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'Proudly and fiercely Tamil' - An interview with Sunthar V

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Ahead of his headline London show, the comedian sat with the Tamil Guardian in London, wearing his “Seeni Appa" (Sugar Daddy) T-shirt, to speak about his Tamil identity and how it has been integral to his comedy, and to his audience.

Videography by Freya Parsons and Charlotte Olivia Bend 

Sunthar V credits his public speaking credentials from a young age, from pechupotti (speech competitions) and thirukural potti (thirukural poetry competitions), for setting the stage for his comedy career. Decades in the making, his sense of humour and engaging story-telling abilities sparked off his establishment of the Tamil Comedy Club, a monthly open mic show where he alongside Tamil women and other members of the LGBT community could showcase their talents and create a space to have conversations which are more difficult to have traditionally.

“I grew up in the West but consumed a lot of Tamil media and pop culture, so my comedic influences come from blending the West and the East,” he said.

Both Tamil comedians like Vivek, Vadivelu, Aravind SA and Alexander Babu alongside English comedy legends like Dave Chappelle, Trevor Noah, Hasan Minhaj and Ali Wong have all inspired his comedy.

But it is his Eelam Tamil identity that has played a central role in his work. “My whole career is riding on [being] Eelam Tamil,” he said. “My core audience who I’ll never forget is my people who are scattered across the world.”

He reflects with sadness that his sold out shows from Switzerland to Germany are the result of genocide and mass displacement, and people who might have been a kilometre away in Eelam are instead thousands of miles away around the world.

It is this which has prompted a clear goal of his comedy - "to bring the community together". He juxtaposed his community’s displacement from the island to meeting people with the "same traumas but different languages, grown up in the same sphere" in a small town in Switzerland, as a "beautiful and hard thing" to come to terms with. 

“For the first time as Eelam Tamil I am able to own my own story,” said Sunthar.

“I’m touring on my own, completely independent and not just Eelam Tamil people but Tamil people globally - Indian, Malaysians - are finding the stories interesting and resonating with it.”

Of his sold-out tour in India, Sunthar praised his Indian audience and how open they were to hear the perspective of someone who is Eelam Tamil, as well as queer. He was keen to point out how being the first Eelam Tamil LGBTQ comedian to tour India was a privilege, and a chance to connect across the country. 

Meanwhile he credits the Canadian side of his identity as giving him the ”freedom to say whatever the hell [he] wants”. Tackling big topics is a privilege for him, a result of a closely knit Tamil community that never needed to hide away his identity.

It is this ability to not shy away from controversial topics that Sunthar hopes to keep as he navigates his comedy career. Comedy is his “form of resistance,” he tells us. It is the reason why he loves hecklers who create a conversation and why he’s excited to continue this further on his current tour.

This tour is his first European tour, and features Oslo, Zurich, Paris, Berlin, Dublin and London, the latter of which will be his biggest ever audience.

The full hour and a half show will feature stories about growing up in Canada and London, being Eelam Tamil, his newfound fame and even some more scandalous stories of sex and relationships for adults only.

The London date comes after hugely successful shows in Zurich and Amsterdam, is followed by his final performance in Dublin on the 28th April. 

Sunthar performs in London, at Fairfield Halls in Croydon, on Friday 26th April.

Tickets for the shows can be found at https://www.suntharv.com/ 


Photographs courtesy of Mara Visions.

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