Like it or hate it, comedy has always been one of the world’s biggest stress busters. Sometimes, a good joke can turn a bad day around. A laugh between friends can be a bonding agent, and lead to the promise of a better tomorrow. Humour becoming a creative outlet has become popular as well in recent years – witness the rise of stand-up comedy around the world, both as a hobby and a profession undergoing a meteoric rise of applicants, each with their own unique perspectives for the audience.
In this world of increased humour, what do puns bring to the table? In early 2018, three students of a drama troupe at Sastra University peppered their practice sessions with intellectual humour, puns, jokes and wordplay. A lot of chuckles later, a thought that the world needed more laughs led them to say, almost simultaneously “Why don’t we start a Facebook page to showcase our puns?”
“We used to sit around and crack puns during our practice sessions. We thought of starting a page dedicated to puns, but we never expected it to become this big, this sensational. After all, we’d started it to kill our free time!”ANANTH RAGURAM (AKA PUNISHER)
Ananth is one of the founders of the page, which has today evolved from that innocuous wish to start a Facebook page – into the well-loved collective Punpaadu, which boasts over 30k followers on Facebook, and 20k followers on Instagram. Aside from that, you will be able to find customized Punpaadu merchandise in shops such as Fully Filmy and the Souled Store – thus giving the chance to carry the joy of the pun around with you everywhere you go.
I pose the question to the young founders – among all the possibilities, why did they choose puns for their idea?
“Puns appeal to the intellectual part of your brain. Actually, there’s different types and genres of comedy, and wordplay, puns and intellectual humour are easier than slapstick or degenerative comedy. During a normal conversation in rehearsal, one of us would slip in a pun, and we’d realise it, and laugh for ages – it just made everything better!” says Ananth.
Right after the team came up with the idea, there was a lot of thought about what output they wanted to generate. As they were about to set up the page, they saw pages called PunHub and Haraami Puns dedicated to Hindi and English, but none for Tamil. As a result, they settled on wordplay-based puns, largely in Tamil.
“We were inspired by Kamal Haasan and Crazy Mohan stories and films, like Panchatantram. We poured our love of Tamil films into this!”Ananth raguram
Today, the team of six students running the page operate both with gleeful precision and pseudonyms to identify them – Rakesh Ramesh (Punny Leone), Punisher (Ananth Raguram), Pungunmurugan (Vignesh Vaikundaraman), Punnagai Mannan (Bhagavatheeshwaram Kannan), Punnaku (Vijay Kannan), and designer and special contributor Poda Punny (Prashanth Shridhar).
The team of six met regularly to brainstorm and develop their puns in each other’s rooms, and shared it on their newly created Facebook page. One pun at a time, they begun to gain a following. One day, they developed the pun that would arguably become their breakthrough hit – “Okkandha Forever”, a pun on the popular saying “Wakanda Forever!” from the movie Black Panther. Slowly, it spread like wildfire. People from London and Malaysia begun to share it – and the team was approached by Fully Filmy to ask if they could make products based on their puns. “It was a dream come true”, says Ananth. “A win-win for us both”.
The team behind Punpaadu believe in the philosophy that us is always better than me. Their audience are included as an important part of their journey. The Punpaadu collective features an active audience contribution section, where one lucky fan is appointed “Pungaali”, and gets to have their pun featured on the page. The team receives around 20 to 30 puns everyday from contributors “We select the ones which we think will get their audience rolling with laughter”, says Ananth. “We put up Instagram teasers of puns to interact with our audience. We don’t give the answers, but we ask the question and people can guess the pun! We build up the tension, and boom – there comes the punch!
The T-shirts are by no means the end to their ambitions, however. They are constantly at work, brainstorming new ideas – right now, working on conversation and screenshot puns, and looking to diversify and expand. The team dreams of having an outlet store dedicated to PunPaadu.
“We’re working on a line of merchandise called Punaadai – basically, fun pun-based clothes to wear, as a first step to a larger tomorrow. Maybe one day we’d have the world wearing our keychains, caps and badges – coated in our puns!”