#PammiAunty: Social Media's New Comedy Icon Brings Drama Online
Internet Sensation Ssumier Pasricha in a candid interview with BW Businessworld spilling the beans about the business of Comedy in India
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Pammi Aunty is a middle aged Punjabi woman who has opinion about everything. This character who has taken the internet by storm has spared nothing from Brexit, PokemonGo to UEFA Euro 2016, Airtel 4G and Game of Thrones! She rants about everything under the sun. Sporting giant pink glasses, her hair tied in a towel with the stuck-on curlers and a face-pack; she criticizes her daughter-in-law (an MBA) in her typical Punjabi accent. This Punjabi aunty is on a roll and she is hilarious.
Soumya Gupta from BW Businessworld interacted with Ssumiere Pasricha, an upcoming actor/comedian.
Ssumier Pasricha (36), Delhi-da- Munda aka "Pammi Aunty", became a household name and rose to popularity for his effervescent Punjabi accent, acting skills and clean comedy.
All he knew about himself was that he was interested in pursuing MBA and not his family business. An active participant in school co-curricular activities with an inclination for Photography. After 10th standard, he took off to Australia to pursue higher studies and became a popular radio jockey with a local channel.
Pasricha says, he didn't dream of becoming an actor but it's destiny that he received immense recognition from audience for his quirky Snapchat videos, just shot for fun! Fluent in 6 different languages, Ssumier has been performing theatre since childhood. He successfully completed more than 30 stage shows for National and International festivals with renowned directors like Sohaila Kapur, Shekhar Kapur and Vivek Mansukhani, Sabina Mehta Jeitly.
Interestingly, his first paycheck of Rs.2000 made him realize that he could earn by acting.
Pasricha's attributes his success as Pammi Aunty, to his previous roles in TV and films, 'Sasural Simar Ka' and 'Hum Tum Aur Shabana' and a number of ad-commercials that made him comfortable on camera.
Excerpts from the Interview:-
How big do you think Comedy in India? Is the genre growing?
Comedy has always been a stress-buster for everyone but humor which is non-offensive was missing for a long-time. I believe that with the advent of phones and so many social platforms, it is beginning to be one of the widely consumed genres. People of all ages have wanted to connect with clean comedy and internet has bought it nearer to them. I love the fact that Pammi Aunty videos are shared through family WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter. Everyone enjoys it equally, fathers- mothers, daughters and sons, cousins and the Nanis and Dadis. I see the genre growing manifold if more clean and quality content can be produced. It makes me happy that it is not restricted anymore within a single platform or medium. A comedian can be on stage or perform live too.
Your views upon quality of content watched online and offline. Do you see an evolution?
I believe that there is a viewership for everything! There might be some shows that you can only discuss among your friends.
The Online and offline debate is going on but I see it as many viewers shifting between platforms to watch good content. I think online is a much open platform for any artistes, actor, director, singer to showcase his/her talent and a wider space to test his audience. Internet is seeing a bigger boom of good content as it lets you publish/upload anything without any investment or advertiser's push. Pammi Aunty has made me a firm believer of 'Social Media'.
For me personally, the medium and the message both are important as my intention to reach my target audience is served by the social media and the message is my clean, light hearted comedy, which can be enjoyed by the family sitting together. Just like we used to enjoy Hrishkesh Mukherjee's films. Pammi Aunty is not about double-meaning jokes and its simple classic fun picked up from our daily lives.
You have mentioned previously that Pammi Aunty is the amalgamation of all the women in our homes; do you plan to introduce anymore characters?
I don't know as of now, nothing is planned yet but one day 'Sarla' might come! People are talking about it and keep asking me, 'Where is Sarla Bhenji?' So yes,
Sarla might soon be revealed!
Shooting for which medium was the toughest- theatre, films, television or internet?
I definitely feel that all the mediums have their own requirements and rules. Though I have been everywhere, I don't think I have proved myself enough. As I get better opportunities to work with a variety of actors, I am sure I my acting will get better with time. Bollywood after all is an ocean of learning.
On another note, since I had been doing theatre for 15 long years, it took me some time to settle according to TV. I remember there was a time, I was told to tone down my loud acting as daily soaps demand more natural acting. But then some beautiful friends of mine helped me overcome that phase. Later, I continued to give some auditions and got shortlisted for documentaries and commercials. That's how I got the film 'Hum Tum aur Shabana' as well. Though it didn't do much for me but yes I would say I learnt a lot of other things like networking and approaching.
I won't deny that entering films isn't difficult, because it's true that Bollywood does work in clans. You need to be focused, believe in yourself and most importantly give yourself time if you want to successful. My advice would be to not aspire for an overnight miracle but trying to grab maximum visibility. The public will slowly resonate with you as a person and recognition & praise would also come. One day everything will fall in place. The best example we have today is Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
Do you see any flip side to being famous?
The flip side I would say is there everywhere, even though most of the people want to be an actor not everyone can become one. A person can be groomed but not taught acting.
Secondly, just like in one of my previous interviews, I mentioned it once that I am not Rajma Chawal, I cannot make everyone happy! The trouble comes when people take an actor's character very seriously. They may agree or not agree with someone, it's totally their call but a character and the person behind it cannot be judged on the same note.
An actor should not be considered a role-model in every aspect; his job is to be an entertainer! So yes, I accept criticism whole-heartedly from an intelligent or creative person and I tend not to acknowledge comments from random people. And I faced it when once when someone took offence from Pammi Aunty's episode, but fortunately I never had to delve in. My fans supported me by replying on my behalf, that we should be strong enough to take comedy as comedy and accept Pammi Aunty as an exaggerated character. I felt blessed!
How difficult it is for you to set yourself apart from the league of other comedians/ actors?
Well, in my case frankly speaking I didn't try to any such thing. But I feel that as my character has been born out of social media, it is bound to be closer to people and is enjoying its own unique space.
On the other hand, I respect my comedian friends who have been loved for the longest time on television. From Kapil Sharma to Krushna- Sudesh, I consider them my seniors in the art. I am yet to learn a lot of things so I would rather associate with them, rather stay distinct and alone.