To pack an iconic arena such as the 5,000-seater Royal Albert Hall in London for a show performed entirely in Hindi is no mean feat and yet that is exactly what a popular Indian comedian and actor pulled off over the weekend.
Zakir Khan, 36, had issued an emotional plea on social media as he prepared for this historic moment, having performed at Sydney Opera House in Australia and Madison Square Gardens in New York lined up next on his ambitious checklist.
In a video addressing his fans, Khan said in Hindi: “My friend recently pointed out that I have a tendency of drifting towards doors that are closed or with restricted access, and that’s when the penny dropped that I do tend to knock on doors that are closed.
“I was able to deliver a houseful show at Sydney Opera House in August and that was only possible because of your love (audience) and similarly London has now become a reality.”
With a long waiting list, the coveted venue in London was initially expected to become available only by 2026, something Khan had reconciled with as an appropriate lead time to build up enough momentum to pack the arena. However, when October 8 this year suddenly opened up, he decided to take a chance and the result was a sell-out show packed to the brim with adoring fans who laughed and clapped along to his heart-warming jokes – all in Hindi.
Behind this historic comedy tour was Soho Theatre in London, which has been consistently nurturing and promoting comedy talent from India over the years.
Steve Lock, Head of Comedy at Soho Theatre, explained: “As the stand-up comedy scene in India exploded over the last decade, we’ve been spearheading a cultural exchange between India and the UK – bringing Indian comedians to the UK and UK and international comedians to India.
“We first brought one of India’s most-loved comedians Zakir Khan to London for his UK debut run at Soho Theatre in 2021, it was amazing to see him perform on our stage and to such an adoring audience. Now, we’re extremely excited and proud to be co-presenting Zakir at the iconic Royal Albert Hall, a historic moment as it’s the first time a stand-up has performed there in Hindi in the venue's 150-year history.”
Khan, from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, is a celebrated stand-up comedian in India ever since he won the title of “India’s Best Stand Up” in a 2012 ‘Comedy Central’ show. His approach to comedy is anecdotal, personal and heartfelt, and his delivery poetic and rustic – a style that connects with different age groups. His appeal lies in his relatability – he has often said he used humour as a shield when bullied as a child, and his stories are punctuated with phrases that have become catchphrases. This was on display over the weekend as the thousands of British Indians and Indians from around the world echoed phrases back at the stage during the course of the over two-hour-long performance, delivered without a break.
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Given his determination to perform without any breaks, British Indian comic Sindhu Vee stepped on as a warm-up act to set up the stage for Khan’s marathon run that was made up of jokes about rocky relationships, dodgy friendships and the classic male-female divide.
*Info: Zakir Khan