The Creators’ Den with Viraj Pradhan

Viraj is a screenwriter, stand-up comedian social media consultant and content creator. He is the founder of Generic Tall Guy, a meme page that has garnered over 35K fans on Facebook. From writing comedy scripts to creating content for some of the biggest brands, Viraj has done it all. Read on as he talks about everything from writing for animated shows to finding his true calling— stand-up comedy.

Tell us about your journey – how did you decide to pursue a career in comedy?

I did my first stand up gig when I was 11 years old. Not really, it was a building function all the other kids were dancing & singing Kal Ho Na Ho songs. I didn’t possesses any such talents, so I mugged a few jokes from Champak and nervously recited them on stage. When I received a writing pad and a Camlin Geometry box as a prize for my jokes, I knew that I wanted to pursue stand-up a career.

No. Not really. Whether it’s an embarrassing drunk story from the last weekend or a story from the time I bought a replica of the Shaka Laka Boom Boom pencil and was heart-broken when I realized it wasn’t a magic pencil after all, I have always enjoyed telling stories. My colleagues and friends would find a lot of these funny. I loved seeing them react and I loved the attention. So I’d try to make them funnier by adding impressions & character act-outs. There were pauses, set-ups & punchlines. I would almost treat it like a comedy set.  And I didn’t even know it was called a comedy set back. I’d even have a whacky-quirky take on almost everything that happened in the world and people enjoyed them. This is when I realized that maybe ‘body fat’ is not the only thing I possess. Maybe I am funny.

So long story short I decided to give comedy a shot in 2015. And by shot I mean saying “Next month pakka” to all the “So kab hai tera pehla show?” questions.

I never wrote a set. I kept running away. Why? Because this was the only thing that I thought I’d be good at . And if I found out that I actually suck at it, it’d have broken me.

So I did the only sane thing I could do. I procrastinated. FOR 5 YEARS STRAIGHT.

I even joined East India Comedy with hopes of finally being motivated enough to try stand-up.

But no. All the jokes & ideas I had continued to nap in my small joke book.

But in 2020, I quit my full-time job & decided to take some time off. I signed up for a stand-up comedy workshop impulsively. I ended writing my first ever set. It was a surreal feeling as jokes flew through my mind onto the book. I performed it for the first time. I loved the thrill. The claps & the laughter made me happy. Genuinely. And I was nervous for only 90% of the time.

I was so freaking good during my shows that the government decided to stop them immediately by announcing a nationwide lockdown. I miss the stage. I hope I can get back there soon. In the few months that I did stand-up I did feel like this is what I meant for. I am still not sure about how good I am but I made a few people laugh and that makes me happy.

As far as content creation goes, I have always felt like I was a little camera conscious so I never tried video content creation. If I ever had an idea, I’d try to execute it with a meme. But in 2020, when I saw a lot of creators explode with their reels, I decided to finally take the plunge. I am so glad I did because the satisfaction I get after seeing shares and comments on a reel is priceless. I have been very impulsive with them though. There are days when I post 2 reels a day and days when I don’t post anything for a week. A lot of it depends on my stock-market-like mental health.

I try to put my own unique twist on every trending format and I love it when people notice that and say “Best video on this format”. Why do I love reels? Because I am a lazy person. Now I can take the creative liberty and do things like using an air-freshener as a mic or an AC remote as a phone and it completely works. People start tripping on that. I love the fact that I can come up with an idea at 7 PM, shoot it at 7:15PM and post it by 7:30PM and get a response by 7:45 PM. As a man with ADHD this quick reward mechanism works well for me. Sometimes, it works against me, because I also get put off when a video I was excited about doesn’t do well. In my mind every idea I come up with deserves 1 Mn views. But unfortunately only 1 in 10 apples will let you discover gravity, the remaining 9 will only keep the doctor away. I am not sure if it made sense but it sounded cool na? Thanks. I also love the fact that reels / tiktok have made content creation an equal ground for everyone. All you need is a good idea and a phone.  But yes, I want to do more. Create more formats. Create more characters. Experiment a lot. And do this regularly because I love it.

So please go support me ya and share my content. What the hell? GO NOW.

What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on so far?

I wrote the first tele-feature film of my career recently. It was a crossover film featuring Chhota Bheem & Krishna which is as big as Avengers: Infinity War for fans of the laddoo-eating-superhero.

