Much Ado About Nothing

Or shall I say ‘a lot of bullshit over a lame joke’! Because the furor that’s going on in India these days has me asking this question – when will we Indians learn to separate a joke from a real issue? The Indian media for the last two days is covering a joke, yes, a joke as their biggest news. Two days ago a comedian named Tanmay Bhat posted a largely unfunny yet provocative video on Snapchat. And we have taken his joke more seriously than violence and other issues that truly matter.

Let me explain. An MNS spokesperson  – a political party based in Maharashtra –  came on to a mainstream English news channel tonight and threatened to physically harm the comedian. And guess what? No one who is currently acting wounded by Tanmay’s joke raised an eyebrow! A Facebook friend even said that they should just be ignored because they’re all talk and no action. But this ignorant ‘friend’ forgot that this is the same party that attacked people of his home state when they came down to Mumbai to write Railway exams!

This is the reaction of most people in India right now. They’re willing to ignore everything but a joke! A joke that wasn’t even funny to begin with!  But just because it was targeted at two Indian legends – Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar, Indians feel that their ‘Indian sensibilities’ have been grossly disrespected. As if these icons can be belittled by a dumb joke!

But remaining true to our ‘Indian-ness’ we continue to be angered and offended, demanding that the comedian be put behind bars. While others claim that his brand of humor (roasting) is copied from the West and is therefore a misfit in our Indian society with our Indian sensibilities. This comes from people of the same generation that enjoys Western shows like Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and South Park. The same people who show off Western brands of clothing, watch and shoes and consider speaking in anything other than English to be beneath them. The same youngsters who consume content on YouTube and western porn sites are today waking up to the fact that they’re Indian. The same Indians who eat Mc Donald’s burgers, Domino’s pizzas and drink Coke and Pepsi are complaining that this comedian’s humor is too western. Hmmmm.

As for the older generation criticizing Tanmay Bhat, people like Anupam Kher, they claim to have better sense of humor than Bhat. While I agree with Anupam uncle that Tanmay’s joke just wasn’t funny, I remembered how he himself acted in some of the most unfunny films like Kya Super Kool Hai Hum and Happy New Year recently. Even Ritesh Deshmukh has criticised Bhat. Incidentally he is the same actor who repeatedly features in crass and sexist films with sick humor like Kya Kool Hai Hum, Housefull and Grand Masti.

My point is that we Indians need to look at ourselves before pointing fingers. Our biggest TV star is a comedian named Kapil Sharma (whose brand of humor can only be described as pedestrian) regularly insults people and makes sexist and racist jokes. Making fun of old, dark-skinned and obese people is considered humor by him and his audience and so is denigrating women and people of certain races. But since misogyny, sexism and racism aren’t India’s biggest problems Sharma is not behind the bars.

Our biggest problems right now is drought & the farmers committing suicide every single day, rampant corruption, rapes and poverty. Yet the outrage to these issues is almost non-existent compared to the attention Tanmay Bhat is getting.

Personally I don’t find his jokes funny but Tanmay Bhat is winning right now, India. Not only is he trending on social media, but he has done his job well. A comedian’s job is to show a mirror to the society and Tanmay Bhat has revealed our society’s rather disturbing and hypocritical face.





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