Sharul Channa is a riot. Or at the very least, she could probably start one easily if she tried, with almost no topic too taboo to tackle. Now, Sharul is happily married (to fellow comedian Rishi Budhrani), but as a strong, independent woman, has her hangups about the deeply misogynistic nature of some Indian traditions. So naturally, in her newest ‘comedic monologue’ (‘so it sounds a bit more atas for funding!’), Sharul Weds Sharul sees our favourite local comedienne rip into Indian wedding traditions, questioning the relevance and impact of certain aspects, and in the process, finds herself a stable middle ground to stand on.
Making a grand entrance complete with smoke machine and a suited Chinese manservant, Sharul starts off the night dressed to the nines in a gorgeous black and white garment (the colours a taboo for any Indian bride), adorned with plenty of jewelry and henna upon her hands. This is her wedding to herself after all, and visitors are even given flowers (for women) and blessings (for men) upon entry to the recital studio. Sharul works the crowd easily, inviting a few laughs that get easier the more daring her jokes become; in identifying an Italian man, she mentions how Indian weddings practically worship Ferrero Rocher chocolates, one of many running jokes she utilizes throughout the act.
Unabashed and sharp, Sharul starts off recounting her incredible boredom listening to the priest’s chants that sound to her like gibberish (‘underwear innerwear bra’) before quickly getting to grips with the crux of her show, addressing the status of women as objects to be given away. Whether it’s the burden of a parent to start saving gold the moment an Indian daughter is born, to the horror of a puberty ceremony, to even getting livestock-themed nightmares calling her mother-in-law ‘Ma’, Sharul knows precisely how to poke fun at these beliefs with her fierce independence, a stubborn insistence and indignation that rallies her modern style against a barrage of suffocating rules and regulations. With a deft hand and razor tongue, she exposes the unfair expectations heaped upon women while remaining incredibly convincing, her charm out in full force as she flirts with audience members and even teases out sexual euphemism in kangkong (assisted by an enthusiastic makcik in the front row).
But even amidst the comedy, there’s a sense of real emotion and reflection that lines the entire performance. Sharul reveals a deep desire for systemic change as we enter a new age, doing away with outdated rules and traditions that should firmly remain in the past. By the end of the show, Sharul decides to play by her own rules, making her own vows as she circles the fire, one of which is to ‘do whatever she wants, whenever she wants (and with whoever she wants)’. It’s a powerful gesture to end off the show, and Sharul Weds Sharul is the pottymouthed commedienne at her finest, combining hard truths with heart and keen wit to usher in a new age of weddings.
Kalaa Utsavam 2017 takes place from 17th – 26th November at the Esplanade. For the full list of programmes and tickets, visit the Esplanade website here