It was challenging because I underestimated the sheer persistence one needs to write a 60-page screenplay. I am used to writing 11-minute episodes so I went in with the same approach. There, you can sprint through the day and finish the script in a day sometimes. But trying to do that on a film is like trying to climb Mt. Everest in a day and I suck at climbing stairs, so this was way out of question. Everyday proved to be a new challenge because with a film there too many moving puzzles. Every small change, be it in a scene or a dialogue, affects the overall continuity of the whole film. So it was lot of writing and re-writing even before I sent my draft out because I’m toxically self-critical of work.

But it was also exciting because I had a lot of liberty on this project. All the hours I spent nerding-out on every superhero film ever came in handy as I wrote down my own action sequences. I learnt a lot of lessons about my own abilities & writing process. It took double the estimated time but I was happy with what I had created and so were clients. So good day at the office I guess. I hope I get to say “I wrote my first Netflix show” or “I wrote my first feature film” very soon. In the words of Inzamam Ul Haq, “Inshallah! Boys played well”.

Who’s the one artist or creator you’d love to collaborate with and why?

Too many.

Kusha Kapila. I love her screen presence & comic timing.

I think we can create some fun content together.

Rahul Dravid. He is technically an artist with the bat & also a great indiranagar ka gunda. He’s been my idol since I was a kid and I’d love to work with him on something someday. Issi bahane I’ll get to have a conversation with him which will last longer than 30 secs and hopefully I am not a nervous-shaky-mess this time.

Zoya Akhtar, Vikram Aditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap are film-makers I absolutely adore and I’d love a chance to work with them.

Ranveer Singh & Shah Rukh Khan. Two actors who’d kill at stand-up comedy if they ever tried. Working with them on literally anything would be a dream.

MAKE IT HAPPEN UNIVERSE.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received for your work so far (and from who)?

Since a couple of my reels have exploded on Instagram I’ve been getting a lot of these.

I am not used to receiving compliments so it’s very overwhelming. Most times I get so excited that my responses are longer than the person who’s just complimented me.

But one such comment was done by fellow creator on a video that I thought wouldn’t perform that well. He said ‘I love the fact that you have maintained a good balance of massy content and intelligent jokes in your content’. This made me feel like a lovechild of Anurag Kashyap & Rohit Shetty but it felt great that somebody noticed what I was trying to do.

A lot of people DM me with things like “I have just discovered your content and it’s made me laugh on a day I was feeling off”. There can’t be a better compliment than this. And people keep saying how I deserve more views, more followers and that I am underrated.

Yaar! Fir bana do over-rated. Content share karo. Kara do mere 10K Followers so even I can ask people to swipe up. 

As far as my stand-up goes, I received one of the best compliments from a fellow-writer, who I respect a lot because she is brilliant at what she does. She has always pushed me to try stand-up. One fine day, she happened to be at one of my shows. She saw me perform for the first time. After the show, she hugged me and said “See, I told you, YOU WERE MEANT FOR THIS. Please keep doing this, you are going to kill it”. I was at a loss of words and I usually have like way too many words to say so that was fun.

My late Nani was my best friend and my biggest supporter. I get my talking skills from her. It’ll always be a big regret that she never got a chance to see me perform live. But I did record one of my zoom sets to show her. Seeing her reaction while watching me perform was one of the best feelings ever. She didn’t get all of the jokes, but she did repeat the ones she got & told me she loved them. However, my mom just said “Wear a better shirt & shave next time”.

Describe your experience of writing (screenplay or dialogues) for animated shows.

In one word ‘Fascinating’. I especially love the fact that now all the cartoons I grew up watching are proving to be research material for me. It’s been challenging and fun at the same time. Challenging because the content I consume is very different from the content I am creating right now. When it comes to kid’s shows you have work to within a lot of restrictions but at the same time you can let your imagination run wild. For example, I write Simmba, a cop show in which we never show a gun or a knife. There’s another famous cop who wears a holster which has everything but a gun. So I have to get really imaginative and creative with my fight sequences. Laughing at slapstick gags is easy but choreographing them can be tough sometimes. I try to push the boundaries when it comes to funny dialogues and comedy tropes in the scripts that I write though. My limited knowledge of comedy comes in handy here. I love wordplay and puns. Dialogues with wordplay fly in such cartoons.

According to me Swat Kats cracked one of the best puns ever. As a kid, I thought the names of those cats were ‘Bade Miyan & Chhote Miyan’. It took me 20 years to realize that their names were ‘Bade Meow’ & Chhote Meow’ because they were cats. My mind was blown.

I was a kid who was obsessed with Pogo TV Cartoons. Bob: The Builder, Noddy, Oswald, Pingu, I saw it all. I am writing for a show called ‘Simmba’ which airs on Pogo TV.

