Kanan Gill, a stand up comedy artist from Bangalore runs the famous YouTube series called Pretentious Movie Reviews with Biswa Kalyan Rath and has gathered a lot of loyal followers with hilarious videos on movies like Gunda, Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon and the most recent one, Prem Aggan. Here we have him in a conversation where he talks about his videos, his college days and the stand up comedy scene in India.
So, firstly, most people fantasize about getting into YouTube and stand up comedy, but rarely do they do anything about it. What was the first push for you?
Kanan: It’s weird to fantasize about getting into YouTube, because anybody can start a YouTube channel! Uh, for stand up comedy, it’s a much bigger step. For me, I was lucky. Comedians from Bangalore (Sandeep Rao, Praveen Kumar) started a stand up comedy scene, English Language, which is very difficult, but they started with open mic nights in Bangalore where anybody can go and tell jokes. So I stopped by one of those, and I really liked it so I thought I should do this. And I have a bit of a background in being on stage; I’ve been in bands and music groups before and wrote funny songs. So I knew that the “funny part” was there and I liked being on stage, but stand up comedy was the best form of that.
And how did you and Biswa start out and get together?
Kanan: Both of used to do stand up in Bangalore and we met at an Open Mic. Both of us had IT jobs and in the evening we used to come and try and tell jokes. We started writing jokes together, just to try and help each other out. Eventually when this YouTube thing started, I asked him if he wanted to be in the video, mainly because I was scared of doing it alone [laughs]. And he did not want to but I convinced him and that’s how it came about.
People usually review new movies, so where did the concept of reviewing old, trashy Hindi movies come from?
Kanan: That was the whole point! I see no point in reviewing current movies; just watch it or don’t watch it. For me, the funniest thing is doing things that are unhelpful. The very first video I made, was called an ‘Indian Accent Tutorial’ that was not helpful at all. So, I decided, hey, let’s make movie reviews that have no value! They are not for current movies and it should be just that you watch the review to watch the review; you’re never going to watch the movie, so that was the idea.
Do you have any stories to tell from your crazy college days?
Kanan: No I was very boring in college! I was not extroverted, didn’t take part in events. I was just quietly there. Crazy stories, well there are a bunch of them. I once got a bomb squad called for my friend’s car, that was pretty crazy. You’re not supposed to park your car in the college campus but I was like, ‘Leave it na, nothing’s going to happen!’ The next day we came back to his car and the doors were not there! In his car there were was a cricket kit in the back, and someone thought it was a bomb, so they called the bomb squad and they disassembled his car!
Do you have any ‘words of wisdom’ to share with people who want to get into stand up comedy?
Kanan: Sure man, do it! That’s it; there’s nothing stopping you besides going out and doing it. Here in Delhi, Gurgaon there’s a lot of opportunity. There’s a full Delhi stand up scene, they have Open Mics, get in touch with them. The best thing about the stand up comedy scene in India is that it’s not very big; there’s nothing stopping either of you from organising a show tonight and saying, ‘Hey, stand up is happening, come!’ So why not do it?
What sort of response do you usually get from the audience? You’ve done a couple of shows, so what’s it been like?
Kanan: You know, it’s weird; you can summarise the audience of different cities, like Bangalore is little more posh, a slightly difficult audience which is good because it makes you work hard. Bombay’s read to laugh at most things, they just want to have a good time. In Delhi I’ve had very opposite experiences. The first time I came to Gurgaon, I was horrible! But recently it’s been amazing! So what I’ve realised is that the crowd from Noida, from South Delhi and from Gurgaon are all very different and you can’t judge an NCR crowd as one.
Were you happy with the kind of reception you got for the first Pretentious Movie Night show?
Kanan: Oh yes, so happy! Mainly because we haven’t slept in so many days, not because we were working (well, partially because we were working) but because we were so stressed!
All the viewers have their favourite Pretentious Movie Review. Which one is your favourite?
Kanan: I think for different reasons, different ones are my favourite. Weirdly, the ones we spend less time on become better. For example, Prem Aggan, when we finished shooting it, it was 5:30 in the morning and we were like, ‘This sucks! No one’s going to like this.’ Later, I did a rough edit, just to see and by the time I was done, I decided ki isko daal dete hai. And the response for that was insane! In contrast, Hum Saath Saath Hai, both of us really liked and we spent so much time on that! We shot for 5 hours to do that video, but people were like, ‘Yeh kya hai?’ and we said were giving advice and all that, but people didn’t want that! We don’t have a formula for what works. Even the Movie Reviews were just supposed to be a thing that was in between the other videos but now it’s the most popular segment!
Can you spill any secrets as to which movies you’ll be reviewing next?
Kanan: [laughs] Absolutely not! Nope, nope.
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