We all must have seen thousands of comedy shows and series on television. Satire and sarcasm are tools through which one can criticise institutions, government authorities or entities in a funny way. TV shows like ‘Flop Show’ by Jaspal Bhatti that started in 1989 used the same tools to criticise those then in power. The new age stand-up comics take inspiration from all the senior artists like Bhatti.
At this point, it is important to make it clear that it is unnecessary to do clean content if you are a stand-up comic, in my view. As a stand-up comic, your job should only be making the audience laugh and think. Nothing matters after that.
From the Jaspal Bhatti show to the Kapil Sharma comedy show, Sarabhai vs Sarabhai – each episode is funny with the best jokes and acting, Bhabhi Ji Ghar Par Hain, Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chasmah. These comedy shows are for pure laughter. You can sit with your entire family and watch them. The great Indian laughter challenge has brought the stand-up comedy culture to India. The show was based on a format where stand-up comedians perform and entertain judges and the studio audience with their comedy skills.
In the first season, Sunil Pal was the winner, Ahsaan Qureshi was runner up and Raju Srivastava was the second runner up. The next season was won by Kapil Sharma and the first runner up was Chandan Prabhakar. This show has given us many other talented comedians like Siraj Khan, Sudesh Lehari, Rajiv Thakur, Bharti Singh, Navin Prabhakar, Jassi Kochar, Khayaali, Dipoo Srivastava, Ahsaan Qureshi. These people appeared in various comedy shows and entertained us for years.
One fine day AIB (All India Bakchod) was started in 2015 by a bunch of comedians, and from this moment comedy turned into a travesty. In a way, these shows were almost soft porn, the language, slang and discussion about women’s bodies and men’s organs. And many thought this was freedom of expression and they started enjoying this show. It ended after the epic AIB roast but what it did begin, in the process, is the reintroduction of satire and sarcasm in its raw state without any censorship.
It should be the conscience of the audience that should decide whether to laugh or not to laugh at a dirty joke. This will inspire the comic to make changes in his content. Before blaming the artist for doing his job we should ask ourselves if we can take a joke as a joke or not. And what should be the joke in a real sense. There are also regional standup comedians who are quite popular in their niche audience. These are akin to different ‘gharanas’ of comedy like Gujarati, Bengali or Chennai- and Bengaluru-based comics.
Some great Bengali comedians like Sourav Ghosh, Anirban Dasgupta, Dipangshu Acharya. Language is just a medium that does not restrict anyone and there have been many regional activists whose voices were heard in the Parliament. But it’s still a long way to go for the Indian stand-up comedy scene. In the recent past, you will see many stand-up performers in studios with an audience of 50 to 100. These artists make fun of each and everything having no filter on their language and expressions. Most of them use outrageous and obnoxious language. Some even make fun of religious beliefs.
In recent times comedian Munawar Faruqui has been hitting the headlines. Faruqui is a young and upcoming, moderately successful Indian comedian. He has been banned by the police and administration of Madhya Pradesh on grave charges of hate crime. This comedian has a history of making jokes about Hindu gods. Ironically we never heard a joke about the Prophet of Allah. He compared the making of Ram Mandir with the making of Bombs.
Here lies the problem. How do we decide what is more offensive when there are different groups of people getting offended? For some, drawing a cartoon is the ultimate level of getting offended and for some, it can be using some slang for God and for some even mentioning names would be offending.
Has democracy and appeasement of the minorities been of any use for the majority? Spitting filth against Hinduism in the name of freedom of speech is not secularism. Do crack jokes but crack jokes on the Prophet also and if you do not have the guts to crack jokes on the Prophet then do not crack jokes on Hindu gods also.
He is a Muslim; he knew that dragging Hindus in his acts will reiterate to the masses is not a good way which finally happened. I am a Hindu but I never mock any Gods, I am sure I can do a good comedy or be a good writer without putting down any God or religion.
Munawar is not only a comedian but he is an activist for a case that has been solved by the Supreme court, which means he has political inclinations which is fine as everyone in India has a right to have an opinion. But that does not permit you to provoke religious sentiments. In the recent past, he was frequently arrested and his shows were banned. Some think-tank believes that the arrest is to create anger in Congressmen against BJP. This is election time and Munawar like jokers became tools in political hands.