Life has come a full sweet circle and I’m diabetic so not sure if that’s a good thing.

My generation grew up watching some of the best animated shows ever made, I’d like this generation to have the same experience at least with the few shows I write. One such show is Simmba. It’s based on the Rohit ShettyRanveer Singh film. I feel iIt’s a show that an 8 year old and a 28 year old can enjoy at the same time because it is that entertaining. I love writing for Simmba the most because I practically become him when I write the dialogues.

What are the top 3 things on your bucket list? 

My list is too big ya. But to name a few.

Doing a Netflix stand-up special.

Writing a show or a film and seeing it release on a screen whether big or small. 

Also acting in a show / film / Ads.

Becoming a full-time content creator who does vlogs, reels & comedy  sketches.

To start off, I’d like AT LEAST 5 of my reels to cross 1 Million views, so please go share.

I’m a Sukhbir Song when my video performs and an Arijit Song when it doesn’t.

HOSTING A SHOW. Whether it’s a podcast, a travel show, a food show, not a fitness show. I love talking and being in front of the camera. I think it’ll be fun. I feel like I am on-screen talent just waiting to be discovered. Seriously. Where is my contract?

If your life were a web series, what would it be called?

Scam 1992: The Viraj Pradhan Story. Mainly because he was born in 1992.

But that’s too big a title na? Let’s just call it ‘A Generic Show’ for now.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Mostly doom-scrolling on Instagram & then feeling guilty about how I didn’t do any work.But this also helps me in coming up with my own reel ideas, so it’s okay.

Obsessively watch a new show and then getting sad that it’s over.   

Re-watching the Office, Schitts Creek, Kim’s Convenience, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Wake Up Sid.

Reading a book. But, like Aamir Khan. Only once a year.

I love cooking but I hate the prep & the cleaning.

I make awesome Butter Chicken & Chicken Ghee Roast. ALSO POHA. UFF!

Taking care of my plant buddies.

Re-arranging, re-organizing & Marie-Kondo-ing my house is actually one of my favorite activities.

Which are your favorited accounts to follow on Social Media and why?

To me, Akshar Pathak & Jose Covaco will always be the OG Content Kings.

I think Danish Sait, Kusha Kapila & Sristi Dixit are a riot in their videos.

Kenny Sebastian, Chaavay, Md Anas, Pulkit Kochar, Karan Sareen make extremely funny reels.

Just Neel Things, Focused Indian & Saurabh Ghadge are the holy trinity of marathi comedy.

I love Awwnchal & Kullubaazi for their killer delivery.

I love ThatIndianChick for her brilliant joke writing & delivery.

I love Avanti Nagral & SingWithVani for their magical singing.

Shade Zahrai & AwkwardGoat3 for content on mental health. AapKaJuggs for parodies.

Satshyaa is her own genre of informative, sweet & funny content.

Faye D’Souza, Andre Borges & Andheri West Shitposting to keep myself upto date.

I love memes by Poop Culture India, Huncho Nacho & Just here to ruin you day.

I love pop-culture edits by Tea Rex Edits, Binge Factory & Sukoon Ghar.

Notwhyral for rare bollywood footage, 90Overs for interesting cricket stories & FinCocktails for content on personal finance.

I ALSO LOVE KING ULHAS KAMTE FOR HIS WHOLESOME CHICKEN LEG PIECE EATING. 

Some of the smaller creators who are still bigger than me but their content deserves so much more: TheYashHegde, Raghav_Sharmaaaaa, Brewkenstein, TeaWithTiwari, BigMaauth Laughing Buddhi just to name a few.

I am sure I have missed out on a few. I am sorry. This is so hard. That’s what she said J

Internationally, I love JayPlusSharon, JoeZvonar & Lukas Arnold for their reels.

On YouTube I follow Matt D’avella for self-growth, Emergency Awesome for film breakdowns, The Take for video essays, Breakfast With Champions for the best cricket interviews & film Companion for film interviews.

Where can people get in touch with you?

You all should follow me @GenericTallGuy & share my content *angry emoji*

I’m always looking for freelance work. I can help you with script-writing & social media.

You can email me at [email protected]  

Some of my work links:

Unfortunately all shows I write only play on TV.

Simmba plays on Pogo TV. Golmaal Jr plays on Nickelodeon.

Taarak Mehta ka Chhota Chashmah will start on Sony YAY.

