Diagnosis Mirza

Shazia's passage to India

Shazia Mirza has performed her bridge-building gigs in India, attracting hundreds of fans but a mixed critical response.

More than 600 people thronged to her first gig in Mumbai on Thursday night – so many that a screen had set up outside the Mocha venue so the crowds could see.

The British-born, Pakistani comic was despatched to India, by the British Council, which funded the trip to promote the UK as a tolerant, ‘fun-loving’ country.

Local reports say Mirza cast apologetic looks at host British Council ‘every time she cracked a joke that went beyond the limits of propriety – which was pretty often’.

Her icebreaker gag at the gig was: ‘The most common racial abuse hurled at me in Britain is ‘You Paki! Go back home to India,’ which she followed with ‘I saw "Paki go home!" written on the walls. It was my mum telling me it was time for dinner.’

According to the local DNA (Daily News & Analysis) paper, her Mumbai audience was mostly glitterati and theatre lovers and were ‘clearly appreciative and politely, suitably interactive’.

And the paper said fears that she might do controversial material were unfounded, concluding: ‘Her punchlines were quite “safe”.’

However, in an unflattering review in Mumbai Newsline, Georgina Maddox said: ‘After a while the jokes became repetitive and Mirza had to play hard for her laughs.

‘Her brand of bathroom humour won a lot of guffaws from the boys in the back row who tried to crack a few of their own lewd ones on the comedienne, and she took it in her stride with élan. But the more cerebral lot in the crowd shuffled out discreetly.’

Mirza apparently countered the lack of interest with: ‘It’s the Indian short attention span, they can’t concentrate on anything that’s over five minutes, these Asians.’

Maddox also said Mirza received a mixed reaction to her reading of death threats, which left the audience ‘a little unsure how to respond’ and as she repeated her contribution to the Vagina Monologues there was ‘a sense of discomfort’.

But in another write-up on the sister Pune Newsline website, an unnamed reviewer said the hate mail section ‘brought the house down’ at another gig two days later, and concluded: ‘All in all a great evening.’

Before Mirza’s taxpayer-funded trip Simon Gammell, director of the British Council in West India, said: ‘Shazia's visit is designed to foster greater mutual understanding between the two countries and to present the UK as a contemporary, fun-loving country.'

Published: 13 Nov 2006

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