At 20, comic Saloni Gaur has found instant YouTube fame by stepping into the shoes of other women

Saloni Gaur

From Kangana Ranaut’s distinctive Himachali accent to Ananya Pandey’s Bombay-style drawl, internet star Saloni Gaur has mimicked her way to virality. Gaur’s most famous character though is the fictional Nazma Aapi, a middle-aged, hijab-wearing woman, who in her breathless, Delhi-style diction delivers thoughts on all matters of the State: from politics and economics to pollution. “The character is relatable,” says the comedienne who has more than 158,000 followers on Instagram and 135,000 on Twitter. “She is middle class, intelligent and speaks about current issues.”

Gaur thought up Nazma Aapi “suddenly and randomly” one Eid day in 2018. She initially started out with other characters, and began posting videos online a couple of years ago, but catapulted to wider fame last November with a two-minute clip of Nazma Aapi commenting on Delhi’s air quality. As someone with a dust allergy, Gaur woke up one morning to find films of it on her phone and windowpane. “I didn’t clean the front camera or my face, I just shot it,” she says. That video, with its quirky, deadpan approach got more than a million views on YouTube. Instant popularity followed. “I wanted this to happen,” she says. “But I never thought it would.”

Gaur spent years as a teenager entertaining her friends and family. Now she is doing it for millions online. “I just want to make people laugh,” she says. “Even when I didn’t have a phone, I used to entertain people.”

Now with the lockdown, Gaur has returned to her home in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh, from her college in Delhi, where she is in her third year of a BA in Economics and Political Science. Though she has done stand-up on the college festival circuit, her main body of work is online. Now, with lots of free time, she is posting more. She even has people requesting her to comment on certain topics. And, as her visibility has grown, so has the criticism, which Gaur seems to be handling well. “I don’t care,” she says, laughing. “Someone will get offended anyway, so I just mute my notifications.”

Get real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from