Do you think it is easy to be a ventriloquist?
Meet Sharanya Eshwar, a Bengaluru girl who enjoys laughing at her own jokes and likes to bring a creative twist to everything she does, through ventriloquism.
Storytelling is something Sharanya has always enjoyed and grew up reading Tinkle and Chandamama. Although stand-up comedy has grabbed a lot of eyeballs, she noticed that without voice modulation and humour attached to it, people and kids tend to lose attention.
Having seen the first ventriloquist performance at her school Stella Maris by Indushree Ravindra, also an alma mater, fascinated Sharanya. Since then, she has given the thought to perform it in front of a live audience.
"Watching Indushree perform was a magical experience for me. As I love comedy and magic, Ventriloquism was something that gave me a platform to do both. During the whole pandemic/ lockdown period, I had a lot of time where I wanted to try and explore new things.”
Sharanya, who has her style of entertaining people with her storytelling skills, double innuendo, and puns, has mastered the art of ventriloquism during the lockdown and done her first offline show, using her dear doll Dakota at Ragi Kana, a commercial place to entertain people with cultural performances.
She made a sock puppet and tried talking without moving her lips. “I like making silly jokes that are a hit and miss, I figured that it would be funnier when a puppet says the jokes. Especially when it comes to self-deprecating humour, they are funnier when the puppet insults you”, she further added.
This thought came into her mind because she feels that conveying something using a puppet would be easier and also it's a better way to make people understand, mainly to kids. Initially, it was tough for Sharanya, but now she’s getting better with practice.
When asked what gave her the calling to be a ventriloquist, she abruptly replied, “Nowadays, almost everybody wants to be a YouTuber and wants to be famous. And I hate being someone who is just one among the crowd. Ventriloquism is something I haven’t seen a lot of people do and hence I decided to take this up. I just want to make people laugh.”
The 23-year-old avers, “Making people laugh has always been one of my strengths (or so I think). I enjoy making people feel deeply about things and getting them thinking. My jokes can be so silly that you roll your eyes or make you laugh at first and then get you thinking about it. I like to have layers even in the jokes I make.”
Behind the curtain
However, the whole process isn’t an easy thing to put up a show. Plus, scripting the humour is the next big thing, which doesn’t happen spontaneously, but requires a lot of groundwork before you check all the boxes to be a ventriloquist. While it comes to Sharanya, she does her scripting differently, like every writer has their ways of preparing before they walk on to the big stage for performing.
“I don’t usually sit at a stretch and work on a script. Sometimes, I can come up with a script based on a concept in half an hour and sometimes I work on it for days. I like working on trending topics, but I hate forcing a joke just because it’s trending. If a joke comes to me automatically, I jot it down and work on either a comic (drawing) or a script for a video”, stated Sharanya on how she prepares before she goes live.
Besides, talking about the puppet, Dakota, the name sounds so inimitable. She commented on it saying, “The word Dakota in Kannada means ‘good for nothing’ or a ‘waste piece’. It is a funny word and kids laugh when you say ‘Dakota piece’. But the name Dakota also means a very friendly person. This is something I learned from Google and like my puppet which is very friendly with everyone and makes people giggle, I thought Dakota is the perfect name.”
Tough Times, Good Times
To do a lot more than enough, it had its share of challenges as well. The first challenge for Sharanya was when she thought of taking ventriloquism more seriously, because she had to buy a professional dummy, and the prices were over the odds online.
Later, she took a job and bought one normal doll for Rs 600 and remodeled it. And when Sharanya took ventriloquism seriously, she mustered the courage to order a dummy online for Rs 15000 of which she borrowed Rs 5000 from her dad.
“When I see my parents say that I am good at this and hear their friends praise me, it gives me hope to do better."
Even though ventriloquism is one form of putting comedy on a different set altogether, we asked Sharanya about her plans for stand-up comedy. “I do want to get into the stand-up comedy space. People have asked me to do it, but I have been nervous to get on to the stage. Maybe ventriloquism is a way I can enter the space, and if I say something controversial or wrong, I can always blame the puppet”, quips Sharanya.
Finally, the good part is when answering questions using the puppet. “One kid thought that there is a device inside the puppet and that’s how the puppet is talking and that made me happy because it made me think that I was convincing enough to make sure the kid didn’t realize the voice was coming from me”, made Sharanya happy of what she’s doing - “entertaining kids”.
At one point, she thought to be a magician, in a funny way, but she claims that answering the questions of the kids with curious minds was something that she enjoyed doing.
Moving forward, Sharanya has big plans lining up.
Once the pandemic is over, she also thinks of going to open mics and entertain people with her perfect puppet. She concludes by saying, “Even if it's 5 people that I am performing for, I want them to have had fun with me or at me.”
All the images are sourced with permission from Sharanya.