Over the past few years, the growth of stand-up comedy in India has been phenomenal. From having a highly limited comedy scene that was mostly restrained to half-hearted reality shows on Television that employed the same stream of jokes over and over again, India now has an evolving comedy scene that comprises an entire industry. People are now getting more serious about it, especially now that they are realising there is money and fame in comedy.
While comedy has always existed across both India and the world in some form of the other, certain changes in recent times have made it a far more influential source of information and commentary.
Big comedians are making lakhs off one gig, and are getting opportunities to become stars and movie actors through it and all of this has impacted the way that this landscape has evolved. But have you ever guessed that a maid would make a name for herself in this industry.
Yes, you heard me right, this Kamavali bai is not just limited to doing household works but is also making everyone proud with her incredible comedy and smashing class barrier.
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The 43-year-old Deepika Mhatre wakes up at 4:00 a.m., gets ready, and rushes to the local train station in Mumbai—not just to get to work, but to sell imitation jewellery to passengers on the train. By 6:30, after finishing her train rounds, she heads to the first of the five homes she cooks in. Her entire day is spent cooking for families, and she gets free only at 4:00 p.m.
In her tedious routine of earning money for her family of five, cooking for five homes and travelling between Nala Sopara, where she lives, to Malad, Deepika finds humour, the kind that she shares when she takes the stage at stand-up comedy shows. Mhatre turned her life around solely on her will to succeed and the passion for making people laugh.
Things changed for Mhatre, who used to occasionally crack jokes at home or with her employers to entertain them when her ex-employer organised a small get-together for all the maids and the drivers of the society. That’s where she performed the first time, impromptu.
After watching her perform, a journalist who was one among the audience published an interview and she also told renowned stand-up comedian Aditi Mittal about Mhatre’s talent, who approached her and insisted that she try her hand at stand-up.
Mhatre’s jokes are a sharp critique on people’s apathy towards their domestic help and workforce, while also taking subtle digs at patriarchal practices like observing Karva Chauth.
With punch lines like “Yahaan insaan ke liye daya kam aur sticker ke liye izzat zyada hoti hain,” (People have no compassion for human beings, but have immense respect for price tags) that mock people’s slavery to branded goods sold at malls, Mhatre feels this is her way of pointing out certain flaws plaguing the society.
Each of Deepika’s jokes is matter-to-fact, in a tone which never sound like complaints. It almost feels like a group of domestic helpers are joking about their work and their employers at the end of the day. But it is one woman, bringing to us her perspective, her life, cushioned in humour.
In one of her show, she says “The building I work in, I am very special there. Because people like me, we have a separate lift. We even have a separate mug! People think servants should have separate vessels. Go on then, hide your own vessels! You eat the rotis that I made, don’t you?”
Though Mhatre is happy with her new-found fame, the question of a regular source of earning worries her as she said she does not earn anything from comedy shows. She had to quit her housemaid job owing to medical reasons. She relies only on whatever she earns by selling jewellery.
Mhatre, acts are a satire on class inequalities. She has three daughters, who are now 22, 20, and 15; and she really wishes for at least one of them to pursue this field.