Getting stressed versus getting dressed, what would you choose? If you are on social media, you may have seen Radhika Vaz's rant against both in a bold new campaign for ecommerce site FabAlley.com. Though Vaz appears naked on stage, she nevertheless grabs the viewer's attention with her sense of humour. That shouldn't be surprising, considering she is a well-known comic from New York.
"I met some really cool people while doing 'improv' (short for improvisation). It is always the people who make you stay anywhere, make the work enjoyable. And the vibe of those people I met is what I liked the most," remembers Vaz.
"I started writing the script (for the FabAlley film) one night and tried bouncing it off my friend, Ruchika to see what she thought. And while talking to her I just said, 'You know, what if I stand without clothes... would that be funny?' She laughed and told me to go ahead. Though I wasn't apprehensive about the role, I was still not sure if the brand would be up for this," she explained.
Preparing for the role did not give her the jitters. Being on home turf, Vaz concentrated on the joke about being 'dressed' and 'stressed'. It was her own insecurities that she drew on while scripting the monologue. In that sense it was a near-cathartic process for Vaz. She always questioned the way people dress to please. Her act has fetched both positive and negative reviews, a lot of which are out there on her Twitter feed, for the world to see. Some go 'How dare she!"... 'Wow! She is daring!" applaud others.
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What does she make of all the mixed reactions? "For me, it was just a 'visual joke'", Vaz says, about her nudity in the film, adding, "We did not think of anything. When I write something, I just think 'Oh! I found that funny. Let me go with that'. The truth is, everything will be liked and hated by people. I didn't think about the future. That is the comedian's job. If you are so caught up with people's reactions, you will never do anything - just like dressing up to please people."
Was this the toughest role she has had to play? "No," says Vaz. She prefers to term it as one of the "easiest and smoothest so far." The shoot was quick - just a day for all the films of the campaign. The first film wasn't a take-after-take affair, nor was it shot on a single take. The monologue was performed several times over, and the director took it from an angle. The same monologue was repeated and recorded from a different angle. The results were edited to make the final film. While in the first film Vaz did as she chose, the director gave her specific cues while shooting the rest. These were mainly to bring out more emotions, to make sure, technically, the shot played out nicely, we learn. The creative freedom given to Vaz, she tells us, was "tremendous."
"Thanks to my improv training for several years, I knew how to act it out. Even with a mock audience in front of me, I tried to connect with them. Though eye contact is generally important, I looked at the camera only a few times to speak to the (digital) audience, while I communicated and connected with the studio audience continuously," adds Vaz.
These are the traits she may have learnt from her favourites - Ellen Degeneres, Patrice O'Neal and Ricky Gervais. But while she admits that the US has a comedy culture in its DNA, India is slowly growing up to it. Just as in the US - edgy comedians may not get the title as the best ones because they do not appeal to the masses - India will have its share of shockers.
According to Vaz, the film may have shocked people but just the shock value would not have been enough for any brand. The brand should have something strong to say, failing which the communication falls flat. But does she worry this gig might have an adverse impact on her bread-and-butter - regular stand-up comedy?
"I doubt it! People remember things for a certain period of time. If this is the thing they remember me for till the next thing comes along, that is awesome. If it's the one thing they remember me for that is fine as well. But ask me a year from now," she jokes.