Last year, when Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh, ArjunKapoor, TanmayBhatand others had people (mainly from the Bollywood) ‘insulted’ and ‘shamed’ (actually roasted) in a show called “All India Bakchod (AIB) Roast”, the entire nation took notice of it and the makers were lambasted from all quarters. The makers were drawn into the court as FIRs were lodged against them. ‘Sexist’ and ‘humiliating’ was what the show was tagged. Opinions were divided and a majority of Bollywood stars came behind the makers and the AIB team and said that the show was a ‘fun’ show and that the criticisms were unwanted.
In June, AIB’s Tanmay Bhat sans Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh and ArjunKapoor got the entire team into trouble once again for doing a spoof video upon two ‘Gods’ of India- Lata Mangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar.
Tanmay Bhat, who successfully portrayed the role of young Hrithik Roshan in Karan Johar’s magnum opus Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham(KKKG or K3G), was oblivious to public memory prior to AIB Roast.And then he came and made fun of each and every star of Bollywood. He joked and he laughed and also laughed along the stars those who were present in the show. And from the lot, who were not present, barring a few, the rest seemed to have liked the show; the sexually explicit jokes were taken lightly and the fact easily sunk in that ‘a joke should be always treated as a joke’.
So what went wrong with Bhat when he joked about ‘legends’ LataMangeshkar and Sachin Tendulkar? What did the K3G actor do that the entire nation went berserk and daggers were drawn against Bhat? Accoding to the information available, TanmayBhat posted a video in his ‘SnapChat’ id where he was seen roasting the revered Bharat Ratna awardees.
Titled Sachin v/s Lata: Civil War, some of the punch lines used against the legendsin the video were ‘indigestible’ for their fans, not just in India, but also across the globe. In the video, Bhat, as Sachin, begins by spewing some ire against (Virat) Kohli, before seemingly becoming aware of the camera and spouting more diplomatic lines.
The mask, however, slips when Lata Mangeshkar (Bhat again) tells him that Virat is indeed better than him. And thus, what follows next is a barrage from the two ‘icons’ hurled towards each other. While Sachin targeted Lata’s age (he refers to her as 5,000 years old, her wrinkled visage as the result of ‘being kept under water’ for several days).On the other hand ,Lata tells Sachin that her fans will at least be able to mourn her by singing her songs at her funeral. And then there is an array of mudslinging in Marathi before the video ends. Fair enough, it is somewhat demeaning and the fans indeed have the right to be angry, or do they?
Again cut two
Body shaming or jokes in the form of insults is not new to India and since the early days of stand-up comedy shows in India, stars and legends have been joked about. And the Bollywood has always been the front-runner in the race of insulting.Over the years, they have not just insulted an individual, but communities and societies at large. Comic actor using Bhojpuri dialect for tickling the funny bone, or eunuchs/transgender used as fun elements is common in Bollywood. The worst sufferers are, of course, the eunuch community as they are mostly shown as hero’s sidekick who has a ‘crush’ on every ‘man’ and are shown to be staring at the ‘ass’ and making suggestive stares. But, is this the reality? This, for the makers or the audience, is fun and it should not be taken seriously. And then there is the Sikh community which has been often portrayed as a community of ‘idiots’ and ‘jokers’.
The South Indian belt is always referred as ‘Madrasi’ and the South Indianised Hindi dialect has always been the funny man’s dialect. The Jatts from Haryana are either thugs or rapists as the films have always forced us to believe it. The character of a chauffeur is always portrayed as a drunkard or a boy in a dhaba is always ‘chotu’. Fat people being referred to as ‘fatso’ or a character who stutter being mocked is too common in the society; and the reel world too is no different from it.
I stammer and I have been mocked on several occasions. I have heard people laughingat my back and when I have shown my resentment to them, I have always been told that it was just a ‘joke’ and that I should not take it seriously. Now what if I was a ‘living legend’?
Revisiting square one
What Tanmay Bhat did in the video is certainly wrong and as a person I feel one should not make fun of others while making someone else laugh; and one should certainly not joke about someone’s age and looks. But what can Mr .Bhat do since right from his childhood he has witnessed that in India a joke is only taken as a joke when it is targeted on some individual (Santa-Banta jokes for example).
In their protests against the video posted by the AIB actor, the celebrities have mostly stated that ‘legends should not be mocked’ at. So, does this mean that it is absolutely fine to mock someone who is not a legend? Cricketer Ravindra Jadeja and Parthiv Patel have been continuously made fun offor different reasons. But why aren’t the jokes being treated as ‘demeaning’ as it was in the Bhat case? When veteran actor Manoj Kumar was mocked by Shaharukh Khan in Om Shanti Om (2007) in a particular scene as SRK used Kumar’s trademark hand-covering-the-face act and Kumar showed his angst and displeasure, the film fraternity then tried to console the ‘legendary’ actor by saying that they respect him and that the particular scene was actually a ‘tribute’ to him. Kumar’s demand to remove the scene was considered as ‘little too much’ and several Bollywood celebrities even went on to say that dramatic or creative freedom should not be judged on ‘personal approval’ or ‘disapproval’. There seems to be a line drawn when it comes to mocking someone. And if someone is a ‘demigod’, then he/she is above any mocker and the one who dares to do so is a culprit and has to be punished.
As I was preparing myself to write this article, I came across a video on Youtube where stand-up comedian Raju Srivastav, in a show, cracked jokes on former Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, who was sitting at the front row.
‘Laluji aap desh sey jyada hamarey kaama atey hain’ (Laluji you are more useful to us than you are to the nation), was what India’s one of the best comedians said during the show and the entire auditorium roared into laughter. This reference was made by Srivastav while he described about Yadav’s popularity among the stand-up comedians and how they have earned name and fame by cracking jokes in abundance on him (Yadav). The jovial Parliamentarian took the joke sportingly and laughed along with the audience.
Then again in another joke Srivastav, while talking about Yadav’snine kids and enacting as the politician said, “Family planning ki planning Congress leka raayi thi aur uss zamaney hum bipaksh men they” (the planning of family planning was brought in by the Congress and during those days I was in the opposition). The crowd laughed once again!
Now, for me, as an individual, the above instances are examples of personal insult. But, instead, it made the audience laugh, among whom was also seated Ratan Tata. Why were fingers not pointed at Srivasta for cracking such jokes? Just because Yadav himself was cool about being made fun of, so it was fine? But this was one of the rare instances where the politician was present himself. In most occasions, jokes are cracked behind his back.
Now, had Bhat mimicked and mocked Yadav in his video, would have he faced such an outrage? The only reason he faced an outrage was because the persons he targeted are Gods in India and you don’t dare to mock Gods here! Mangeshkar and Tendulkar, on the other hand, when were asked about their reactions on the video, simply said that they don’t know who Bhat is and what the video is all about as for them, there are other ‘important’ things to do in life.
Tanmay Bhat was lying and dying in the jungles of oblivion and all he needed was a public appearance where people would talk and discuss him and to achieve it what does he do…! The Indian’s are too ‘touchy’ when it comes to their stars and idols and Mangeshkar and Tendulkar are two of the biggest stars of the nation and poking them mean poking into a beehive. Bhat knew well about the possible backlash and what he did was a calculated risk. And isn’t he successful? An article written on such a trivial issue and that too on such a person who is least important for me, stands as a testimony to Bhat’s success- isn’t it?
(The above is an unpublished article written at the time of the controversy)