after dark

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2003, 12:00am

You get the tickets. We've got the plan.

With surgical masks becoming the latest fashion accessory and SARS dominating the news, we all need to have a laugh and stop wallowing in misery. There's ample opportunity to forget our woes all with a slice of Indian comedy, innit?

The main event: The Funjabis (above), the kings of Asian comedy in Britain, will be performing in Hong Kong this weekend. Described as 'the best thing since sliced naan bread' their award-winning take on Indian culture has garnered praise from all corners. With big Punjabi punchlines, blaringly loud clothes and offbeat sketches, their shows are invariably riotous affairs.

'We're like a big Indian family,' says Master Funjabi Sody Singh Kahlon, whose material will embrace 'universal stuff as well as a few things familiar to a lot of people here - arranged marriages, families, immigration problems, anything'. Hong Kong should ready itself, as the London-based Funjabis are famed for taking the 'Mick-jeet' out of not only Indian Asians but everyone, with a mixture of comedy sketches, jokes and 'Singh-songs'.

Self-styled 'curried clown' Kahlon has spent the last few days absorbing his new environment. 'I think the first thing that struck me was the disparity between the buildings and the people. Such big skyscrapers for such small people! I've never felt taller,' he laughs. Despite numerous opportunities to perform here, this is their first time. 'There have been a few occasions when we've nearly made it over but something or other has got in the way. You know, the back end of the deal has fallen out. Too many dodgy Indians like us in charge!'

Ironic then, that the one time they do manage to get it together comes when everyone else seems to be running for the hills, as Hong Kong descends into a self-imposed quarantine. Comic timing at its very best to say the least, and thank God that someone is here to keep us smiling this weekend. Indeed, it hasn't taken Kahlon very long to get a sense of the panic here. 'It's amazing, and also quite scary seeing everyone walking around with their face masks on,' he jokes. 'Being an Indian walking around with mine on, everyone thought I was a doctor. People were asking me for prescriptions.'

Extra dimensions to the act are added with the 'English' element of actor David Capstick, who before joining the team was used to more demanding roles in productions such as The Odd Couple, On Tidy Endings, Dead Funny, Romeo And Juliet, Death Of A Salesman, Blood Brothers, Equus and Amadeus.

'It helps us maintain a universal sense,' suggests Kahlon. 'It gives us an added dimension, a chance to send up more than just our own culture.'

They are joined by Tony Singh and 'The Funjabi Rowan Atkinson', Shelley Chopra.

Today and tomorrow, 9.30pm. Funny Bone, Music Room Live, 2/F, California Entertainment Building, 34-36 D'Aguilar St, Central. $100. Inquiries: 2845 8477.

A little refreshment: Get yourself in the mood with a couple of looseners first, so that by the time the Funjabis take to the stage you're well in the comedy zone. As stand-up is the only art form that actively encourages drinking, you might as well liven things up by starting off at the Indian-tinged DV8 bar, 2/F, Sun Hung Kai Centre, 30 Harbour Rd, Wan Chai. Tel: 2598 1212.

The main course: It also just happens to be the Hindu festival of 'Holi', a hedonistic, anything-goes celebration of spring. 'Pranks, humour, drinking and flirting' are the order of the day in honour of Krishna, the most amorous of Hindu gods. Veda restaurant will celebrate by inviting diners to take part in a ritual of splashing paint on canvases, symbolising the 'throwing of colour' that takes place across India.

The origins of the festival will then be re-enacted by a dance troupe, with the story of Krishna taking centre stage. Although it is one of the few Hindu festivals where alcohol flows in abundance, the menu - whose focus is on traditional meat or vegetarian thali dishes - will be based on ancient conventions dictating 'healthy and sweet' foods. $288 ($488 with wine). Veda restaurant, G/F, 8 Arbuthnot Rd, Central. Dinner 6pm-11pm. Reservations: 2868 5885