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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Pakistani comic's Indian joy

By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Rauf Lala
Mr Lala won a car in India for making people laugh so much
For Rauf Lala, professional comedian and actor from Pakistan, being invited to perform in a popular television contest in India was the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.

Winning it was something he had not even dreamed of.

The 42-year old performer, along with two other comedians from Pakistan, Irfan Mallick and Ali Hassan, was chosen from among numerous candidates to participate in the Great Indian Laughter Challenge-II, a show on the private Indian general entertainment channel, Star One.

Contestants were expected to perform stand-up comedy and were voted to the next round by the judges on the show and viewers across the country.

While all the three comedians made it to the finals, Hindi-speaking Lala emerged as the clear favourite and was declared the winner during the grand finale that was aired on Friday.

'Blessed and grateful'

Lala told the BBC news website that he had always wanted to visit and perform in India as his parents used to live in the country before independence in 1947.

"My parents used to live in Junagadh in Gujarat but after partition, moved to Karachi in Pakistan.

"I haven't managed to go [to Junagadh] but it feels great to come to India and perform," he said.

"It has been my dream for a very long time. I feel blessed and am grateful to the people here for voting for me as the winner."

A professional comedian for more than two decades, Lala has also acted in a few Pakistani films.

He said he did not have to change his jokes or performance style in any way because the people and cultures of both countries are so similar.

Pakistani comedians Irfan Khan  (left) and Ali Hasan
Other Pakistani comedians also participated in the show

"My humour is inspired by daily life and observations of people as they go about their routines.

"Because the culture here is similar to the culture back home, people could relate to my jokes and they laughed and clapped at all the right cues.

"I only had a slight problem with language because I sometimes use Urdu words and organisers were worried that people here may not understand me. Everything was fine otherwise."

He said he felt audiences connected with him most when he teased the judges of the show - well known television presenter Shekhar Suman and former Indian cricketer and commentator, Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Work opportunities

He also said he felt at home because he found Mumbai (Bombay) to be quite like his city, Karachi. "The people, the traffic, everything feels the same in both cities. I didn't feel homesick at all and time seems to have flown by."

But his family back in Karachi has still not seen his winning performance as the show is not aired in Pakistan.

Lala said they got to hear of his victory on the news and have been waiting for him to get home with the trophy and his prize car, a Chevrolet Aveo.

What did Tarzan say on spotting a dead cheetah? There lies my new underwear!
Rauf Lala

He is due back in Karachi by the end of this month but is keen on returning to India if good work opportunities come his way.

"I would definitely like to do more work here depending on the kind of offers I get. I am also open to doing Bollywood films provided the director and the production banner are known names."

Relations between India and Pakistan have improved from the time the two South Asian neighbours began a wide-ranging peace process in January 2004.

Travel ties have improved with bus and train routes being opened between the two countries and cultural relations have also seen a fillip with artists and Bollywood film makers being allowed to travel to Pakistan.

While Bollywood movies are banned in Pakistan, the cultural ministry allowed special screenings of a few films earlier this year. However, the ministry had maintained that these were exceptions and the ban remains in place.

Despite all the cultural exchanges, the core dispute between the two sides over Kashmir still remains unresolved.

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