Interview with K Balakumar

‘All is fair in love & laughter’ at the Crank’s Corner. Humour is his forte and satire is his specialty. He says, ‘If I say there was a demand for an online version of my column, you will think that I am joking.  So I’ll merely jump to the next paragraph.’ Stop! Don’t jump we say. Let us atleast introduce you properly and let people read the interview before you take the plunge.

So Addaities, we have K Balakumar the evil brain behind one of the popular blogs “Crank’s Corner‘ at your Adda for this satire-free-humour-filled interview. Are the steaming hot idlis ready?

Q: When and why did you start blogging?

A: Sometime in 2013.

No, that’s not a typo.  I am yet to write something that you typically call as a ‘blogpost’.  Whatever you see on my site is the stuff that I write for my newspaper. I am just a columnist.

So, I suggest that you either pose this question in 2013 which is when I intend to have my real blog, named as per strict Indian blog rules —  “Hey! We Have Both Ramblings and Musings In The Title”.  Alternatively, you can change your name from BlogAdda to ColumnAdda at least for this week, so that I can continue answering your questions.

Now, why did I put my ‘columns’ on a ‘blog’ platform? Well, as a writer I wanted to experience and enjoy the pulsating immediacy and interactivity of the internet, which is not possible through the medium of tedium, newspaper.  How right I was!  Quite thrillingly, the first response landed in the comment box within minutes of me uploading my first piece.  In it was the kind of helpful insight that will come handy to any guy racked by inner doubts  —  provided there was the address of a pharmacy selling medicine for penis enlargement.

Needless to say, a “comment bot” was at work.

But the point is, there is always a lot of excitement on the internet which you miss in the staid and stolid world of newspaper journalism, where readers constrained, as they are by the medium, can never cerebrally engage writers and journalists, with questions like: “Wanna Viagra?”

Q: What topics do you generally blog about?

A:  I have written on subjects like films, music, science (TR’s movies), politics (family values), wildlife (including Indian TV journalism), office furniture (the Vice-President), cooking (banking and finance), cricket, IPL etc.

It doesn’t matter what topic I am writing about, what is important is, whether I have brought to fore the two qualities that define humour for me — irresponsibility and insensitivity.

Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? If yes, what do you do then?

A: I think this is the Rahul Dravid of questions in a BlogAdda interview — I mean this query mostly comes at ‘No 3’, irrespective of who is being interviewed.

Anyway, the struggle for a good start is something I experience regularly. But, it’s not so pronounced as it is in the case of some others like the Indian cricket team.  But unlike the Indian cricket team, I can’t blame the umpires or the swinging conditions. I can’t get away that easily. I have to think up more creative excuses.

Sample:

Editor: What happened to your column, the deadline expired last week?

Me:  The dog ate my daughter’s project work.

Editor: (Puzzled) So…?

Me: I had to re-do it.

The point is, no project work is ever done by the students. The CBSE has devised it for the benefit of the parents.

No, the point is there is always moments of hesitancy and misgivings whenever I attempt a humour piece. But whenever I am caught in a creative cul-de-sac, I turn to other humour works- the Indian Constitution for example. It has never let me down. Whenever  I read it, I fall asleep. So that when I wake up I am fully refreshed to have a stab at some funnies.

Q: You once said, ‘only desperate people become journalists. And only desperate journalists end up as humour columnists’. 🙂 How has the transition from being a journalist to a humour columnist been? Which role do you like the most?

A:  I say something serious and factual and you put a smiley after it as if it were a joke. This is the problem with being a humour columnist — They don’t take you seriously.

But if they did, it means your joke is lost. Either way, you’re a loser.

The transition has been tough. I mean, if I were a regular journalist, I can purvey jokes right in the front page itself (Eg: “Pratibha Patil’s foreign trips strengthen bilateral ties” “Security increased for Kasab”). As a humour writer, now I am pushed to the inner pages and supplements of the newspaper. Luckily I am not a writer of editorials, which for the record occupies space in newspapers where no human gaze has ever fallen.

As to which role I like the most, well I like Don Corleone’s.

Q: Your primary blog has humour inspired by politicians, people, news and the weird things they do. Which is your favourite topic that you like to humour on and why?

A: Mostly I like to humour on topics of everyday interest because they are of relevance to the public. For instance, I wrote about the vexed Mullaiperiyar issue between Tamil Nadu and Kerala with the practical solution and suggestion that the two States should first resolve the bigger bone of contention in the form of Shakeela and to which state she really belongs. (Ans: Fleshy state).

