Kunal Kamra said threats were made that the venue would be shut down if he performed.
Popular comedian Kunal Kamra's shows scheduled for the next 20 days in Bengaluru (Karnataka) have been cancelled, he informed in a Tweet from his official account. In a sarcastic post announcing the news on the microblogging site, he said the official reason for the sudden move was the denial of permission to seat 45 people at the venue, which he claims can accommodate more than that number.
The other reason, he said, was threats made to the organisers that the venue would be shut down if he was ever to perform there. It is not clear yet who made these threats. "I guess this is also part of the Covid protocol and new guidelines. I suppose I am seen as a variant of the virus now," he said.
The police have said that a few people, including residents from the neighbourhood of the venue, had gathered outside the venue and demanded cancellation of the show as Mr Kamra had, they said, used expletives in his social media posts and seemed "very controversial." The organisers had not asked the police for any protection, they said.
"We are not very sure why exactly the show has been cancelled. We did not get in touch with the artist. In fact, a few people had gathered before the venue yesterday demanding the organisers cancel the show. According to them, he used expletives in his previous posts and it seemed very controversial. These people who gathered before the venue included the residents in the neighbourhood. No complaints have been lodged so far. Looks like the organisers cancelled the show on their own. They hadn't asked us for any protection," Harish Pandey, Deputy Commissioner of Police - South Division, Bengaluru City, told NDTV.
This comes days after comedian Munawar Faruqui indicated he may not do any more shows, after at least 12 of his shows were cancelled in the last two months due to threats from right-wing groups. Mr Faruqui had also spent a month in jail earlier this year on charges of "insulting Hindu gods and goddesses" during one of his comedy shows. He had earlier this month told NDTV there was nothing problematic in his content. He had said up to 80 people including drivers, volunteers and guards earn a living from a single show.
Mr Kamra also referred to social media posts comparing him with Mr Faruqui that had suggested that the latter was forced to quit comedy because of his religion while the former can continue doing shows. "We can find solace in the fact that the ruling class is at least trying to oppress with equality," he said.
Several comedians who are known to make sharp political jokes have recently had their shows cancelled following threats from right-wing groups. Taking a swipe at this trend, Mr Kamra posted a step-by-step guide to get a show cancelled. "If they use this method and the shows don't get cancelled, I'll give up being a comedian," he added. The steps listed by him include informing the police and venue owner that there could be violence and informing the artist that there will surely be violence if they performed; then reiterating to the venue owners of the consequences if the artist manages to perform despite the threats.
Mr Kamra had also issued a statement when Mr Faruqui's shows were cancelled. He said that comedians were now telling their jokes to their lawyers and showing their videos to a legal team before making them public, which he said was costing them their spontaneity and impulse. "The impulse of any artist to be so calculative...is the slow death of the art form," he had said.