Comedy troupe makes light of cultural stereotypes

The audience didn’t have to wait long for the first Bollywood dance, as the cast of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Chicken: The Butter Strikes Back opened with the skit “Mera Yaar Intro Dance”.

Munish Sharma and Leena Manro have a very unique form of edgy and risqué sketch comedy. Having known each other for just two years, the pair have created a production company, Bollywood Shenanigans, and put on three shows. They write spirited skits about the real life issues that children of immigrant families face in Canada. “When we write our comedy it has meaning. Even if you took out all the derogatory remarks, it’s still funny,” Leena says.

The program was playfully laid out like a menu, with the skits acting as ‘Appetizers’, actor profiles the ‘Main Course’ and thank you’s the ‘Desserts’. Saris thrown surreptitiously on the walls created a colourful atmosphere in tune with the lively chatting of the roughly 60 people packed into the tiny Box Studio for the group’s third production, which ran from Sept 30th to Oct 3rd.

The cast was as colourful as a Benetton ad, incorporating actors of different cultural backgrounds. They even had a token white guy, Jason Vaisvila, who convinced the audience that he really wanted to be brown.

They call Bollywood, the Hollywood of India, their secret weapon. Audience members wait in anticipation for the first note of music hinting that the actors will break out in that dance that has come to represent South Asian culture. For those in need of a little cross-cultural pollination, that’s exactly what they get.

To achieve this, Leena and Munish blend dancing with a spill of derogatory remarks.

Some skits are light, some have a serious ring, but all leave the audience in stitches. “We can make a point resonate more through absurdity,” Leena says.

The show featured ensembles and cameos from local singer, Sabrina Saran who, for the skit “Fuck or Love?”, convincingly changed the song lyrics of a popular love song making the two mean the same thing. Her mellifluous voice completely outshone the hilarity of the lyrics, however. She sings effortlessly, even without music to back her up.

There were special appearances by past characters like the fluid ‘Snake Woman’, played by Leena, who sells a potion to Jason making him ‘brown’ for one night and so allowing him to pick up a brown girl, Preet, before choking his way back to his unloved, white, bearded self. The skit turned serious when Jason announced that he was experiencing reverse discrimination – the girl wouldn’t date him, explaining that her parents would never allow her to marry a white guy. Munish quickly brought the laughs back with a Dancogram revealing that Jason’s family actually stemmed from India. The boys got so excited that they laughed their way off stage, saying, “Let’s go eat Indian food, complain about our culture and find a white girl.” The audience members exploded into laughter, whether they fully understood or not.

Leena and Munish are anomalies, as they grew up ‘brown’ in small, predominantly white cities. Neither felt they particularly fit in but, upon moving to culturally diverse Vancouver, they found that nor did they fit others’ expectations of South Asian heritage. They have found their niche in their special ability to relate to both worlds. “All that you can do is be true to what you’re trying to say,” Munish says.

At Bollywood Shenanigan’s first show, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Chicken, all they’d hoped for was 20 people. Through word of mouth and tireless advertising, done solely by the two of them, they have created a show that can sell out four nights in a row. They may need to find a bigger venue for their ‘Best of’ show, planned for sometime this fall. Visit for more information.

If you’re feeling the urge to Bollywood dance, check out Diwali, a South Asian festival celebrating “the universal light that exists in everyone”.

//Sarah Kistler

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