The Indian comedy galactic cluster lost its brightest star in the form of Raju Srivastava, who passed away around 10:30 am on Wednesday at AIIMS, New Delhi. His journey to become one of the most widely recognised Indian comedians was rife with struggles and reinventions as an artiste and as a person.
Raju was born in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, to a government employee and poet, Ramesh Chandra Srivastava, and homemaker, Saraswati Srivastava.
Named Satya Prakash Srivastava at birth, Raju harboured the dream of becoming a comic artiste since his childhood and he moved to Mumbai in the 1980s to give a definitive shape to his dream.
He initially struggled to get work because comedy was a new art form for the mainstream back then. To make ends meet, Raju started driving an auto-rickshaw but kept his passion alive by performing in stand-up shows for a measly sum of Rs 50.
After a few years later, he landed a small role in the Bollywood movie ‘Tezaab’ in 1988. He then went on to work in the Salman Khan-starrer ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ in yet another little-noticed role.
Srivastava continued doing low-profile gigs, including appearing in Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Baazigar’ until Doordarshan’s ‘Tea Time Manoranjan’ happened to him in 1994. Later, he bagged a role in ‘Shaktimaan’, which is arguably India’s first sci-fi show with some backward special effects.
He got the nation’s attention in ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’, where he was the second runner-up, but he went on to win the title of ‘King of Comedy’ in the spin-off show, ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge – Champions’.
His stage characters of Gajodhar and Manodhar on the show have been loved by everyone. One of the episodes, which was the highlight of the show, was his Diwali special act wherein he appeared as different types of firecrackers that are burst during the festival.
He also appeared in the third season of the reality television show ‘Bigg Boss’, ‘Nach Baliye 6’ and ‘Comedy Nights With Kapil’.
Later in 2014, he ventured into politics and was fielded on the ticket of the Samajwadi Party from Kanpur for the Lok Sabha elections. He returned the ticket, however, saying he was not getting enough support from the local units of the party. After that, he joined Bharatiya Janata Party on March 19, 2014.
Later, he served as the brand ambassador of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat campaign and was the Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Film Development Council. In that capacity, he laid the foundation for the upcoming NOIDA film city project.
Battling odds, but on his own terms, was Srivastava’s way of life. A mortal human at the end of it, he lost his last fight, stretching over 43 days, against death. But his work has assured him immortality.