Some of my personal favorite reels that you guys should SHARE & SAVE:

Brand Films:

An exciting project I’ve worked on was a comedy sketch for Disney Plus Hotstar. I cracked the idea as a joke in our meeting when I said “ What if we do a video where Yuvraj Singh is looking for a job now that he’s retired?” My team asked me to script the video and within two weeks we were shooting with Yuvi. It was crazy.

I also wrote a Better Call Saul parody style promo featuring Pankaj Tripathi. Seeing him act in a video I wrote was just surreal. The man is a king of his craft. I didn’t get a chance to click a photo with him though. So I don’t have an option but to write a show / film & hope that he agrees to star in it.

For stand up, I don’t have any recorded videos yet. But you can come for one of my shows.

The Creators’ Den with Amrita Mahale

Amrita Mahale is the author of the acclaimed novel, Milk Teeth, shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award and longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature and the Tata LitLive! First Book Award in 2019. She was part of the Sangam writing residency 2017-18 and her writing has appeared in a number of renowned publications such as Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Scroll, Himal Southasian and Brown Paper Bag. She currently works at an applied research lab focused on AI for social good.

Read on to find out how this rocket scientist from IIT and Stanford became a fiction writer.

Tell us about your journey – how did an aerospace engineer find her way into literary fiction? 

I have dreamed of writing novels since I was very young. It was always clear to me that no matter what I studied or where I worked, I would work towards being a writer. The path was a zigzag one. After two degrees in aerospace engineering, I pursued a career in strategy & product design in consumer technology companies. Writing literary fiction has little to do with either of those. I started with baby steps, taking a writing class one day a week and working on short stories on weekends. One of those short stories eventually became Milk Teeth. My journey illustrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer, some longer than others, but if you have something to say and are disciplined and persistent, you will get there. 

What sparked the thought behind your debut novel, Milk Teeth? What inspired you to write this story? 

Milk Teeth took a little over four years to write and edit, but the characters had been living in my head for over a decade as parts of different, shifting stories. The starting point for the novel was the idea of a prophecy that comes true for the most unexpected reasons: a prophecy that these two childhood friends would grow up and get married, even though one is gay and the other is in love with another man. I was thinking a lot at that point about the kinds of social pressures that compel people to make certain decisions. This evolved into the idea that sometimes prophecies are redundant because people live the same lives over and over again, that their lives are scripted by social pressures more than by fate. And slowly that became a look at middle-class society and what happens when its sense of self-worth is thwarted by modern urban life.

“My journey illustrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer, some longer than others, but if you have something to say and are disciplined and persistent, you will get there.”

The city of Mumbai (or Bombay, as we still like to call it!) plays a vivid role in this book. What has been your personal experience with this city? 

I was born in Bombay but spent most of my childhood in Gujarat, till I moved back to the city as a teenager. My entire extended family – grandparents, aunts and uncles and aunts, cousins – was in Bombay / Mumbai, so my summer and winter vacations were spent there. And my own family moved every two years, so the sense of continuity in my childhood came from spending all my vacations in the city. It is the place I have always thought of as home, and also the city I know best. I wrote ‘Milk Teeth’ when I was living in Delhi, but a week after the novel was published, I moved back to Mumbai after eleven years away.

The characters in your story are layered, nuanced and wonderfully real. Were they completely fleshed out right at the outset or did they gradually acquire their personalities along the way? 

Writing a good character is a feat of observation and imagination both, and good characters come from a place of deep feeling. There was a rough starting point for what each character’s journey was about, and the rest came along the way. Each of the characters struggles with something that I have also struggled with: Kartik’s self-doubt and professional dissatisfactions, Ira’s anxiety about her lack of cultural capital, Kaiz’s longing to prove that Mumbai is his home. And each of these is linked to the novel’s central theme: finding your place in a changing world while trying to remain true to an idea you have of yourself. The complexity in the characters came slowly, accruing over several drafts.

“Milk Teeth took a little over four years to write and edit, but the characters had been living in my head for over a decade as parts of different, shifting stories.”

As a writer, do you ever experience a block or slowdown in your creative energy? If so, how do you tackle it?   

It happens all the time. Sometimes, the only way to overcome it is to power through it. Set yourself a word target and don’t step away from your writing spot till you have met your goal. The words you write in the beginning will be terrible, but will help you get into the flow. This approach does not work all the time. Brute force will not help if you haven’t worked out what you want to say, or if you are genuinely beginning to realise that what you are working on has major flaws, or if you are anxious because the world is in the middle of a long, savage pandemic. Sometimes all you can do is be kind to yourself and wait for the creative energy to return.

Follow Amrita on Instagram and Twitter.

Read our review of Milk Teeth.