 2010, English comedy and standup scenes started picking up in India, and that’s when people kind of went after that.
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE CURRENT STATE OF FEMALE COMEDIANS IN INDIA? DO YOU THINK THEY ARE GETTING THEIR DUES?
I don’t think there are enough of us, that’s my first issue — we need more women in comedy. I think it’s getting there, you know a lot of people are pro-female comedy and they encourage us to be in the game. However, I think people are not completely used to seeing women do comedy. Like a lot of my content, sometimes, doesn’t go well with the audience. They don’t want to see women cracking particular jokes, which are acceptable from a man. So, I get on the stage with the realisation that I am a female and then start my shows.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH TROLLS ON SOCIAL MEDIA, CONSIDERING YOU ARE QUITE ACTIVE ON TWITTER?
I write thinking that I have an opinion and then suddenly you get all these opposing views on what was said and I am like, Oh my god, I did not mean to create such stares. I thought I was allowed to say whatever is there on my mind, that’s what social media platforms are for. So nowadays, I think about everything before I put something out there and also about potential reactions it’ll draw.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MESSAGE FOR WOMEN ON THIS INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY?
Just don’t be afraid to take a step, that big step. I know it’s very scary sometimes taking that step but just take it. Try it, try it… trust me there is a lot waiting for you if you overcome that fear.
*As published in HT City & HT Cafe on 8 March 2017
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