'I used to mimic my friends, my teachers, my relatives and that's how it started.'
'But yes, it obviously takes some effort to be funny while performing in character.'
Saloni Gaur, who will be 21 on December 12, is a sensation on the Internet.
Of course, you won't know her by the name her parents gave her. Mention Nazma Aapi and realisation dawns instantly.
"I am quite a jolly person in real life too," Saloni -- sorry, Nazma Aapi -- tells Subhash K Jha.
How was Nazma Aapi born? Why a Muslim woman? Didnt you fear a communal backlash?
I started with a character called Pinky Dogra and it was around Eid in 2018 when I first thought of Nazma Aapi.
I thought of making a video on Eid preparations so I thought it would look more relatable with a Muslim woman's character, so my brother and I sat down and eventually decided to go with Nazma Aapi.
Is Nazma Aapi modeled on anyone you know?
The character itself is not inspired by someone in particular, but the dialect is inspired from a lot of people.
My father has a lot of Muslim friends and they generally speak in the dialect which I use for Nazma Aapi. People from old Delhi also use the same dialect.
Did the inevitable backlash bother you?
It was a video about Eid and I thought playing a Muslim woman's character would make it look more relatable. I didn't think of my decision as risky because I never gave a thought about trolls or any sort of a communal backlash.
How much effort does it take you to be constantly funny? As your popularity increases, does the anxiety to deliver also grow?
It just happens. I think my mind just works like that now. I used to crack jokes all the time even when I was in school.
I used to mimic my friends, my teachers, my relatives and that's how it started. But yes, it obviously takes some effort to be funny while performing in character.
You can't please all the people all the time.
No matter how much effort you make, someone will always be there who won't find you funny. I don't think there is any kind of pressure or anxiety about it. I make videos as per my choice.
Do you feel this need to be funny all the time because that's what is expected of you?
Although I am genuinely funny around people I am comfortable with, there's no such need to be funny all time.
Kapil Sharma once told me the most irritating part of being a comic is that people meet you at the airport and expect you to tell jokes. What about you?
He is right. Although I have never been to an airport, this happened with me at an event. Some people saw me and asked me to say something as Nazma Aapi then and there. That was kinda awkward for me.
What is the real Saloni Gaur like? People who make others laugh are usually sad at heart. Is that true of you?
Ha! Ha! I have heard this line a lot, but this is not the case with me. I am quite a jolly person in real life too.
I have no reason to be sad. I have my family's support, good friends. And now I have got soem really nice people as my audience so I don't need anything else.
As I am the youngest in my family, I am not allowed to take any stress because my parents are there to do that for me.
I have noticed your videos are getting progressively political. Is that deliberate?
In my opinion, every other thing is related to politics -- be it cinema, be it our everyday life, so it is not a deliberate attempt.
I am just politically aware, so when I make a joke it has certain political references. But it is not something that has happened just now. It has been always there, since my first video.
Your video on China was recently banned on tiktok. Did that bother you?
It didn't bother me that much because that's not the only platform I put my videos on. But what made me angry was the fact that there are videos on tiktok showing violence against women, animals and what not.
These videos are taken down when there is a lot of outrage against them while my video, which was only making people laugh and was not hurting anyone in any way, got deleted in a day without any explanation being given to me. Although they restored it the next day when I tweeted about it.
Has Kangana Ranaut reacted to your bang-on mimicry?
No, she has never responded to any of my videos because personally she is not on any social media platforms. I think she will definitely like it.
Some Bollywood celebs follow my work and enjoy it too.
When I made that video impersonating Sonam (Kapoor Ahuja), she shared it on Instagram.
Indians can't take a joke. Do you agree?
I don't think so. Of course, there are certain things we should not joke about. There are certain feelings of people which we should not hurt. I always take care of it and my audience has been super supportive.
Did you always want to be a comic artiste?
Yes. I always wanted to. I used to tell my friends that I want to be a stand-up comedian, but I had other plans too.
I have seen that almost every stand-up comic had a job at first which they quit once they start earning well, so I thought maybe I'll also take up some job and will do this comedy thing side by side.
But things went well for me. I think I won't need a job now.
Now that your popularity has grown beyond the limitations of the digital space, what do you want to do with it?
I had some plan initially, but this lockdown won't let it happen, so now I don't know.
But yeah, let's just wait and watch how things unfold and I'll plan accordingly.
How far has the banning of tiktok affected you?
Banning of tiktok hasn't affected me a lot because it was never my main platform. I used to upload my regular videos there, although I've definitely lost some fans there.
My main social media platforms are YouTube and Instagram and they are working fine as of now
What do you think of popular youtubers like Carry Minati and Kunal Kamra?
I will not comment on them in an interview. Sorry, but I won't give you the headline which you were expecting.
Feature Production: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com