Dubai: Manjunath Naidu, a rising Indian comedy star, died while performing his stand-up act in Dubai.
The incident took place on Friday, July 19 at Clavichord, Signature Hotel, Dubai.
The performer, originally from Chennai, passed away from a reported cardiac arrest. An eye witness who was present at the Racy Desis show told Gulf News they were shocked by the incident.
"I was sitting in the front row at the show and Manjunath was the last performer of the night," PR manager Sana Topiwala told Gulf News. "The show kicked off around 9.30pm and Manjunath came on around 11.20pm."
According to Topiwala, 15 minutes into his act, Naidu started complaining about growing anxiety.
"He suddenly started to pant and sat down on the bench to catch his breath," Topiwala continued. "Few minutes in, he suddenly collapsed and fell to the ground in front of an audience of 80 people."
According to the eye witness, everyone assumed this was part of the act. However, after three minutes of no movement some of the comics and hotel staff members rushed on stage to administer CPR.
"We called the paramedics and followed him to Al Zahra Hospital Barsha. They attempted CPR, injected him with adrenaline but it was too late. We were informed he died of a cardiac arrest," she added.
Naidu, 36, was a well respected comedian on the UAE circuit, having performed stand-up for five years.
Stand-up comedian Salman Z Qureshi, who considered Naidu a ‘brother’ was performing on the night ahead of the late comedian’s set.
“I had almost skipped out performing on Friday, but Manju insisted I hang out and I guess maybe he had some premonition, or it was fate,” Qureshi told Gulf News.
“I had already performed my set and was watching Manju, who was probably 15 minutes into his act before we noticed a dip in his energy.”
Qureshi also recalled hearing Naidu complain about feeling anxious before collapsing on stage.
“At first, we all thought it was part of the act. I still can’t believe it’s happened,” he added.
Prior to the show, Naidu appeared to be in high spirits and Qureshi stressed the comedian had no earlier medical issue that would throw up a red flag. “Manju did suffer from post performance stress but nothing serious.
“He was always a happy guy. He dreamt big, always taught us to show gratitude for what we have, especially since he lost his parents at a young age,” Qureshi said.
Naidu was planning to marry soon and Qureshi added that his friends and fiance Grace were the only family he needed.
“I’ve known him for eight years. Manju was a brother and my best friend. All I can say now is that he died doing what made him happy.”
Tributes have been pouring in from friends and acquaintances who've worked with Naidu over the years.
“Manju, or Mango Manju as some knew him as, will smile on in our memory for a long, long time to come," Rashmi Kotriwala, founder of The Junction community theatre.
"He was a fabulous actor and comedian, a talent that Dubai has lost forever. He was a friend and colleague to many and he died too young. May his family gain strength from the fact that he passed while making people laugh,” Kotriwala added.
“An absolute gentle giant, inquisitive and full of talent. I was on my way to Nasik, which is a four-hour drive, from Mumbai to peform in the afternoon and I saw the news early morning. That taxi ride was so tough,” said Nitin Mirani, a former Dubai-based comedian now living in Mumbai.
Mirani said Naidu was scheduled to perform on his next show.
“Since I moved to Mumbai, he became a very strong performer and a brilliant improviser ... One of those artists who was just hungry for stage time," Mirani added.
In an emotional post, Dubai-based Filipina comedian Imah Dumagay wrote about her times with Naidu.
"But Manjunath Naidu, my brother, we didn’t do our second session yet, I still didn’t reconcile with my issues!... Fine, will do all these on the other side then!
"We look up to you. You inspire us. You make us laugh effortlessly. We all have nothing but good things to say about you. You did live right brother!"
Last rites for Naidu are scheduled on Monday.