Mumbai, 30 April-2014,Reema Moudgil : The joke is always on her. The middle-aged bua who cannot get married because she is not eligible for love anymore and so must be laughed at. The spirited young woman played by a man in drag who must be insulted because ‘she’ is fat and must be compared to a bull-dozer and assorted inanimate objects. And though ‘she’ always retorts saucily, the good-natured entertainment revolves around how she comes across. Too big for her boots. Too big to be ignored. Just too big.
Why people Laugh With Kapil in Comedy Nights With Kapil
Then there is the wife whose full lips are joked about, whose family is always jeered at. The grandmother, again played by a man, is a butt of jokes because she can’t stop coveting younger men and loves her booze. These women may all be caricatures but the fact that we laugh at them as we watch Comedy Nights With Kapil (Colors) must say something about us.
Even though Kapil Sharma always delivers a hurried disclaimer in the end and says, “Aurton ki izzat karein,” (always respect women), in his skits, respect is not easily available to women or to the naukar (the domestic help), or anyone who is too thin, too old, too strange or too poor.
But it would be unfair to target him and say, his show is an exception to the rule. Trading insults seems to be a national pass time. Watch the debates on news channels. Watch our soaps where one big showdown is scheduled every week. The reality shows cannot survive without insults and in the last Bigg Boss season, a young woman was called fat and short and compared to garbage, another was hit and one contestant constantly abused everyone else. Salman Khan too joined the fray and talked down to most of the contestants.
On Made in India (Star Plus), while Chunky Pandey laughs hysterically, a short actor is constantly insulted and even the gifted Sunil Grover cannot save the forced humour in the proceedings. The success of Comedy Nights With Kapil however proves one thing, that good taste means different things to different people and even though The Maharashtra State Commission for Women may have had issued a show cause notice to Kapil and Colors channel in January this year, the TRPs show, nobody is getting offended.
Our patience with misogyny or milder versions of it never wears thin. So a Yo Yo Honey Singh, famous for writing lyrics like, Kudiyon ka laga hai buffet, was invited to judge the recent Miss India pageant that for years has been trying to prove how beauty contests do not objectify women. His success is not because he appeals to certain kinds of sub-cultures but because he is now ruling the mainstream music with even the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan getting on his bandwagon.
So when well-placed politicians want to hang rape victims and women who have volition over their lives and bodies, we should not be shocked. They are symptomatic of a culture that does not look down upon sexist jokes, gender insensitive lyrics, that thinks, “boys will be boys.” And why must we take things so seriously after all? It is all just in the spirit of fun, right? And everybody needs to laugh in these grim times. When the laughter becomes a jeer and then a catcall and then an insult, the process is very organic and the results inevitable.
We cannot and should not control creative content, but if we can process why we enjoy certain kind of songs, shows, visuals, the onus to change will be on us. We will at some point realise that not everything can be laughed at or consumed without question. And that if a Yo Yo Honey Singh has succeeded where better musicians and lyricists have failed, the joke is perhaps on us.