Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Knockout Punch - not funny anymore

I like comedy and I cannot lie.
Comedy has always been my favourite genre. 90% of my hard disk is full of comedy movies.My Youtube account bursts with subscriptions to TVF, AIB, Pretentious Movie Reviews, East India Comedy and Being Indian, among others.So it was almost inevitable for me to watch the AIB knockout the day it was released.
The AIB Knockout poster
(Courtesy: Google Images)

The next day, the roast was all over the newspapers. Instead of applauding our celebrities for being able to take a joke on themselves, there were articles against AIB, the participants and the organisers for hosting an event that was “ against Indian culture”. The Pune court lodged an FIR agaist AIB and the actors under Section 67a of the IT act ( for transmitting materials containing explicit content via electronic form), Section 292 (distribution of obscene content) and section 294 (obscene act at public places).AIB meanwhile, took down the video and  tendered an apology letter. They also apologized for hurting the religious sentiments of Christians with their jokes on pedophilia and Jesus.
The after effects of this video were (and are ) aplenty. Not only was the “ Freedom of speech”  debate raised with more vigour after Charlie Hebdo, but it further restricted the already tiny areas for comedy companies to experiment in. It also posed an important question – don’t people have a say in what they want to watch or read? The last time I checked, we were a democracy.

The panelists at the AIB Knockout
Front row (l-r) : Aditi Mittal, Raghu Ram, Rajeev Masand, Ashish Shakya
Last row (l-r): Tanmay Bhat, Abish Mathews, Gursimran Khamba, Rohan Joshi
 



In times like this, people forget one word – choice. 
AIB’s roast wasn't broadcasted on Doordarshan for everybody to see. It was by choice that one went to Youtube and watched it. Plus there was a disclaimer (of sorts) by Karan Johar at the very beginning of the video, and anybody who has watched AIB’s previous videos will vouch for the fact that their language does have expletives, but that is their USP, just like Arnab Goswami’s is to yell at the panelist on Times Now. Forget Arnab, don't we all give out expletives when we find ourselves in messy situations? Or even to refer to a friend in our friends circle?
The root of this problem lies in our inability to laugh at ourselves. For some reason, taking jokes on ourselves doesn't come easily to us.We perceive it to be a direct attack on our ego, mostly because we are so narcissistic about ourselves and are somewhere deeply insecure about ourselves. We live in a world where we are constantly obsessed with the way we look, the money we earn, the place we stay, the restaurants we dine in – anything and everything. We try so hard to reach a particular standing we think is the pinnacle that we somewhere lose clarity of who we are as a person . So we still get offended the minute a verbal arrow is shot at our armour of carefully sewn pretense without bothering to listen to the little voice inside us who keeps telling us what we really are. We can poke fun at others upto no end, but if anybody pokes fun at us, we mentally outcast that person. A lot of us want the AIB video to be available on Youtube, mainly because we loved it. But it’s ironical that we want to see other people being laughed at while we are unable to laugh at ourselves.Bit unfair.

Nobody put it better
(Courtesy: Google Images)
What the entire team of AIB and celebrities in that video did was incredibly gutsy. I agree that a lot of the jokes were below the belt ( literally!)  and the black joke was repetitive, but the roast in itself was path-breaking in the age of “ reality comedy” in India. It is understandable if one says they didn’t like the video, but how can one who isn’t involved in the entire matter find it offensive and hurtful? Ditto why I didn’t understand Mr Aamir Khan’s point of view, considering he produced Delhi Belly. But I appreciated two points he made - the fact that he did not call for it to be banned, and two, that creative and influential people have a responsibility to keep.
However, not all is lost. Arvind Kejriwal, of all people, has not only been the champion of Delhi, but also the champion for Indian comedy. Just when we were beginning to see a lull in Indian stand up comedies and when the only updates from Youtube seemed to be from the science channel, TVF brought up Barely Speaking with Arnub, featuring the real Kejriwal, who took the jibes quite sportingly.


The poster of Barely Speaking
(Courtesy:Google Images)

                      

In a country of 1.2 billion, it is impossible that we agree on each and every issue unanimously. What we must learn, is to agree to disagree, as clich├ęd as that sounds. Banning stuff does nothing but create furore over unnecessary issues.  As Jon Stewart, who just stepped down as the host of The Daily Show, said in the New York Times   “The only reason you mock something is when it doesn’t live up to the ideal”. And there is no such thing as ideal in this world.

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