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When Raju Srivastava was instructed not to poke fun at PM Narendra Modi: “Pehla hi joke maine unpe maara…”

Raju Srivastava rose to national prominence in 2005 with The Great Indian Laughter Challenge after a handful of film appearances. 

Actor-comedian Raju Srivastava passed away on September 21, just a month after he had suffered a cardiac arrest. The comedian, who shot to fame with The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, was mourned by the film industry and several stand-up comics for his contribution to the comedy scene in India. Raju is known to have never even famously spared Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his jokes.

In a 2017 interview, he had revealed how PM Modi had enjoyed his mimicry as well. “Modi ji told me, ‘If you wish to, you should mimic me, just take care that the crowd should be entertained.’ He believes mimicry is an art. Modi ji in fact said that there should not be in any discrimination, that powerful people are not poked fun at, and only rest of the sections are the subject of one’s humour,” Raju had said.

During a conversation with comedian Sorabh Pant, Raju had elaborated more about performing for the PM and how he had been warned to not crack any jokes about him. He recalled the rigid atmosphere where there were security officials in every corner and then he was eventually asked about jokes he was planning to crack.

Gujarat me mera show tha, jo patang udayi jati hai, wo tyohaar me. Toh vaha pe Modiji aane wale the, badi security vicurity thi sab charo taraf. Humlog ki bhi talashi valashi li ja rahi thi. Kutte vutte chode gaye, kutte vutte sunghke gaye. Uske baad aa gaye ek do IAS officers. ‘Mr Srivastava, toh ap kya karenge? Kya kya perform karenge?’ Mene kaha ye office ka kaam nai hai. Ki ap file jaisa bana rahe ho. Approve kar rahe ho kuch. Mahaul dekh ke, mood dekh ke karenge (I had my show in Gujarat, the one where you fly kites. Modiji had attended it and there was security in every corner. I was even searched, and dogs were let loose. After that, IAS officers asked me, ‘Srivastava so what will you do? What will you perform?’ I answered that this isn’t work at office that needs to be filed. Based on the mood, I will perform),” he said.”

Remembering the experience, he added, “Shuru me keh rahe ‘Modiji ka mat kariye (mimicry)’. Main aaya, pehle hi joke maine unpe mara, Modiji pe. Bohot hasse, taali maar maar ke hasse. Aur 10 se 15 minute ho gaya, mene mic se hi bola. Public khush thi, taali vaali baja rahe the, ‘once more, once more’ ho raha hai. Toh maine Modiji se kaha, ‘Sir, mujhe bataya gaya hai ki aapko nikalna hai, apke pass time…’ (as a reply PM Modi said) ‘nai, nai, nai, nai, are sunao, bhot anand aa raha hai. Aapko bohot din baad sun raha hun bohot anand aa raha hai. Sunaiye, sunaiye, mere pass samay hai’ (In the beginning, they said don’t mimic Modi. I came, and cracked the first joke on him. He laughed and clapped. The public was happy and asked me for an encore. So I told Modi, that I was told that you had to leave….and he answered, ‘No, no, I am very entertained. Listening to you after many days, so keep talking, I have time.”

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