Friday, Sep 17, 2021 06:30 [IST]
Last Update: Friday, Sep 17, 2021 00:56 [IST]
A TGIF! Feature Story
GANGTOK,: Bkey Agarwal has done a moon landing for Sikkimese standup comedy by reaching the grand finale of Nepal’s top comedy show and by extension, one of the foremost Nepali comedy acts followed by Nepali speaking community across the globe.
One small step for Bkey but a giant leap for Sikkimese standup comedians.
And the Apollo 11 for his pathbreaking journey would be ‘Hasais Katle’, a Sikkimese standup comedy group.
‘Hasais Katle’ was co-founded by Bkey Agarwal, Nirmal Sharma, Biswas Timshina and Saroj Kharel in 2018 with RJ Prabal Rai as the host and mentor. The annual open-mic shows performed by the group in Gangtok played a crucial role in refinement of Bkey Agarwal as a jokester capable of competing with the best of Nepal.
As curtains come down for ‘Comedy Champion Season 2’ on Saturday, the co-founders write about their experiences and moments with Bkey Agarwal exclusively for TGIF!. Here is what Team ‘Hasais Katle’ has to share…
Co-founder ‘Hasais Katle’
I got selected for the physical auditions of Comedy Champion Season 2.
That was the message I read on Hasais Katle's WhatsApp group. Ironically, nobody knew that Bkey had applied for comedy champion show. We were surprised but extremely happy. Just a few months back his short film was selected for an international film festival.
Recalling this episode, Saroj Kharel, Prabal Rai and I were going to Rangpo to meet Bkey. He was coming home after almost seven months. He had reached the top 3 of the competition and was on a home visit with the crew.
We received Bkey along with his family members, and some of his friends and well-wishers. It was a grand welcome, duly maintaining Covid-19 protocol. Biswas Timshina missed this moment as he was preoccupied with another shoot. Nonetheless, we welcomed Bkey and the crew with khadas and lunch. It was followed by a media interaction.
Saroj and I looked at each other and I guess the same thought was going on our minds that the boy who was performing alongside us during Hasais Katle at Gangtok Groove had suddenly become a celebrity. What a moment of pride, not just for Hasais Katle but for the entire state.
While most people know the achievements of Bkey in Comedy Champion, I am having a strong urge to share my personal story of how I came to meet this wonderful talent.
It was a lazy day. Delhi was covered with smog. I had spent the previous evening at the Canvas Laugh Club in Gurugram. So I decided to spend my Sunday watching movie or some web series. Somehow I landed up watching this YouTube Channel called BT Kancha. I found the constant relatable because it was owned by some local chap from 6th Mile Tadong, Biswas Timshina. I spent the next few hours watching his videos and found the content very interesting. Looked up for him in Facebook and found out he was already added in my friend list. I sent him a ‘hello’ and then, like all like-minded people, discussed about the scope of standup comedy in Sikkim. He lived in Mumbai then, and we closed the conversation with a decision that someday maybe we will do an open mic at a local pub in Gangtok.
Then I got busy with my work, and just like any other Goa plan, the plan discussed with BT Kancha disappeared somewhere.
Fast forward to March 2018, I was transferred back to Gangtok. Then suddenly one day, I came across another YouTube channel that belonged to an Agarwal boy with oriental features. I was surprised but realised, Modi hai toh mumkin hai. I followed Bkey's social experiment videos and realised that this boy is talented. One day, suddenly I got a call from him to discuss about a plan to do a social experiment on a haunted house. Somehow the plan also got cancelled, just like any other Goa plan.
While all these happened, one thing was constantly going on at the back of our heads, individually; to host an open mic comedy show at Gangtok.
We coordinated, and by October 2018, the three of us had finalised to do a show in Gangtok. Biswas was coming home in December and everything started to fall in place. We needed a venue, and Naresh Shrestha da was more than happy to offer Gangtok Groove for the open mic.
9th December 2018.
Gangtok Groove was jam packed to witness the first ever stand up show, Hasais Katle. It was a big hit and it was the first time I met Bkey Agarwal.
Bkey has a unique style of narration. When his jokes are weak, his expressions make the audience laugh.
While I have seen Bkey performing, he has always looked up to me as an elder brother. He would always ask about the feedback on the jokes he had written. The pantomime act that he performed came as a surprise. I had not expected that he would pull of that act so well. Yes the act didn't have much joke or a content that brought laughter, but it was a risk he took to try something that had never been done in any Nepali standup act. I applaud him for that bravery.
