For 90 minutes last Sunday afternoon, the TIFF Bell Lightbox set the stage for Dubai-based Nitin Mirani who has a history in business but a penchant for the spotlight and yuk-yuks. The comedy routine itself was built around the theme of the clichés of Bollywood and was a veritable pastiche of 70s film clips, skits with co-comedian Crystal Ferrier, and Mirani’s own jokes on sex, Indian “uncles” trying to speak English and Indian parents trying to befriend you on Facebook. What Mirani offers is not only a comedy routine but a show. The hook of Bollywood is not only the kitsch factor of a 70s movie that starts with a child stealing bread and, by the time the credits have rolled, growing into a superstar like Amitabh Bachchan or a song-and-dance sequence with several costume changes and flower blossoms, but is also in its shameless advertisement of itself as a spectacle ready for consumption, and catering to many different tastes.
Mirani used this spectacle to trigger his audience. Following each sequence, Mirani would riff off the vintage scenes showcased on screen, while highlighting just how far the global diaspora has come. A personal favourite of mine was a Tim Horton’s opening in Bombay and the various imitations of famous Bollywood super stars ordering their breakfasts.
Yet the humour of overseas comics and homegrown talents Mirani and Ferrier are still new to Canadian audiences. Laughter levels were generous, but the schtick had to be rescued by film sequences, and risked slipping into cliché by often playing on the same issues in a similar light – the crazy expectations of an Indian mother of her daughter, for example. Innovation like Mirani’s does not necessarily oust a previous act in the same genre simply through novelty – nor does collaboration between comedians automatically make for a sharper act.