I first met Vasu Primlani over a meal with Jaswinder and Yu Yu at Dramz. Waxing eloquent over the chef’s capabilities, it was obvious Vasu liked her food and it was evident there was humour in the woman, a great deal of it. Later on in the evening, it was revealed that the Primlani not only had an athletic side, but a triathletic one, indulging quite vigorously, in orgies of pain and endurance across terrain and sports disciplines. Later in 2015, I heard of her receiving the Nari Shakti Puraskar from the President of India; a tremendous honour. Around that time, though I knew of her talents as a comedienne, I hadn’t watched her do her thing yet. When I did see this video, I thought her enormously funny and resolved to introduce this multi faceted personality to Chef at Large readers.
Sid Khullar: When did you find out you had a thing for making people laugh, and how?
Vasu Primlani: Since I was a child, I think. I used to even tell jokes in school assembly. Once in school, I laughed so hard, I was thrown out of class.
SK: I know you like your food. Does food ever figure in your shows?
VP: I am just going to be developing a set on the the environmental impact of food. So far it has featured in my comedy in terms of the dead, dying, and unripe of every vegetable and fruit that my father would bring home, because it was cheaper.
SK: Some artistes work with politics, others with their audience and yet others with personal experiences. What’s your favourite subject?
VP: Oh hands down, Delhi men, and the concept of civic sense (or lack thereof) in India. I also love doing sets on the environment and women’s safety.
SK: You’re an athlete too, regularly seen at Marathon events. Do you have to work hard to keep fit or does it come to you naturally? Do you have a fitness or diet routine you’d like to share with our readers?
VP: I have to work very hard. I have to just look at desserts and I gain weight. And it’s a cruel twist of fate that I love desserts and am not really allowed them. At all. In terms of fitness, we are looking at a 8-12 hour workout each week, for about nine months, to build cumulative fatigue. Its a great exercise in pain management. Building core muscles is critical. In terms of diet, I am not allowed any grains, and very few carbs. What do I have the most of? Water.
SK: What’s your favourite food? Where and when did you first eat it? If there’s a story there, we want to know!
VP: Well now… there are many many favourite foods of mine. Ethiopian food… injera, yamisir waat, kik alitcha, gomen; I love Vietnamese food, and cook it – spring rolls in rice paper, soups, Thai food. I adore fruit! Some of my favourites are: mangosteen, fanas, targola, jamun, long black mulberries, haas avocados… you want to make me happy, give me fruit and nuts. I try to have as much raw food as possible.
SK: Standing in front of an audience who expect you to make them laugh must be tough. Tell us about your very first time.
VP: The first few times you stand in front of the audience hoping to make them laugh, you feel like throwing up. I had to do three minutes and I was having an aneurysm. Three minutes? That is a long time! How will I do three minutes? Curiously, I had the same aneurysm about the same three minutes, five years later, when I was asked to do a spot at the Comedy Store, and they gave me three minutes. Three minutes! I thought. How can I possibly do three minutes.. its too little! Its funny I had a conniption about the same three minutes, but this time, from the other end.
SK: Ever felt hungry or thirsty when in front of an audience and then you see this chap biting into a slice of pizza thick with cheese and toppings or another character gulping down chilled beer… what do you do? Swallow and continue or demand a share?!
VP: Its generally not done for our audiences to eat while we perform. They might choke on their food. People have dropped food off their forks during my shows. Alcohol never attracts me… I never drink. And not allowed pizza. So that’s the sad story of my diet.
SK: How does one get into Vasu Primlani’s good books?
VP: By being respectful – manners, civic sense and respect, for yourself, people and the environment. It’s okay to be broken or crazy, as long as you are self-aware and working on yourself.
SK: Comedienne, athlete… and we hear, an environment consultant too. How many hats do you wear?!
VP: Many many. I am also a somatic practitioner, working with people to restore their dignity and self esteem. I work with autism, ADHD, rape and CSA survivors, and strive to bring about tremendous change. I also teach business school and green design. Keeps life interesting, y’know.
SK: You’ve certainly followed your heart, that much is clear. We also know it isn’t easy to follow one’s passions. Do you have any advice for those of us seeking inspiration from you?
VP: Ask yourself what you want. I think most people have yet to be introduced to themselves. Most of us don’t know who we are, what we like or dislike. Never really asked. Take the time to ask yourself, and give yourself permission to do it. The only person whose happiness you are responsible for is you.