Controversy also erupted after Santosh Pant, one of the judges criticised the performance, after which Pant faced a backlash for discouraging new experiments in comedy. That emotional moment also gave Bkey more supporters because the audience had understood that what Bkey did was something very commendable.
Through ups and downs, Bkey has now reached Top 3. The finale is scheduled to be telecast on 18th September.
Every parent dreams to see their child to get successful and loved and appreciated by all. Whenever I met Bkey’s parents during the vote appeal press conferences, I could see the pride on their face, maybe a dream come true which every parent would show when their children achieve something big. The positive part is that, his parents are supporting him whole heartedly in this endeavour. In a State where parents expect their children to go for government jobs, this kind of support will give lot of courage to those aspiring artistes who aim to do what they love as a career. I am sure this Bkey also feels the same.
Bkey, as many of us know, is also a filmmaker who has been making pretty interesting short films. “Forbidden Gumpa” is one such short film that was selected for an international film festival. He also experimented with a short film titled “Mohan Ra Madan,” where he has emphasized on same sex relationships and the taboo associated with it.
I honestly feel Bkey was born to do this. A creative director with a sense of humour, who wouldn’t want that ability?
Team Hasais Katle is proud that Bkey is associated with us. The open mics that we organized over the years have refined every one of us in doing even better. It was when Bkey reached the stage of Comedy Champion that we realized our potential. Sikkim is a small market for comedy. Being a Nep-lish standup comedy club, we believe we have the full potential to cater to the entire Nepali speaking fraternity. Bkey has taken Nepali comedy to the next level, and it’s time that Team Hasais Katle too pulls up its socks. Till now we have performed in front of 100-150 people only. Performing in front of a mass gathering would be a real challenge. Bkey has inspired us and has given that courage to take that leap in the days to come.
Till then, let’s keep voting for Bkey and do our best to bring the title to Sikkim.
Co-founder Hasais Katle
It has been a very exciting month or two for us as we have seen Bkey kill it every week. We have performed together for the past few years and we have seen him grow but his growth during this competition has been exponential.
Going to a new place and adopting oneself to the cultural and political scenario takes its own sweet time but Bkey has managed to do it in a span of few months. Not once did it sound like a comic from a different country was performing in Nepal. The people of Nepal have seen it making him one of the most loved comics of the season.
Bkey getting into the finals isn't just a big news for him but it also means a huge leap for the Indian Nepali stand-up scene. I've been getting messages from Nepal-based comics as they express their desire to come across the border to perform.
Winning the title would be a nice badge for him to flaunt but even if that doesn't happen, he has enough badges to go around and show off.
Co-founder, Hasais Katle
Well most of the things that I say here about Bkey might already have been said by my fellow Katles, yet I’ll try and portray our Magarwal (Magar+Agarwal) comrade in my way.
I met Bkey for the first time during the first edition of Hasais Katle on October 2018. A jolly but ‘attalirako’ guy was my first impression of him. It was until he got up on the stage to do his ‘Sahar Vs Busty’ routine when I realised that he was not only a weird looking Agarwal but also one helluva funny dude who likes wearing track pants and a cardigan on stage.
If I’m to point Bkey’s strongest traits in standup comedy- I’d say comic timing and body language. He makes these facial expressions during his performances which are absolutely hilarious and exclusively Bkey.
Until Comedy Champion Season 2, Bkey mostly did observational comedy with more emphasis on pop culture but his performances during Comedy Champion have proven that he can be very versatile. The way he could adapt to Nepal’s generic sense of humour is a solid mark of his talent as a comedian.
Furthermore, apart from being a comedian, Bkey is also a filmmaker who has made a couple of intriguing films on unconventional themes like occultism and homosexuality. So all in all Bkey Agarwal is one hell of a talent who has a knack for doing things unconventionally which he has proven through his performances during Comedy Champion Season 2 and also in his films.
Finally, it gives me great pride and pleasure to see my friend with whom we started our journey in the comedic genre together reaching the finale of probably the biggest stage for Nepali comedy in the world. There were times during the campaigning for Bkey when we felt our collections may not be enough to push him into the next round but it was through the love and support the people and the government have shown to Bkey that he has been able to reach where he has for which I am extremely grateful. It would be a momentous feat for Hasais Katle as well as Sikkim to see him on top of the championship. But irrespective of whether or not this ‘Magarwal’ wins the title, in my eyes he has already won the hearts of countless Nepalis across the globe as a comedian.