Sounds of substance
The new website Audiomatic’s podcasts have a maturity that is otherwise missing from the medium
A podcast, if done right, can be more immersive than a video. As real and conversational as they try to make television, you can still physically see the fourth wall. A podcast can feel like people sitting in your living-room having a conversation while you walk around the house doing the laundry.
Anuvab Pal and Kunaal Roy Kapur manage to create this effect in their fortnightly podcast Our Last Week, on the recently launched podcast website Audiomatic.in. The two comedians take each of their observations and hammer away at it, exploring every angle of the joke, one-upping each other and riffing on everything, much like two friends would when chatting about a humorous memory. They don’t just deliver a succinct joke about how Tinder in India is an app merely for seeing faces—because people are reluctant to actually have casual sex with the face’s owner—they go on to discuss whether there should be an app for people to show their hands, just because they have them, and how for Indians the sex on Tinder is finding out who a person’s father is and which locality they live in.
Audiomatic.in, run by former radio producer Rajesh Tahil and Tariq Ansari, the owner of Radio One, went online in April. The other three shows on the website are The Intersection, which features narrative journalism from Padmaparna Ghosh and Samanth Subramanian; Ask Aakar Anything, in which Mint Lounge columnist Aakar Patel spouts his opinions on everything from literature to marijuana; and journalist Vikram Doctor’s The Real Food Podcast, which explores India’s food habits and obsessions.
Doctor’s fortnightly podcast delves in detail into the history of our association with iconic foods and brands, such as alphonso mangoes, Marie biscuits and Amul butter. As Pal puts it, “Doctor dives so deep into the topic of Marie biscuits that he becomes milk and then slowly makes a biscuit with his words.” He intersperses his research with humorous nuggets of information, such as how people in all-vegetarian buildings in Mumbai go through each other’s garbage to check for egg shells.
What is a constant on all Audiomatic’s shows is the high quality of production. On both Doctor and Patel’s podcasts, music is used cleverly as a background to their voices. The Real Food Podcast often cuts to enthusiastic voices of people commenting on such things as their love for mangoes, which contrasts nicely against the formal voice Doctor maintains.
Patel is typically controversial—calling film-making a substandard artform, advertising in India “dumb” (perhaps not so controversial), and saying India has failed in trying to live as a civilized nation—while answering questions sent in by listeners.
He addresses a wide range of topics, and while he does provide some useful information, what keeps you listening is how he makes confident, often condescending, declarations on subjects that have been debated for years. He does not quiver, for example, while saying religion is not for the learned, in which he includes himself, but essential for the masses.
The Intersection is the most serious of all Audiomatic’s shows and features excellent research on rarely discussed topics, such as the existence of a Bombay Blood Group or the science of twin births. The stories have been adapted nicely to the format, with suspense being created when necessary. In a story about a girl who had a teratoma, a rare tumour that is almost like an embryonic twin, you do not find out the reason for the girl’s strange loss of concentration and haywire sleep patterns till midway through the story. The sounds of ambulances, ringing phones and random chatter used as effects initially feel a little forced, but end up adding to the experience.
Audiomatic’s podcasts all have a mature voice, perhaps best typified by Pal and Kapur’s show. Unlike younger comedians, who tend to find the obvious funny, Pal and Kapur make nuanced observations, both about India and the world; their knowledge of Zimbabwe and Iran’s economic strategies is refreshing in a field that is still cracking jokes about Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi being dumb.
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