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How Raju Srivastav created his iconic 'Gajodhar Bhaiya' character for stand-up

Among the many pearls of observational comedy that Raju Srivastav has left us with, the ones featuring Gajodhar Bhaiya carry a different edge

How Raju Srivastav created his iconic 'Gajodhar Bhaiya' character for stand-up
Raju Srivastav
  • Swaroop Kodur

Last Updated: 11.11 AM, Sep 21, 2022

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The era of Raju Srivastav has come to a sad end, albeit leaving behind a most impressive comedic legacy. As one of the main precursors of Indian stand-up comedy, Raju Srivastav not only popularized the observational style of humour but also propagated it to the masses through his countless television appearances. There was a time when small-screen entertainment couldn't do without a hefty dose of stand-up comedy and Raju Srivastav, ably supported by his colleagues and a renovated platform, was at the forefront of this cultural shift. 

One of Raju Srivastava's main fortes was story-telling wherein he would utilize a most mundane situation to weave a rather amusing and hilarious stand-up act. Buffet dinners at Indian functions, wedding nuptials, underworld dons turning spiritual gurus, or the most popular one among all - Gajodhar Bhaiya's renditions of Bollywood classics to his neighbourhood pals. It is this inimitable voice of Raju Srivastav, channelled through Gajodhar, that took the entire nation by storm and as many as two decades later, the gags have managed to have the same effect on the fans. 

So, how did Srivastav conceive the now-iconic fictional character?

By his own admission, Raju Srivastav did not seek a career in stand-up comedy at first but only aspired to be a stage entertainer, someone who could amuse a live crowd with his quirky impressions of Bollywood stars. Amitabh Bachchan, he says, was his first inspiration and as he waded through the live-performance scene in and around Kanpur, he found himself to be one of the main 'mimicry' guys who could not only whip up a great impression of actors but also present them in the most unique ways. Sure, success followed right after but Srivastav wasn't content with the limitations of his 'brand' and instead wanted to explore newer territories. Luckily, good wisdom prevailed and Raju Srivastav would reach the shores of Mumbai where he unleashed Gajodhar on the eager audience.

"I knew that if I went on doing only impressions at every act, people would outguess me and I would stop being funny. So, I decided on a whim one evening that I will narrate the story of Sholay but through the eyes and voice of a small-town guy. I imagined and presented a set-up to the audience in which Gajodhar, the narrator, has just watched Sholay and is raring to share his experience with his neighbourhood friends. He would tell them about the scenes, the various characters, the villains, the heroes, the item songs - everything. But in his own eccentric ways," shared Raju Srivastav in a podcast conversation.

But did Gajodhar exist in real-life? And did Raju Srivastav know him personally?

"Gajodhar was my mama or uncle's friend back in the village so we would all call him mama for obvious reasons. We would visit our grandparents every summer and Gajodhar, being the local barber, mama would come over every time we needed haircuts - and he was the most interesting guy one could ever spot. Even though it was just a haircut, he showed up at our place on a bullock cart, carrying a bucket, a blanket, a big box, a quilt, and so much more. He would then ask all us boys to wet our hair for the haircut but he would only cut my brother's hair and not mine because he wanted to take a break - Gajodhar mama then hung out with the rest, ate lunch, and took a nap. I vividly remember every thing about him. And later in the evening, he did cut my hair but gave me the whole Gajodhar experience by telling me about every little thing about the village - who lost their jobs, whose kids eloped, and so on. So, when I reached Mumbai many years later, I needed a character to represent my comedy and Gajodhar mama became just that," added Raju Srivastav in the same conversation.

Gajodhar, the character, features in several of the late comedian's acts including many award show appearances. Following Raju Srivastav's passing on September 21, tributes have come pouring in from all corners with many noted celebrities sharing their memory of the stand-up comedian.

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