The comedian-actor returns as the corrupt politician in the 10-episode web series Humble Politiciann Nograj that will stream on Voot Select from January 6, 2022.
Danish Sait is no stranger to the Bengaluru comedy circuit having regaled fans as part of an Improv troupe for years. He’s also been a radio jockey, famed for his trademark prank calls, for which he took on various avatars, one of which, Mr Nags, became part and parcel of the Royal Challengers Bengaluru at the IPL, while also getting a larger platform with a film, Humble Politiciann Nograj (2018). In the years since, the comedian, content creator and actor has said umpteen times that he was looking at giving Nograj a break, while his other avatars took centre stage. This was most notable during the lockdown in 2020, when he began putting out short videos on social media, which made him, without doubt, the star of the medium, with the whos who of showbiz, cricket, etc., on his follower list and lapping up every morsel of content he put out. They were fun takes on things we were seeing, hearing and discussing in our homes and everyone loved his videos.
He also gave one of his other avatars, Asgar, a filmi outing, which he is following up for Gopi too. But it is Nograj, who remains a fan favourite and Danish’s too, one would assume, given that he is bringing the ambitious and corrupt politician another outing with the web series Humble Politiciann Nograj that’s coming out on Voot Select on January 6. Yet again, Danish collaborates with fellow Improv comic, screenwriter-director Saad Khan for the 10-episode show, which follows Nograj’s attempts from being MLA to becoming the chief minister of Karnataka, as the leader of the third largest party, who can be the game-changer for either of the other two parties in a coalition set up.
Ahead of the show’s premiere, we caught up with Danish for a quick chat about all things Nograj. Excerpts…
As someone, who had once said that his dream was to just do one feature film, Danish has done two others, and a pivotal role in a fourth, as well as a web series now. This, well and truly makes him a bonafide actor. “It’s nice to have you call me a bonafide actor; it feels great, because you have known me from the very start, when I was all of 27-28 and wanted to be on the big screen, for which I was running around to mount my first film. From there to here, it has been a great journey,” quips Danish.
On a lighter note, we ask him to count just how many times he’s said that it’s adios for now to Nograj. “(Laughs) Most recently, about three calls ago, when someone asked me about the longevity of the character and I said I don’t know. I have said it a bunch of times, including to the guys at RCB that I want to rest Mr Nags. See, distribution of content in our country takes time…It takes time for you to reach from one place to the other. And the last one year has been that kind of a journey for me. I have had a lot of people telling me, ‘Hey, what’s it like to have overnight success?’ and I am like, ‘No, I have been at it for 10 years; glad you discovered me now.’ I kind of see that a lot of things I have said in the past are changing. So, I can’t answer that question, but I have to agree that I have said it a few times,” he says.
In fact, director Saad was always confident that he could spin this into a franchise. How did he convince you to play along? “It didn’t take much to convince me. In fact, I was at a café in Mumbai, when I ran into Sameer Nair (CEO of Applause Entertainment), who asked me what I was doing in the city. I was there as a tourist and to meet my sister (Kubra Sait), and he asked me to stop being a tourist and meet him in his office to discuss what could be done next with the character, Nograj, as he loved it. I said sure, but didn’t show up at his office for a good two years. He had reached out again, and I was sure that if and when I do collaborate with him, it had to be with the right pitch. And that’s how season 1 of the show Humble Politiciann Nograj happened. It’s a brand-new show, with no strings attached. It was a fresh start and that kind of was wind beneath our wings, which we needed,” explains Danish.
After French Biriyani (with his character Asgar) and the upcoming One Cut Two Cut (with Gopi), Danish has returned to the comfort of playing Nograj. Is there a special connection? “There is a special connection, because it is a little tough, as I am not very comfortable being in front of the camera; I have always had an anxiety around that, unless, of course, it is a conversation of this nature. But to slap on a moustache and a wig and be someone completely different from who I am otherwise is a lot easier for me. I think, Nograj is that nest that I can go back to, where I am going to be safe, because I have been there done that and the kind of control that I have over it it’s at the back of my hand. I know Nograj as well as I know myself.”
“For this, we had to find the right pitch, because we were making a show that was going to be consumed by everyone. Voot Select is a massive platform and we had to cater to so many people and bring something that will make them go, ‘Man, this is something interesting’,” says Danish.
But this time around, the stakes are also higher because Danish is a lot more popular across the country than he was back in 2018 - these days, people look forward to the content he puts out on social media. “It’s interesting you say that because every morning I wake up and feel that I need to push myself as hard as I did 10 years ago when I was with radio. It’s the same energy and zeal and that’s what keeps me going. That’s why you will see me doing an internet video, a film, cricket commentary, a tech show, hosting an event, etc.; I am constantly moving. I think it is a little hard for me to target and slot myself in a space – I have always gone with self-expectation, am I happy with what I am doing and if I am not, I drop and move on. The audience has been very kind. For someone who was an absolute nobody, the fact that I have managed to clock in so much time and managed to grow, I am grateful,” he says.
Coming back to the series, what is Nograj’s progression like since the 2018 film? “Whether you’ve seen the film or not, Humble Politiciann Nograj the series, is a fresh start. He is now a powerful MLA, who is presented with a hung-government situation and he can be kingmaker in a coalition setup wherein he can even be the chief minister. He is up against a rival, played by Prakash Belawadi, who also wants to be CM and the story follows their pursuits of trying to get to their goals. In terms of aspirations, scale and exploring the idea of resort politics and letting people have fun within the system, we had a great time doing that, because it was about writing comedy that was fun within a confined space. We had to do as much as we could with these colourful, mad characters. We managed to string it together. Credit should go to Saad and the team at Applause for that,” he says.
We’ve seen resort politics play out in real life several times, so, while choosing this subject that is likely to ruffle a few feathers, in a country that has, in recent times, become more regressive as far as the political environment goes, was there ever a moment in the writing or making where you guys thought you need to play safe? “Not really, because it is a fictional character and world. Of course, we know of resort politics. The content of the show is not what you read or saw in the news; this is our version of what happened in the resort and in that sense, it is like a lot of the other fictional shows that you see. It’s just a mad world that we have created. We didn’t have a moment of no clarity. We knew it was a comedy show that needed to be treated like that. When you do something fictional, you have nothing to be worried about that. Having said that, I will add that we are human, just like every other comedian. Every day a line is drawn and you don’t know where and how because it is different for every person. I have been putting out videos every single day, so, it’s about where you want to find yourself. When we wrote the show, our heart and mind only said that we want people to laugh with us, wrap it up and move on with their lives,” explains Danish.
This conversation would be incomplete without a mention of the late Puneeth Rajkumar, who was a big supporter. “Puneeth anna was aware of the series, in fact, he was among the first to know and he and his office helped us with a lot of things in Mysuru when we were shooting there. I wish he were around. I remember having lengthy conversations with him about the series format, changing style of storytelling and how he wanted to bring out such stories. He would often tell me to write something that he could produce. He would have been very happy to see what we have done as a team. I actually asked him once why he produces films with me and he said, ‘It takes one generation to set up another’. He identified shimmer even if one wasn’t shining. He would have been happy seeing a series from Karnataka. I am more than grateful to him for helping us in the moments we needed. You know that bubblegum called Boomer, with the guy who can reach anywhere, Puneeth anna was a lot like that,” he signs off.
Humble Politiciann Nograj will stream on Voot Select from January 6, 2022.