Published: 05th December 2017
People have told me my accent is fake at least 100 times: Sanjay Manaktala
The stand-up comedian who got the scene moving in Bengaluru years ago talks about how he actually grew up in the US and how his accent isn't as much fake as it is natural!
A Regular Bengaluru IT guy — that's probably one way to describe Sanjay Manaktala. But it's possibly not the most accurate. Do you know why? While others aim to go to the US to work, here's someone who spent the first two decades of his life in the States and then decided to come back to his motherland to work.
Not quite bothered enough to colour his Clooney-like salt-and-pepper hair, he hasn't even tried to 'neutralise' his American accent. And why should he? Maybe that's the reason many think that he speaks the 'truth' and they call him by a Hindi expletive that rhymes with it too! By the way, did you know that Sanjay was one among the first to give Bengaluru a taste of stand-up comedy? Seems like the city hasn't become bored of it ever since.
We really wanted to hear this not-so-boring IT guy's story and as it turns out, it's pretty amazing. Excerpts from the conversation, while trying to decode his accent:
We've watched a couple of your YouTube videos. How haunted are you by the nickname you've been given?
Oh, not at all. I don't actually curse. I haven't used the F-word in 20 years. I hear people using this word A LOT and I kinda realised that a lot of people thought that I would too, thanks to my accent. Now I know what my nickname means — it is someone who has a lot of ego or acts cocky.
Are you scared of censorship or online moral policing? Have you faced any such setbacks?
I think one girl commented that it wasn't a nice word to say aloud. But there are thousands of others who think that it's funny.
How many times have people told you that your accent is fake?
At least a hundred times in seven years. Sigh! When most people hear an accent, they assume that you've been to America for a couple of years. But that isn't my case. I spent the first 20 years of my life in the US and then I came here. My accent will never change. But yeah, people always give me confused looks. Over the years, I've learnt that when I'm performing, I need to slow down if the audience is older, so that they can understand me better.
How was it to start a career in stand-up in Bengaluru?
Accenture brought me here as an expat. They paid me pretty well. I had a car, a driver, a fancy apartment and all that. I was already doing comedy in America for a year. I decided to keep doing it here as well as I was new to the city and I didn't have any friends. Nothing was happening in Bengaluru, so I thought why not do something here.
Let's sketch: Sanjay made his first sketch video six years ago with Kenny Sebastian
When did you find out that comedy was your true calling?
When I started making half of my IT salary in comedy, I decided to try it full-time. The next month, I made nothing. Sometimes, I think about going back to my techie life for the money. I miss flying business class and all those free dinners. But I still wouldn't trade. I had no problem working for an IT company, it's just that when I discovered comedy, I liked it way, way more. I'm just way more excited now.
Was it easy to start as a comedian?
It was easier seven years ago because no one was doing it then. You could do the usual ‘traffic is bad and rickshaw jokes’ and anyone would laugh. But now it is harder to please the crowd. There are more comedians too. I'm proud of it, but sometimes I go like, "Where’s the audience? Oh! At the other show."
Are you jealous of that?
Nope. I'm the reason that happened. You have to leave your ego at the door in comedy. There is no room for being upset.