Deepika Mhatre: Smashing The Class Barrier, One Laugh At A Time
Deepika Mhatre is at ease with her new-found fame. “I love being photographed,” says the mother of three who till a few months ago worked as a housemaid. Breaking through the class barrier, she now does stand-up comedy.
Mhatre’s acts are a satire on class inequalities. She talks about “madams” who haggle for a few rupees but buy expensive items at the mall without question; upper-class ladies who berate maids for too much oil in their food that will make them put on weight, but order pizzas and burgers without a second thought. One of her best routines is on how maids are “special”: they have a separate lift, plates and glasses in each home they work at. “The employers don’t mind eating the rotis I make though.”
Her comic timing was discovered at a talent show organised in the housing society where she worked as a cook. A journalist who saw the act put her in touch with well-known comedian Aditi Mittal. Mhatre has featured in Mittal’s ‘Bad Girls’ series that gives a platform to female comics “who are doing unconventional work in unconventional way”.
Most stand-up comedians have their own YouTube channels and use social media to reach wider audiences. “I don’t understand technology,” says Mhatre. She’s hoping her daughters will help her with this.
Has turning a comic changed her life? She no longer works as a domestic help, a job she has had for most of her adult life. But she continues to wake up at 4.30 a.m. and sell imitation jewellery in local trains to support her family. Mhatre is the only breadwinner in her house and comedy doesn’t pay yet. She hopes that changes soon.
Watch the full interview here.