The Cardinal Bengans Hit Centre Stage at IHC

Vir Das and his troupe, The Cardinal Bengans who claim to be India’s first improvisational comedy group, performed in Delhi over the weekend. The show was organised as part of the month long Festival of Humour on October 15 and 16 at the India Habitat Centre.

Improvisational comedy, commonly referred to as ‘Improv’ is an absolutely unscripted extravaganza, structured in the form of many short games, which are directed by suggestions from the audience. The Cardinal Bengans, comprising of the man himself Vir Das, debutant actor Kavi Shastri, veteran Bollywood actor Ashwin Mushra, upcoming stand up comics Rohan Joshi and Tanmay Bhat and Anu Menon of Lola Kutty fame brought the sold out crowd at the Stein Auditorium to the floor with their riotous antics and witty comebacks.

The show included various acts including Sound Effects, Tag Line, ‘Hamare Zamane Mein’ and the Three Headed Monster, inspired from the hugely popular UK and US comedy show, ‘Whose line is it anyway?’ Vir Das was at his funny best from the beginning of the show with Baba Ramdev being the first victim of his wit.

At one point, he commented on Anushka Sharma being 9 feet taller than him and that he would have to pack hiking gear if he was to meet her. As a stand up comedy veteran, Vir had quite a few tricks under his sleeve to engage the audience, converse and take suggestions whilst keeping the hecklers, of which there were quite a few, at bay.

Kavi Shastri was quite a performer on stage with his personality and confidence reflecting clearly in his delivery. Although not known for his comedy, Kavi looked at ease on stage. Rohan and Tanmay were a delight to watch as they took centre stage on most of the acts.

Tanmay looked like he wanted to do Stand Up comedy for the night. 15 years veteran actor Ashwin was a force with his enactment of ‘Astha TV’ literally bringing the audience to tears very early on in the show. Anu Menon did not seem out of place but she could have come out of her ‘Lola Kutty’ character. It’s either that or she always speaks like that.

Although some parts of the show seem scripted with some portions of the show bearing an uncanny resemblance to’ Whose line is it anyway?’, the whole show was a riot for the Delhi audience which probably had not experienced an improv comedy show till date. For those who have grown up watching the likes of Colin Mocherie, Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady at the pinnacle of improv, it was a pleasure to finally witness the first steps of this form of live entertainment in India.

The troupe returns to Delhi in December so be sure to book your tickets well in advance as it will be another sold out show for sure.

Himanshu Sukhwani