A young man with stars in his eyes left home with a dream that took years to fulfil, but his resilience and optimism helped him persevere through the years of struggle and led him to become the most renowned comedian in India. Moreover, his hard work and pure talent assured success, and he etched the name of Raju Srivastava in golden letters in the history of the Indian comedy sphere.
Raju Srivatsava was born in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh; his father was a government employee and poet, Ramesh Chandra Srivastava and his mother, Saraswati Srivastava, was a homemaker. His childhood friends recall him having a sense of humour from his early school days; hence it is not much of a surprise as he began nursing the dream of becoming a comic artist.
Road to Success
He moved to Mumbai in the 1980s to turn his dream into reality, but he encountered many obstacles. Besides, one of the persistent issues he discovered is that although comedy was present in films, it was reduced to mere caricaturist skits. Moreover, he realised that comedy was a relatively new art form in the mainstream in that era; for years, he struggled even to get a chance to showcase his talent.
The initial phase of his career was riddled with struggle, and he failed to secure work because comedy was an underappreciated genre. Moreover, he faced financial difficulties, so he started driving auto-rickshaw to earn a living, but he did not let abandon his dreams. Despite facing troubling circumstances, he continued his passion and performed in stand-up shows for a meagre sum of 50 rupees.
After a few years, he succeeded in landing a small role in the iconic Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor starrer Hindi film Tezaab. Also, he worked in Salman Khan starrer Maine Pyar Kia in a small part. He continued to do low-profile gigs, which included appearing in Shah Rukh Khan starrer Baazigar; much later, he also appeared in India’s first superhero/sci-fi show Shaktimaan.
However, it wasn’t until the start of the new millennium that he began establishing his foothold in the Indian comedy space. Moreover, in 2005, he participated in the stand-up comedy talent show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and secured the second runner-up position. After that, he took part in the spin-off show, The Great Indian Laughter Challenge- Champions and became the show’s winner and with that, his popularity rose nationwide.
Furthermore, his stage characters, Gajodhar and Manodhar, whom he depicted in the show, received love and admiration from the audience. Besides, people loved a Diwali particular act wherein he portrayed himself as different types of firecrackers that people burst during occasions. By the end of 2009, Raju had done more than 2,800 live shows across the country.
He was equally popular amongst non-residential Indians spread across different parts of the world, including Australia. So, when he was slated to perform for them in any country, the auditorium would be at full capacity. For instance, on 2nd September 2012, Raju performed in a Father’s Day special event in Melbourne for the first time; people who attended the event still remember it for his spectacular performance.
In 2014, he entered into politics; the Samajwadi Party fielded him from the Kanpur Lok Sabha constituency for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. However, a lack of support and guidance from the party’s local units led him to return the ticket. So, he quit the party and joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) just a few days after leaving SP.
Although BJP did not give him a ticket for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he campaigned to support the candidates in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. In the same year, the BJP-led Union Government appointed him the brand ambassador of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, for which he shot advertisements.
On 10th August 2022 (Wednesday), while working out in the gym, Raju felt uneasy and complained of chest pain; he suffered a cardiac arrest. He was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where he underwent an angioplasty procedure. Then, for the next forty days after the procedure, he was on the ventilator and failed to regain consciousness.
On the morning of 21st September, he breathed his last in the hospital. People shared their messages and tributes as soon as the news of his death was released.
For instance, PM Modi said that Raju Srivastava brightened our lives with laughter, humour and positivity. Unfortunately, he left us too soon, but he will continue to live in the hearts of countless people thanks to his rich work over the years. His demise is saddening – condolences to his family and admirers.
Similarly, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said that he was an inspiration to many people. On the other hand, Javed Jaffrey recalled his association with Raju from the early days of the latter’s career. Javed said that although Raju was doing small stage shows, he was impressed with his simplicity and earthy and Indian-rooted humour. Also, given that he was from a small town, he could cater to broader Indian sensibilities.
Renowned singer Kailash Kher expressed his condolences and said he prayed for Raju’s recovery, but unfortunately, he passed away. Also, he wished for his soul to attain salvation.