Humour writers are desperate people. If they can’t find topics to humour on, they insidiously introduce things that have built-in amusement value. To give a practical illustration, you will find a lot of Barkha Dutt in my pieces.

Q: Have you started work on your book that you wished to write? What is it about and when can we expect it on stands?

A: No. I think, I wanting to write a book itself is the joke here. So, I am now wondering should I proceed any further and end up spoiling the joke.

Q: You had some brilliant suggestions on ‘copying rightly’ in your post of 2010. On a serious note, has anyone plagiarised your content? There are many publishers who have lifted content and photographs of some well known bloggers. Coming from the same industry, what is your take on it? Do you feel the plagiarism laws should be more stringent in India?

A: Whenever the topic of plagiarism comes up, I have two solutions to prevent it. Both have proven to be successful:

Write in such a shoddy and silly manner that nobody will even think of ‘lifting’ from you.

My exhibit A is: Shobhaa De.

Write such a heavy prose that nobody really understands.

Of course, I have Salman Rushdie in my mind when I say this.

On a personal note, as a truly independent creator I am deeply anguished by the fact that nobody has thought any of my pieces to be worthy of being plagiarised from.  I take this opportunity to appeal to all the right-thinking writers to kindly visit my site and plagiarise enormously. I need controversies to become popular.

Yes, I do think plagiarism laws should be more stringent in India. Whereas they need to get liberal with these things in America, which is where I copy my stuff from.

Q: What is your take on the current education scenario in India? What necessary steps should be taken, in favour of the students?

A: The current education scenario in India is so dismal that it has reached a stage where even irresponsible humourists are being asked for their opinion on the subject.

One of the elementary steps that needs to be taken in favour of the students is: Never let Mr Sibal come anywhere near the education ministry again. And if it can be helped, also never let parents handle their children’s education. Left to themselves, most kids do well.

Q: Tell us something about Crank’s Corner? We do see some posts on Crank’s Corner and in your Primary Blog. What is the purpose to maintain two blogs?

A: That’s just the back-up blog. I just wanted to safeguard the title ‘Crank’s Corner’ and prevent it from falling into the hands of some cybersquatter. As it happens, my site hosting company tells me that no one has expressed even a remote interest on that name. I am doing my best that it stays that way.

Q: According to you, which one is a better post, in terms of humour and why? And one post for which you expected a lot of comments but didn’t?

A: My best humour work, well my 10th standard mark sheet comes first. And there are many expense account forms that I get to fill while carrying out my journalistic duties that come a close second.

On a serious note, I actually don’t expect much comment for my posts. Quite unlike cricket or films, where there are plenty of things to discuss, debate and dissect, humour doesn’t lend itself to intense exchanges.  If a joke worked, you laugh. And you perhaps responded with: Hahaha! And if it were humongously funny, you get more descriptive and eloquent with: Hahaha! That’s about it.
The metric that I use is the number of ‘hits’ that a ‘post’ gets. This is simple and convenient, as you can bluff it to others.

Q: Many humourists derive the best humour from marriages and wives. Do you also follow that? 🙂 You have created humour by pulling politician’s leg on your blog, who pulls your leg at home? 🙂 Do you also do standup comedy, or have any interest in it?

A: Did you say, “marriages and wives”? Sadly, I have had only one. Anyway, no one pulls my leg at home. But it gets violently yanked from time to time when my wife is trying to wake me up.

Standup comedy? Me? Sorry, I have a pretty serious knee problem.

But to be honest, standup comedy calls for skills that I don’t possess. Frankly, I am envious of people who can get on to a stage, hold a mike and keep the jokes flowing amidst audience, who mostly turn up for the alcohol.

Q: If you had the chance to direct a Kollywood movie, what would be its story? Share with us the cast that you would pick from the blogosphere.

A: First of all, the question itself is wrong. You don’t need a story to direct a Kollywood movie. You just need Rajnikanth. Or Kamal Haasan. I think I’ll go with the latter, in which case he will play all the roles, saving me from the trouble of picking the cast from the blogosphere.

Q: ‘You know the real and potent danger for a journalist on the beat was from cirrhosis (of liver) than from any assumed enemy’ – you said this in 2004. But earnestly speaking, do you really feel that fear resides in minds of today’s journalists? If yes, what are the reasons for the same? What is your view on the reporting quality of print or electronic journalism?

