Not many Comediennes we have in India you say? How about I introduce nineteen best female comedians that we have in India, who have been cracking the audience since the ’50s.
Known as “Hindi cinema’s first-ever comedienne”, Uma Devi Khatri or better known as Tun Tun, initially entered Bollywood as a playback singer but found it difficult to survive in the industry due to her older style of singing alongside new upcoming singers such as Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle. Eventually, she took to acting to survive in the industry after composer Naushad Ali suggested. She was a successful singer and even more successful actor, acting alongside actors such as Dilip Kumar and Nargis in her first movie. It was Dilip Kumar who gave her the name Tun Tun to suit her more comic persona, which stuck with throughout her career. She died at the age of 80 on 24th November 2003 setting a start for comediennes in India to exist and flourish.
Gopishantha or better known by her stage name Manorama was a Tamil actress who is known for her outstanding roles in Ek Phool Do Maali (1969) and Seeta Aur Geeta (1972). She started her career from the theatre at the age of 12 having acted in many plays and performed even as a playback singer. She was renamed Manorama by one of her drama director’ Thiruvengadam and harmonist Thiayagarajan from her very first play. She explained in one of her interviews that it was the Indian poet and lyricist Kannadasan’s words that helped her transition to comic roles. He had said, “If you are going to act in films only as a heroine, people here will throw you out of the industry after three or four years, but doing such roles will take you places. And you have the talent, too, to reach higher peaks.”
3) Preeti Ganguly:
Belonging to the well-known Ganguly family, Preeti, daughter of veteran actor Ashok Kumar is most well-known for her role as Amitabh Bachchan-obsessed fan in Basu Chatterjee’s Khatta Meetha (1978). However, due to the twisted belief system of the industry during those times of ‘fat=funny’ slowly dwindled her career after she lost more than 50 kgs. But that didn’t stop her, she later went on to start her own acting school named after her father, ‘Ashok Kumar’s Academy of Dramatic Arts’ in Mumbai, where film appreciation classes were taken.
4) Guddi Maruti:
Tahira Parab, daughter of actor and director Marutirao Parab, better known by her nickname Guddi Maruti started her career in Bollywood at the age of 10 with the film Jaan Haazir Hain. She continued her acting career to support her family after her father’s death and was mostly approached for comic roles due to her physical appearance. This eighties’ eternal college bully was nicknamed Guddi by producer Manmohan Desai by which she is still known. She worked on many popular movies but avoided getting into mainstream acting to avoid risks of being unsuccessful. In 1995, Maruti and Vrajesh Hirjee did a stand-up comedy show, Sorry Meri Lorry, which only added to her fame. “When I was working, I was not allowed to lose weight,” Maruti revealed in an interview with Rediff. “If I would even say it, people would panic.”
5) Kovai Sarala:
The Tamil actress, who won many best female comedian awards such as Tamil Nadu State Film Award for Best Comedian, started her acting career when she was in 9th standard and mostly played roles of women far above her own age. Kovai did not marry explaining during an interview that it was her sheer good intention to let a man escape from her instead of sticking to her all through life. Sarala looks after the children of her relatives, as she considers them to be her own.
6) Juhi Chawla:
The Indian actress, model, film producer, and the winner of the 1984 Miss India beauty pageant, for a brief period of time, was able to break the stereotype of how a comedienne in Bollywood should look like. She won the hearts of all young and old with her chirpiness and quick wit often playing comically hilarious roles in movies such as Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke (1993) and Ishq (1997).
7) Savita Bhatti:
Bhatti, the most unknown comedienne of the heyday of post-liberalization television, who produced and acted in the cult Doordarshan satire Flop Show with husband and director Jaspal Bhatti. She was mostly and is still known a the wife of Jaspal Bhatti, Indian comedian, actor and satirist, who died on 25th October, 2012 in a car accident.
8) Shubha Khote, Bhavana Balsavar:
Shubha and her daughter Bhavana has long been making the audience laugh with their hilarious roles in television as well as the big screen. Both the mother and daughter have acted together on few shows such as Zabaan Sambhalke, 1993, Dam Dama Dam, 1998. Shubha has directed comedy plays such as Hera Pheri, Hum Dono, Bachelor’s Wife and Let’s Do it (2000).
