From cinema to television, from obtuse to imaginative, comedy is the biggest creative pursuit.
It seems we are in the midst of a humour hurricane. Every filmmaker is eager to add comedy to an otherwise serious sounding genre. So after romantic comedy, action comedy and thriller comedy, this week we have a war comedy in theatres in the form of debutant Faraz Haider’s “War…Chhod Na Yaar”. Those who are addicted to FM must be aware how radio jockeys seem keen to be abused every evening to create few moments of cheap laughter. “Comedy Nights with Kapil” on Colors has become the highest watched weekend TV show across channels and one of its character Gutthi (actor Sunil Grover comes dressed up as a small town girl) has a Facebook page. At a time when niche channels are stagnating, comedy centric channels like Comedy Central and SAB are grabbing eyeballs. YouTube has recently launched a channel devoted to comedy and restaurants in metros are eager to exploit the talent of stand up comedians and the likes of Paritosh Painter and Rakesh Bedi keep on recycling their plays for easy humour. Even news channels switch to borrowed episodes of comedy shows if the news is not really breaking and here bouquet barriers don’t matter. So Aaj Tak can show gags from “Comedy Nights with Kapil”.
“From ‘3 Idiots’ to ‘Grand Masti’ there is a huge range within in the comedy genre now, which was not the case some years back,” says Sharman Joshi, who is playing the lead role in “War…Chhod Na Yaar”. With a background in theatre, Sharman has worked with Raju Hirani and is now working with Indra Kumar. The term war comedy seems to be taking things a bit too far particularly in the current atmosphere on the LOC and Sharman agrees. He says the film is more of a satire on how war doesn’t help any side but the marketing team came up with the tag to harness the mood of the public.
The range is on show on television as well. From crass innuendos of “Comedy Circus” to the poetic humour of “Wah Wah Kya Baat Hai” there is a lot to laugh at or with depending on your taste. Taking a dig at the so-called insensitive variety, Shailesh Lodha, who helms “Wah Wah…”, one of the top five shows on SAB, which brings poets together on one platform, says, “To me insulting somebody and making fun of relationships is not humour. Chhedh chhad and a whiff of mischief has been part of our everyday life but not insult. We have brought seasoned poets like Gopaldas Neeraj and Kunwar Bechain on the stage and are also giving a chance to the young poets who live in small towns and have no avenue to express themselves at the national level.”
Shailesh, who has been on stage since the age of eight and is considered a poet of some merit on the literary circuit, says he wanted to prove that literary humour has space in the market-driven television if it is put together in the right manner. “After all thousands of people still turn up for kavi sammelans and sit for the whole night. The thing is poets tend to get lazy. They write one poem and then recite it in different cities knowing they are facing a different audience every time. On television you have to keep pressing the refresh button every time. Also, in poetic soirees, once you are done your responsibility ends, on television it is a team work. You might have to come up with something impromptu.” Also he emphasises the need of mix and match. “Some of the poets that I invite rely on putting together rhyming words but there is demand for that kind of simplistic humour as well and with them I place some gems so that the audience could get to know what’s the next level is all about,” says Shailesh, who has completed 100 episodes of the show recently.
“Five years back comedy on television was all about mimicking the stars. It is no longer the case. Now I mimic only when I have to take on the stars,” says Sunil Grover, who was once called Shah Rukh Khan’s clone but today he is better known as Gutthi. “I come from a village on the border of Haryana and Rajasthan where you find many such girls who seem conservative but the moment they get a chance they try to outdo everybody. The only thing they lack is the power of self assessment. They don’t have that third eye.” Most of the times, says Sunil, when a man gets dressed as a woman, the humour becomes garish or offensive but he has tried to keep it innocent. And perhaps that’s why he is finding wider acceptance. “It was supposed to be one-off character but it became so popular that I have to do it again and again,” says Sunil adding that he doesn’t feel awkward. “However, some of the guests do. When I sense that the star is not getting the line of humour, I change the track on the spot,” adds Sunil.
Explaining the popularity of his show, host Kapil Sharma points out an experience. “I got a call from a seasoned journalist who said I am sitting in Patna and my daughter is in Delhi but we both are watching your show. Our tastes never came closer than this.” Usually, such shows become an opportunity for the promotion of the films but here Kapil is the king and most of the times his expressions are better than the stars visiting his show. “Our idea is not to turn the stars into reluctant judges. Instead of they entertaining us, we entertain them. And the live audience we get is also keen to be part of the fun. A host can’t ask Akshay Kumar whether he cooks at home or not but audience can and I give them that chance,” says Kapil, adding that most of the live audience is drawn from the requests he gets over social media. “We need people who don’t mind to be laughed at if it makes millions happy.” The anchors with a penchant for comedy are fast crossing over to cinema.
Putting the rash of hilarity in perspective, Shailesh says, “The discovery and dissemination of television, mobile and computer has cut the people from the society. Courtesy these devices, the man has become a society unto itself and after few years of liberation he has started missing those meetings and close encounters with near and dear ones. This has created tension in his life and keeps looking to take a break from it and humour is the easiest way out. There may be different sources to laugh but everybody is looking to have a dose of humour.”
Agrees Kunal Kishore of trendspottersTV, a digital online channel that tracks the emerging trends across genres. “Humour is proving to be leading genre in the entertainment business with people downloading content of their taste from YouTube. From subtle to loud every kind of comedy is being consumed. Perhaps it has something to do with the stressful lives we all live.”
Talking of subtle, screenwriter Jaideep Sahni, who prefers to call his latest hit film “Shuddh Desi Romance” as a comedy on romance rather than a romantic comedy, says the comic mood in film business is the result of multiplex ambience. “You must have noticed that when people enter the multiplex atmosphere they are already laughing with their friends and family members. It is an event for them. This is the first generation which is watching cinema in high quality comfort, where one can order pizza from the seat. In such a scenario some serious genres are losing out. Films like “Shanghai” and “Rocket Singh” have to wait to be discovered through DVDs. For now a large segment of the audience is not ready to return upset or provoked from the multiplex. I hope things will change as audience settles in the atmosphere.”