Desperately seeking laughter

Updated on: Aug 12, 2014
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Humour ought to start with oneself, and not with the humiliation of women and ordinary people

The more I see of Comedy Nights with Kapil Sharma , the more I am amazed at the network it commands, the producers and society at large. We have come to a stage, where we only laugh and enjoy when someone is being victimised, degraded and made to feel like the scum of society.

Some pertinent factors come to mind, as we have moved along to become a cash-rich and time-poor society.

It now seems that the only way to de-stress is by celebrating bitterness and maliciousness.

Glorious lineage

Comedy was supposed to be about spreading warmth and a sense of wellbeing.

It was laughing with all, rather than laughing down at someone. It was all about inclusivity and not about excluding anyone. It made you forget all your worries and sorrows for the time being. It needed to be graceful and effortless rather than contrived and laboured.

Comedy defined itself as a subset of what we call entertainment. We understood comedy in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s as a way of making people laugh that started with oneself.

You need to have the guts, confidence and ability to laugh at yourself.

Timing was critical as there were seldom retakes. Charlie Chaplin ate shoes, suffered misery to become part of folklore (in Gold Rush ), and Mehmood disrupted the category of comedy by being the Hero even when he was the Comedian.

It came to a point where heroes feared his ability at the box office. This is why the stars of yesterday such as Dev Anand, Raj Kapoor, Dilip Kumar never paired with him.

The stars who were grateful to be on the silver screen, and not known for their acting histrionics or dancing skills, were the ones who did not mind being cast opposite Mehmood, like the ‘He Man’ Dharmendra, the ‘Jumping Jack of yesteryears’ — Jeetendra, or the ‘Jubilee star’ — Rajendra Kumar.

Man as woman

There is a loud sense of desperation in today’s comedy. Women are not welcome, as they do not provide the necessary elbowroom to explore innuendo, often humour that is tasteless and graceless in the extreme.

Man becomes a Woman and does and says things that are provocative, we all laugh and then wonder why we do so. It reminds me of the Old Ramayana Plays organised before Dussehra in Delhi’s government colonies. The biggest challenge was to get someone to play Sita.

Since no girl was ready to act in plays it was common for a frail looking man to don the sari and become Lord Rama’s wife.

The moment the man who played Sita appeared on stage, whistles would shriek out from the crowd and that kept the bonding going.

With today’s comedy template we seem to have gone back at last three decades to demonstrate the same restlessness and helplessness. We have grown in money, but less so in perceptions. It is a case of wealth unaccompanied by grace.

I see some women from various NGOs always fighting for their share of prime time on television in the process of protecting the dignity of the delicate gender; but no takers for degrading the dignity of women by making a man changing gender!

Seems they are part of the ruckus and have no issues with a man playing women replete with crass, innuendo-laden dialogues.

Backward punches

The writers write the punchline first, and then fit the relevance backwards. The lack of depth in content, makes it imperative to degrade someone.

There’s no self-deprecation here. In the name of humour, the one who is insulted is the servant, or the wife or the hapless bad-looking guest. Each one is supposed to feel helpless and they are paid to demonstrate this to the optimum.

It’s the same ladies who are behind the king of One Liners. His job is simple. Laugh the loudest and at the silliest of comments. Rattle out self-created proverbs, and poetry to suit the celebrity, and in the process make even the past president of US sound more pleasant and presentable.

The audiences are invited on the condition that they will surely be insulted by the host who aspires to be Hero in Bollywood. That aspiration is yet to be realised.

The big revenue generator

It’s become more of a reality show and less of a comedy show. Its become a platform for setting up all new releases.

So the key question is, would a top rated show allow newcomers launching their new film to be on the show for 30 minutes free! It’s difficult to believe and therein lies the business mantra.

The other revenue stream is the footage that is given to all news channels starving for relevant content.

The self profiling of the host of the show will boomerang on him. My sense is he will remain the comedian and a bad one at that.

He is not insightful, neither is he a natural. He is no different from the thousands who crave to be on prime time, and after some years cut ribbons at showroom openings.

I am told the programme is going off the small screen soon. Thank God for small mercies.

The writer is a senior advertising professional

Published on August 12, 2014

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