Veteran Malayalam mimicry artist creates a comedy series for YouTube
Lockdown had artists and performers think about how differently they could showcase their work. Veteran mimicry artist from Kochi, KS Prasad, a regular performer on stage and television comedy shows, used the time to create content for YouTube — he launched his series ‘Mr & Mrs Luca’ on his channel KS Prasad Entertainments.
The series is about a couple, their friends and capers. Seventeen episodes old, Prasad says he has tried to do something different. “I have used graphics and animation to show what each character is thinking. Often we say one thing while thinking just the opposite. We have used graphics to ‘show’ their thoughts. It is a new concept. I was one of the first people in Kerala to use recorded applause in my shows. Which is now common on every television channel and comedy show.”
Prasad is one of the six members of the popular mimicry troupe of the 1980s, Mimics Parade. Founded by Father Abel of Cochin Kalabhavan, it was instrumental in introducing several artists who went on to become prominent actors and popular mimics. Although his compatriots like Siddique and Lal moved on to the film industry, Prasad chose to stick to mimicry. He has his own mimicry troupe, Cochin Guinness.
The space of Cochin Guinness is attached to his house on Azad Road in Kaloor, Kochi. He uses the space to record the episodes. “Barely eight of us, including my daughter, are involved in the making. The lead actor, Siju Irumpanam writes the script; my daughter is the editor. All of us put up the ‘set’ and the lights are those that I have for our (Guinness) shows. The set-up is small, I have not spent too much.” Prasad acts in these too.
Kerala has, perhaps, the largest number of mimicry artists with each television channel having at least one comedy/mimicry-based show. The pandemic has hit the artists hard. Although television channels have started work, it is still tough. “Stage shows are their main source of livelihood, one does not know when restrictions would be lifted. Several artists now do other work — plumbing, masonry, laying tiles,” he says. Prasad adds that enquiries for stage shows have slowly started again.
Cochin Kalabhavan organised the first mimicry show in September 1981. Actors such as Kalabhavan Mani, Jayaram, Dileep, Nadirsha, and Salim Kumar are some actors who came out of Kalabhavan. These paved the way for many others to follow in their footsteps. “At the time I don’t think any of us thought that mimicry would be so popular. I am sure Fr. Abel also wouldn’t have expected so many artists and so many troupes (mimicry). It only proves that basically people like to laugh and to be happy.”
Like everything else, comedy too has changed. “There are more restrictions now than before. Earlier you could poke fun at everything, including politicians without worrying about the implications. Politicians such as K Karunakaran and EK Nayanar took the jokes in their stride. It is very different now.” He agrees the jokes aren’t what they used to be, “There is more pressure now. We consume comedy mostly from television shows, which are aired weekly. You cannot blame the creators, they need to create skits fast and the quality inevitably suffers.” He narrates a recent incident where a comedian refused to put up a skit as he did not want to get into trouble. “Nobody wants to ruffle feathers!”
Prasad started with mono-act while still at school, winning top prizes at school youth festivals. Later, while in Maharaja’s College, he collected prizes after which he joined Kalabhavan.
He is happy with how ‘Mr & Mrs Luca’ has turned out, however, he is not sure if he will keep it in the current format. “Things are fluid right now. It is YouTube for now, let’s see if other venues open up!”