Raju Srivastava was symbolic of the common man

A tribute to India’s iconic stand up comic, Raju Srivastava

A tribute to India's iconic stand up comic, Raju Srivastava

The gods must be having a field day, with Raju Srivastava to entertain them in heaven.

The Indian entertainment industry has lost a precious star. As eager audiences, we have lost a much-loved comic artiste who brought own signature charisma to the stage, with his ease of language, fluency in multiple dialects from the hinterland and superb mimicry. Raju Srivastava, popularly monikered as Gajodar Bhaiya, passed on at the age of 58, suffering another cardiac arrest while admitted at AIIMS Delhi, on the ventilator.

It was a brilliant career graph for Satya Prakash Srivastava as he was born, of humble beginnings in Kanpur. He soon arrived in Mumbai, with dreams of appearing on the silver screen. Raju Srivastava did make his mark, with small roles he netted in the movies including Bombay to Goa (1972), Tezaab (1988), Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), Baazigar (1993) and later Aamdani Atthani Kharcha Rupaiya (2001). He did what it took to earn a living, from driving an autorickshaw to turning into a cricket commentator to small comedy acts.

National adulation and appreciation began to flow his way however once he took part in the comedy show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge in 2005. Raju finished as the second runner up and charmed the natives with his simple, clean humour and typical gesticulations. The character of Gajodhar Bhaiya, hailing from the cowbelt, that he created with amazing, inborn ease made everyone embrace him instantly. Just like his middle-hair parting as Dhurandhar Singh in the television show Shaktimaan that won him thousands of followers

Once when interrogated by journalist Rajat Sharma in the mock court of the show Aap Ki Adalat, close to a decade ago, he confessed to making a living during his struggling days by imitating Amitabh Bachchan. He idolised Amitabh, even as a child. With the money he earned by aping him, Raju was able to eke a living in Mumbai at a time when mimicry was restricted to articulating the dialogues Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, and Shatrughan Sinha. Raju had memorised all the dialogues from Amitabh’s movies, and rendered them faultlessly, earning a princely sum of Rs 50 for his first mimicry act. It was big money for him, as he was jobless and hungry when he came to Mumbai.

Shilpi Madan for Deccan Herald

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