Anu Vaidyanathan Had Drew Carey, Aziz Ansari In The Audience
By SUKANT DEEPAK
Fresh off her Edinburgh Fringe run with her show ‘BC: AD – Before Children, After Diapers’, and appearances in NYC off-Broadway, London, Paris, Berlin, Prague, and three tours in India, Anu Vaidyanathan, may have hit the global comedy circuit, but that cannot be her only introduction.
This engineer, who ‘The Wall Street Journal‘ declares to be ‘India’s female Ironman’, and whose memoir ‘Anywhere but Home’ was longlisted for the Mumbai Film Festival’s adaptation market with offers from two major Bollywood studios for options, and scripts finding themselves at Sundance and Rotterdam film festivals, says, “But I think I relate to the avatar of mom-of-two-kids the most.”
And her off-Broadway debut, ‘BC: AD’ was also born out of this identity. Stressing that having children changed everything for her as an individual, Vaidyanathan remembers re-orienting herself, finding meaning in life in different ways, and understanding that children respond most to a color, a sound, or an image.
“I feel that is what drove me to write a book, which went to a film market but, I was not happy with the Bollywood formula of optioning good stories, forgetting the writers, and appropriating voices. I thought I could make a better film than them so, I studied filmmaking through my second pregnancy. The pandemic shut us down and that made me go to clown school and then standup followed. Within a year, I wrote my first standup hour. I have since fine-tuned it over dozens of performances. BC: AD is very much the story of when I first experienced a shift in identity and made peace with it.”
Interestingly, her stand-up acts touch different layers and bring forth several serious issues — for example the immigrant experience. However, the artist stresses that she does not think of including them consciously all writing is informed by one’s most personal experiences.
“In my case, I have lived in many different parts of the world during my various pursuits and yes, these experiences absolutely figure in my work.”
Talk to her about how stand-up comic acts have made their presence felt even in small-town India, and she feels that not only are we sick of staying indoors, but also laughing at the dumbness shown on movie screens.
“We definitely want to find better ways to entertain ourselves while spending an evening out with family, friends, or lovers. Comedy is very immediate. That is why it is appealing. Believe me, the power of the spoken word never ceases to amaze me.”
In both cases — New York’s SoHo Playhouse and the Stress Factory, she was playing on extraordinary stages, on which people she looks up to in real life have performed — Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, which opened the floodgates at the Edinburgh Fringe to so many women wanting to show up and make work played at the SoHo Playhouse.
“It was a surreal experience. The Stress Factory has housed many greats, like Aziz Ansari and Drew Carrey. I grew up watching ‘Whose line is it anyway’. It was one of those private moments of inexplicable joy when I found myself in the greenroom with these legends on the wall.”
Her process is much derived from real life, and she is a one-project person who prides herself on completion, stressing that beginning multiple things and leaving them languishing is a threat to one’s creative life.
“I try to close projects, have a cookie, and then move on to the next thing. I am also a very one-project person and find multi-tasking to be a myth perpetuated by people who have an army of house help or an entourage surrounding them.”
Currently working on a new show, ‘Blimp’, for the Edinburgh Fringe 2023, she also has two feature scripts and trying to raise money with them.
“Whatever gets made this year will be a miracle because I feel like I have been burning the candle at both ends for the first five months. Again, I am telling myself to be patient with myself. It is a new way of life, a new world of people, a new way of working to be an artist,” she concludes.