YOUTUBE SENSATION PARLE PATEL ON HIS HILARIOUS COMEDY SHOW AND EXPERIENCES OF PLAYING A FEMALE CHARACTER
by MITA MISTRY and PRIYA MULJI
Hit theatre play Mrs Kapoor’s Daughter’s Wedding is back on tour in the UK with sold out shows.
The musical stage comedy about an overbearing Gujarati mother planning the perfect wedding is touring across the UK until May and sees popular YouTube star Parle Patel perfectly playing the title role. The family-friendly show, written and directed by Archana Kumar, has received great reviews, and returned due to popular demand.
We caught up with Parle to talk about the show, his experiences playing a female character, his sari-draping skills and hopes for the future.
Did you expect the show to be such a huge success when it was created?
When Archana Kumar told me about this idea, I took the opportunity on as a one-off show rather than something we’d definitely do again. I did feel people would ask for more, but I didn’t think it would result in so many more shows. How Archana has blended dance, live music and singing became a perfect habitat for the style of comedy I create. Her added ideas and direction meant I could approach what I do differently while still remaining extremely in line with my own style.
Tell us, what does the current UK tour mean to you?
I think every comedian or artist hopes to tour one day and when it finally begins to happen, you just want to start. It won’t even hit me that I’m on tour, until it’s almost all over. The feedback has been amazing and news of this London-based show has reached the US, India and Canada, so am majorly humbled.
What initially inspired the show?
The whole concept of the show regarding a daughter’s wedding is by Archana Kumar. I got a few messages on Instagram I wasn’t too sure about, that quickly turned into an email once I requested a brief. Here Archana explained her idea and why I’d be suited to the role of playing Mrs Kapoor. I helped to format the script and formalise the Gujarati or Hindi-centric dialogue and created overlaps from my own content.
Tell us about the show and your character?
The show revolves around Mrs Kapoor, a matriarch, mother and typical desi aunty who wants to marry her daughters off ASAP. Upon finding a possibility of this happening, she is at full steam ahead in trying to put on the biggest desi wedding of an era. The drama begins when there are clashes in cultures and expectations, but along with the drama comes the comedy, dance, music and masti. While Mrs Kapoor is what many would call traditional, she is often up-to-date with current trends.
What has the experience of playing your role been like?
It has been a huge opportunity to learn, develop and deliver, but it has been really fun and humbling too. I’ve learned all the life hacks of how to get lipstick to last longer and why a desi outfit always requires spare safety pins. Jokes aside, I’ve really had to think about the character to try and make it authentic. I’m used to creating digital content as a female character, but on the stage, there is less space for mistakes. Animating myself more has also been a challenge, especially when you’re on the last show after being in a sari and make up for, sometimes, 10 hours, but I’ve built up stamina. While the character has been something I’m used to playing, I’ve tried to find a way of challenging myself. Overall, I’ve been really lucky to work with AK productions.
So are you now an expert on make-up and women’s fashion?
Archana and I tried to make sure we are true to the character, including her being dressed in a way typical ladies of her age would. So, perhaps, I’m not an expert on contemporary women’s fashion. But I know how to wear a sari, and what wonders setting spray can do. I must say, I hate wearing makeup, so salute to all makeup wearers for not constantly wanting to scratch it all off.
Is your character Mrs Kapoor based on anyone in particular?
Lakshmi Kapoor is based on my character Kokila Patel who has become infamous via my own YouTube channel and social media, Planet Parle. I’ve now based my character Mrs Kapoor on what my new surroundings are – a Punjabi husband and being a mother to five daughters. Kokila Patel was based on all the super mums living their best desi lives in a world where there is a pressure to disown your roots. I hope anyone who sees’s overlaps with Mrs Kapoor and someone they know can celebrate them too.
Tell us, are any of the moments inspired by real life?
There are plenty. For one of the shows, I attended a wedding the previous week and saw something that then became improvised content. The audience feedback also says that they can relate because it’s happened to them before or they have seen it happen to someone they know.
What is your favourite moment?
There are so many moments I love, but some of my dialogues require a certain kind of silence from the audience before delivery. If they laugh, I know I’m doing my job right, if they don’t, then I approach the next act slightly differently.
What can audiences expect this time around?
Each and every show is different. As actors, we often refer to each show as ‘the one where this or that happened’ and that is the magic of a sketch-based theatre show. While each show is anchored down to highly energetic dancing, great live music and singing, from a comedy perspective, we try and add in current affairs when appropriate.
What does the future hold for this show?
We want as many people to attend the show as possible. It’s hugely special for me as I’ve not really taken any of my viral video elements to the stage like this. Archana does have lots of plans, but for now, we are concentrating on getting one daughter married and making sure as many people as possible attend.
What can we expect next from you?
More theatre, I hope. Honestly, it’s really difficult to find platforms to work on for south Asian comedy unless you’re doing stand-up, which I tend to dive into less. But, I hope the right people see this and what I’m striving to do. I’d very much like to join a theatre company or find an agent who can help me explore a potential that I can’t see myself. I’ll also create digital content, which gathers an audience globally and I really appreciate that. I do have some new song releases planned for Navratri. I’m still learning lots and hope someone sees what I do as something that could possibly be taken to TV or cinema.
What inspires you?
This varies hugely. Recently, I met Riz Ahmed after his show and he was so inspiring. Sometimes it’s someone whose story is unknown, but filled with passion, hard work and the hope to change the world for the better. My immigrant parents inspire me with their ability to work hard no matter what.
Why should we all come watch the show?
Let’s just say that my 91-year-old Baa, (grandmother) who can’t understand English, and Archana’s little three-year-old daughter, who runs around the house shouting the punch lines, loved the show. The show really is for all ages and audiences. It really does let you escape from the hectic nature of life while still reflecting on some deeper relationships. Everyone is welcome to attend Mrs Kapoor’s daughter’s wedding.