Renowned comedian Raju Srivastava, whose journey from being a taxi driver to one of the top personalities in the world of Indian comedy still continues to inspire many, died at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi at the age of 58 on Wednesday.
He had suffered a heart attack on August 10 while working out in the gym and was rushed to the AIIMS where he breathed his last, his family confirmed.
Born in Kanpur in 1963, he was drawn to comedy from his childhood and harboured the ambition of working in movies. To pursue his passion, he went to Mumbai and had to drive a taxi during his struggling days to make ends meet. He also started attending many local comedy shows where he exhibited his wares alongside other aspiring comedians.
Srivastava began his career in Bollywood by doing bit roles in movies in the late 1980s. He was a part of films such as ‘Tezaab’, ‘Maine Pyaar Kiya’ and ‘Baazigar’ and ‘Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon’. Despite being prodigiously talented, Srivastava didn’t get his due in Bollywood. While Johnny Lever and Shakti Kapoor were ruling the roost as comedians and were favourites of filmmakers in the 1990s, Rajpal Yadav and Paresh Rawal dominated the landscape in the 2000s.
He became a household name and was catapulted to fame in 2005 after participating in the first season of the stand-up comedy show ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge’. In the avatar of ‘Gajodhar Bhaiya’, Srivastava successfully tickled the funny bones of the audience and won them over with his terrific timing. He was adjudged the second runner-up in the first season of the show.
Later, Srivastava also took part in ‘The Great Indian Laughter Challenge – Champions’ and walked away with the title of ‘The King of Comedy’. In 2009, he was one of the contestants of the controversial reality show ‘Bigg Boss’ and remained in the house for more than two months.
In 2010, he received calls from Pakistan threatening him to shy away from cracking jokes on Dawood Ibrahim. In response, he had stated he was proud of the fact that his jokes rattle the fugitive underworld don.
Srivastava joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the general elections in 2014 and became one of the prominent faces of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’.
The comedian was last seen in Kapil Sharma’s ‘Firangi’, which was released in 2017, in a special appearance.