9) Archana Puran Singh:
Known for her iconic roles in films Kuch Kuch Hota Hai as Miss Briganza, Mohabbatein as Preeto, Bol Bachchan as Zohra, Archana gained a lot of popularity as a comic artist. She turned to anchoring in 1993 with Wah, Kya Scene Hai on Zee TV, which made her even more popular on television and landed her many sitcom offers like Jaane Bhi Do Paro. She was a judge of Comedy Circus on all seasons and was the only judge to have appeared in all episodes.
10) Upasana Singh:
A stand-up comedienne who is very well-known for her deaf-mute role in the 1997 film Judaai and “Bua” in the TV show Comedy Nights with Kapil. She became a household name thanks to her work as the villain in 2000s hit kids’ TV show Son Pari (2000-2004). She is known for her Punjabi style and very funny way of delivering English dialogues and has worked in many regional films.
11) Disha Vakani:
Who doesn’t the leading character Daya Ben of comedy sitcom Tarak Mehta ka Ulta Chashma. One of the most loved characters in the television comedy shows, Daya Ben aka Disha Vakani started her career as a stage actress in Gujarati plays like Kamal Patel v/s Dhamal Patel and Lali Lila and is now one of the funniest faces amongst Indian households.
12) Shubhangi Atre:
Shubhangi Atre playing Angoori Bhabhi, one of the most loved comic characters on television lately, started her acting career only after getting married in 2006. She replaced Shilpa Shinde even though her own husband, who supported all her decisions suggested she should not be taking someone else’s place. After Chidiyaghar, Atre replaced Shinde for the second time in her career. “People tell me that when they close their eyes and picture Angoori bhabhi, they think of me and say, ‘Hum bhool gaye pehle kaun thi’ — and that for me is the biggest compliment,” says Atre in one of her interviews.
13) Shilpa Shinde:
The original actress of Angoori Bhabhi, of Bhabhi Ji Ghar Par Hai, Shilpa made her debut on television in 1999. She is still most recognised for her role in the comedy sitcom Bhabhi Ji Ghar Par Hai. She participated in the Indian reality TV show Bigg Boss 11 which she eventually won on 14 January 2018.
14) Sumona Chakravarti:
Sumona, who started her career at the age of 10 in the Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala starrer Mann in 1999, is most recognised for her character as Manju Sharma, Kapil’s wife on the show Comedy Nights with Kapil on Colors TV. The show re-started as The Kapil Sharma Show on Sony Entertainment Television in April 2016 in which Sumona Chakravarti was seen playing the role of Sarla Gulati, a girl deeply in love with her neighbour Kapil Sharma.
15) Bharti Singh:
The most well-known and badass stand-up comedian on television, who has managed to make her mark in a male-dominated area. She was recognised for her talent after she became second runner-up on stand-up comedy reality series The Great Indian Laughter Challenge (Season 4) on STAR One, where she received acclaim for her stand-up comedy child character named “Lalli.”
16) Aditi Mittal:
Aditi, one of the first women to do stand-up comedy in India, and has been ranked among India’s top 10 stand-up comedians by The Times of India. She is one of the most better-known faces in stand-up comedy in English in India. She became one of the first 5 Indians to be featured in an Indians-only stand-up show, Local Heroes, organized by the U.K based “The Comedy Store” and also appears on Netflix with her gig in the show “Comedians of the World.”
17) Sumukhi Suresh:
Sumukhi, an actor, stand-up comedian, writer and director, is very popularly called “India’s Tina Fey” for her skills in making comedy sketches. She was a part of The Improv, an improvisational comedy show in Bengaluru and did many shows with the whole team. Her web series, Pushpavalli on Amazon Prime has many positive reviews and put her on A-Game as a comedienne in India.
18) Kaneez Surkha:
The only female judge of Comicstaan in a panel full of boys, Kaneez is a South Africa born, Mumbai-based comedian who is taking the world in rolls of laughter she gained popularity on the satirical news show The Week that Wasn’t. Surkha is part of an improv group called “The Improvisers” along with Abish Matthew, Kanan Gill and Kenny Sebastian on Amazon Prime Video. She also teaches the art of improv comedy, proving her comedic skills by being a judge in Amazon Prime’s stand-up comedy reality show Comicstaan.
This list is just a start, to a revolution that is slowly coming our way. Many comediennes, like Jeeya Sethi, has made comedy possible for the many women out there through her show Femapalooze; a show exclusively made for women, by women!
And the onset of one of the best comedy shows, The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, women have truly started making their marks in the world of comedy!