A: Modern day journalism is caught in the maelstrom of market forces where there are many pitfalls and perils and the one fears that most honest journalists fighting the forces of venality and power, harbour, of course is: “Will my next month’s salary come”.

As far as reporting quality in print medium goes, well if I point out that, it has fallen down dramatically, I’ll sound like a cussed old man.  So I’ll refrain from doing so. But I am happy to report that reporting standards in TV journalism have suffered no such major fall. This the broadcasting industry has managed by the smart ploy of never having any standard to start with itself.

I know I have been too sweeping, but heck, I am a humour writer.

Q: Do you resort to any kind of promotion for your blogs? Which promotional techniques work best for you and why?

A: Surreptitious technique work for me. I DM my Twitter followers to recommend my blogposts, as if on their own, on their time line. You may think this to be cheap. Yes, it is. But certainly not cheaper than celebrity writers and journalists RTing themselves and those stray comments praising their work.

Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?

A: Interaction is ‘the’ thing of this medium. If you don’t do it, it’s a bit like a batsman saying: ‘I will not play aggressive strokes in a T20 match’. (Only superstars like Ravindra Jadeja can get away with it).

Actually, I try to respond to most comments.  It is only when I interact with the readers, facets of my personality even hidden to me, emerge out in surprising profusion.

I’ll illustrate this with a factual example:

Reader: ☺!

Me: ☺ ☺ ☺ !!!!

Till that day, I didn’t realise I had the inherent skill to use so many emoticons and exclamation marks.

Q: According to you, what is the most gratifying aspect of blogging?

A: I love the fact that sitting in an obscure corner in Chennai, I am able to trigger enormous outrage and total detestation in a person who is virtually in the opposite side of the globe. Without a blog, I can pull this off only with my colleagues and my neighbour in the apartment complex.

Q: In general, how would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.

A: I have always maintained that good writing in India these days come outside of mainstream journalism.  Seriously, there are many favourites among blogs and many of them are from the list of usual suspects (@shenoyn, @krishashok, @sidvee, @bigfatphoenix).

But these are well-established names. There are a few others whose writing is smart, insightful, beautiful, sensitive, and humorous. Though they don’t write as regularly as I would want them to, I am happy whenever they have a piece up on their blog.  I’ll give their twitter handles (in no particular order): @cornerd, @localteaparty, @krtgrphr, @dagalti (bilingual), @sdayanand)

On Twitter, @nayakgirin always makes me smile with his non-sequiturs and hilarious absurdities. For brilliant word play, I will any day recommend @ajith27 and @YaavanoObba.

Q: Your advice on blogging for the beginners.

A: I think, I can only speak for a humour blog. Don’t even attempt it!

I don’t say this to kill competition. I say this because we are constantly told that women always admire those with a sense of humour. I have been writing humour for nearly a decade and I am still to come across any woman who has said: ‘Hey, you have nice sense of humour, let’s have some carnal exchanges’. As far as I can say, women, as a rule, like guys with a sense of humour, who also have skills of looking good.

Q: Do you earn revenue through blogging? How does one go about it?

A:  I haven’t earned single paise through blogging. But, I do know a surefire way for bloggers to make money. I fully recommend waylaying or highway robbery.

Q: According to you, what is the future of Blogging?

A: Internet is the future. So blogging is here to stay. By which I mean, till at least the next weekend. In today’s world nobody sees into the future beyond that.

Q: Let’s conclude off with a few favorites.

Color: Blue (as in film)

Movie:  Narasimha, Red, Veerasamy

TV Show: Vayalum Vazhvum (DD) (Guys, they still have that programme)

Book: Falling Off the Map (Pico Iyer).  Very sensitive exploration of ‘lonely countries’.

Time of Day: Seriously, I love early mornings.

Your Zodiac Sign: Sagittarius

Trust you enjoyed reading this wonderful interview. Waiting for 2013 for the official unveiling of the blog. 🙂 Till then.

Connect with K Balakumar: Blog, BlogAdda, Twitter.

5 Replies to “Interview with K Balakumar”

  1. Sir, Seriously humourous! It is said comedy is serious business. I firmly believe it’s God’s gift. Marvellous and gripping interview. Thanks a lot.

  2. Awesome!!! Looks like Balakumar sir himself wrote questions and answers…!!! Wish that he releases a book of compilations of his writings 🙂

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