In 2005, India got one of its first stand-up comedy shows called ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’. The show introduced us to some of the finest comedians, one of whom was Raju Srivastava.
“Gajodhar Bhaiya”, as he came to be known, became a household name. Although he didn’t win the show, he continues to regale us with his jokes, 17 years later.
Born in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh on 25 December 1963, his innate comedic talent was noticed as a young boy. Art was in his blood, as his father Ramesh Chandra Srivastava, known as ‘Balai Kaka’, was a famous Hindi Poet.
He started mimicry as a young school boy and was also famous for his cricket commentary in his area.
In an interview with Dr Vivek Bindra, Raju recalled how his school principal supported his mimicry. “While others would make fun of my mimicry, my principal really supported me. I was also called to the mohalla (local) cricket matches for my commentary. I wouldn’t say much about the shots being played, but spoke about the players, as I knew them personally. That is what attracted people to my style,” he said.
While many might recall his imitation of Amitabh Bachchan, he also narrated a funny story where he tried to propose to a girl using mimicry.
He said in the Dr Bindra interview, “I proposed to a girl in Shashi Kapoor’s voice. Instead of seeing the message, she was enthralled by my mimicry. She started asking me to imitate more actors. I told her ‘I love you’ in Shatrugan Sinha and Dharmendra’s voices too. But she missed the entire point!”
Raju came to Mumbai in the 80s to make it as a comedian.
However, the road to success was not very smooth. It was only after 20 years, in 2005, that the years of struggle bore fruit when he finally got recognition after participating in The Great Indian Laughter challenge.
According to a report in Zee News, when he came to Mumbai, he drove an auto for some time till he got work in movies. The report also mentions that he would do stand-up comedy shows for even Rs 50 when he was struggling.
He had small roles in Hindi films like Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), Baazigar (1993), and Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiya (2001). He made his debut in Tezaab in 1988.
After that, there was no looking back. He continues to be a sought-after stand-up comedian. His clean comedy is enjoyed by people across all age groups. He is known for his political mimicry and has done impressions of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and even PM Narendra Modi.
Most of these political figures have enjoyed his comedy sketches being performed for them.
“Comedy is the hardest genre of all. Making someone laugh is tough. But if a person can do comedy then performing in other genres is not difficult at all. This is what I have experienced. Even today I get offers to act and I happily take them,” said Raju to Newsd.
He participated in many TV shows like Bigg Boss Season 3, Comedy Ka Maha Muqabala, Nach Baliye Season 6 and more.
The chairman of the Film Development Council of Uttar Pradesh and Brand Ambassador Of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Raju was recently seen on India’s Laughter Champion.
[Updated on 21 September 2022]: Raju suffered a heart attack while working out in a gym on August 10. After 41 days in the hospital, he passed away on 21 September at the age of 58.
Muskurate raho (hide your sorrows and keep smiling). When you feel sad, look outside, and you will find someone worse off than you, or someone very poor. Only then will you realise that you are lucky.Raju Srivastava
Edited by Yoshita Rao, Images Courtesy: Instagram
‘How Raju Srivastava climbed ladder of success from television to big screen’ Published on 14 August, 2022 Courtesy The Print.
‘Comedian Raju Srivastav suffers major heart attack — a look at his life & career’ Published on 12 August, 2022 Courtesy CNBC TV18.
‘Happy birthday Raju Srivastava: Some interesting facts about the King of Comedy’ Published on 24 December, 2021 Courtesy Newsd.