‘Humour is our best coping mechanism’: Jagdish Chaturvedi, doctor, actor in medical web-series, Starting Troubles
If you enjoy shows that combine humour with the day-to-day goings on in a hospital, don’t miss, India's first medical humour web-series called, ‘Starting Troubles’.
The man behind the web series, Dr Jagdish Chaturvedi, also recently launched a WhatsApp video on coronavirus called "Main Corona Virus" which was very popular among his fans. And now, his web-series is all set to highlight problems faced by medical students in India like workplace bullying, the need for medical entrepreneurship and the balance of work, passion and family life.
‘Starting Troubles’ is based on real-life events, as described in a book on medical innovation by Jagdish Chaturvedi called ‘Inventing Medical Devices’. The book is about the transformational journey of a student doctor who turns into a medical innovator under the guidance of another doctor.
The six episodic web series features Bollywood actors, Renuka Sahane, Parikshit Sahni and Kurush Deboo (from Munna Bhai MBBS) and is produced by Gunda Srinivas, Paramesh Shwarans and Peeru Kaushik under the banner Ten Motion Arts Pvt Ltd & Hiiih Innovations Pvt Ltd. It is directed by Abhinav Kamal.
‘Starting Troubles’ is streaming on newly launched healthcare infotainment platform called “Hiiih”, which can be downloaded from play store and iOS.
In an exclusive interaction with YSWeekender, Jagdish talks about his new video, Main Corona Virus and his web series, Starting Troubles, the importance of humour and some tips on how to become a great stand-up comedian...
Can you tell us about Your Whatsapp video on the coronavirus?
I love creating infotainment content, which is information mixed with entertainment. When the coronavirus became a pandemic, I quickly wanted to bring out the key aspects of the virus and how it can be prevented.
Since I am always on the move and perpetually always stuck in traffic, I shoot these quick videos from my car. I did not anticipate that the video on the coronavirus would get such massive visibility. It probably validates that people find this modality of information more acceptable and less threatening. It has certainly opened up my possibilities to create more such content.
What was the idea behind starting your medical humour web series?
I wanted to create an authentic medical web-series with accurate medical information and references. The series has very concrete medical terminology as discussed during ward rounds, to display of actual surgical steps for certain surgeries. I also wanted to encourage the idea of pursuing innovations among medical students and. This series is based on a real-life story of a doctor who follows his passion of being an actor.
You are a doctor, actor, stand-up comedian, entrepreneur and author. How do you juggle all these roles in your life?
To begin with, I focus on execution of my core skills only. Apart from patient care, performing surgeries, providing content for books, performing comedy, spending time in ideation of new products testing/validation and training of products, the rest is outsourced to respective teams (logistics, travel arrangements, documentation and other bureaucratic time-consuming activities).
I also prioritise time over money. It is probably the most important thing that I do. I try to execute whatever is possible in the quickest time possible while maintaining required quality. I do this at an expense of spending more money and hiring more resources. Though this may not be cost effective, this is certainly time effective and helps in disruption and impact.
How did you get on this journey of comedy? Isn't unusual for a doctor to be a comedian?
I've always had a creative side that I have explored at a professional level. Since my school days I have acted in plays and as a part of professional theatre groups (Bangalore Little Theatre, Script people's Theatre etc). Right through school and college, I have acted in 3-4 full length productions every year.
When I got into private clinical practice, my work load became high and unpredictable. In addition to my involvements in innovations with start-ups, sparing time for rehearsals for plays (which can be many weeks long) became a challenge. Many theatre groups stopped working with me as well.
So, three years ago, I made a conscious decision to move away from theatre and look for something that I could do on my own, without affecting others. Stand-up comedy was becoming popular and for me, it was an opportunity to explore this medium as it is a one man show. Hence this transition to comedy has become a way of life for me now.
What were your greatest challenges as a doctor and comedian?
Initially, I faced some criticism from my peers when I decided to do stand-up comedy and practise medicine. I used to get comments such as "Which patient will get treated by a joker?" Or "As a doctor you can't have a funny image.”
I still went ahead and to my surprise I noticed quite the opposite. I started getting more patients and on quizzing them about why would they come to me given my profile, they replied that they prefer a doctor with a sense of humour.
Who are the actors in the series and what are their roles?
The web series is adapted from my book "Inventing Medical Devices - A perspective from India".
We were fortunate to have some fantastic Bollywood actors on board. Actress Renuka Shahane, who is known for her role in the movie “Hum Aapke Hain Kaun” plays the role of Dr Kavita Gowda, who is an aggressive senior doctor. Actor Kurush Deboo, who is popularly known for his role as Rustom Pavri in the movie Munna Bhai MBBS, plays the role a supportive senior doctor while actor Parikshit Sahni, who is known for his role in the movie 3 idiots, plays the role of the Dean in this series.
I play the role of the protagonist in the story and actor Rajesh PI, who has acted in Kannada films like Last Bus plays the role of the antagonist.
Can you give three tips for aspiring stand-up comedians?
- Always try to put up performances, either at an open mic or to an audience of 10-15 friends and family members. The faster you try, the faster you will learn where to improve.
- If a fellow comedian doesn't laugh at your joke then it most probably means the joke is good and the silence is the sound of them thinking, "Why didn't I come up with that joke".
Ensure you rely on the end user for feedback on jokes, which is the audience. If the audience repeatedly doesn't laugh at your joke then that's more worrisome than a comedian not finding it funny. Anything that has consistent appreciation should be retained and anything that has consistent criticism should be removed or improved.
Why is humour so important -- from a doctor's perspective?
Humour is one of the positive coping mechanisms in a human being. Laughing at jokes made by others and trying to take negative events and channelising them into something funny, helps in de-stressing and in the healing process.
What were some of your challenges while making this web series?
We are not film makers and this is our first venture into creating a professional web series. So just like any start up, we had funding issues. The second challenge was in releasing this on our platform HiiiH.
There was a lot of debate on where we should release it, whether it should be an established OTT or our own platform and the consensus came to releasing on HiiiH because the overall goal of the web series is to encourage doctors to try out innovations. And in the one month that we have released ‘Starting Troubles’, many medical students and doctors have used the app after watching the web series.
What is the web series about?
Starting Troubles is a web series that shows a transformational journey of a student doctor, Jagdish, who turns into a medical innovator under the guidance of his enterprising teacher Dr Gowda. In the process Jagdish bends some college rules and ends up facing suspension while Dr Gowda fights to protect his future.
Starting troubles is a fascinating story based on real life incidents that highlight the values of entrepreneurship and balancing work and passion. It is also India's first medical humour web series.
What are some of the mistakes that stand-up comedians in our country make?
Well, in my personal opinion, there is too much inertia in moving forward.
Another observation that I have made is that comedians in our country portray people whom they eventually want to be. Therefore, there are some aggressive formats of roasting and cursing before they have had an established connection with the audience.