CHAT What kind of humour goes down well with audiences in Pakistan? Comedy artistes Ali Hassan and Irfan Malik say it’s political satire
“Even before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could extend his hand in friendship, Doordarshan did it by inviting us to be part of Yeh Zindagi Hai Gulshan . This will certainly bridge the gap between the two nations,” say Ali Hassan and Irfan Malik, Pakistani comedy artistes who are part of the show.
Ali plays the role of the protagonist’s father, while Irfan is his wife’s brother. “Ali is a music director, and Irfan makes it a point to stop him from succeeding in his work. There are intense tussles among the characters and Irfan continuously provokes Ali’s wife to fight with Ali,” says the producer and director of the show Suhaib Ilyasi.
The duo has appeared previously on the Great Indian Laughter Challenge.
Do they see any difference in the comedy scene in India and Pakistan? “Of course, the difference lies in the language — it’s Urdu there and Hindi here,” says Ali. “The main difference, however, is theatrical comedy, more of which is done in Pakistan,” adds Irfan. Then there’s the vibrancy of the political satire.
“Political satire is hugely popular in Pakistan and such shows often enjoy a good run. The audience always looks forward to an artist dressed up like a politician or a famous personality and poking fun at him,” Irfan explains.
But at a time when the lines between humour and offence are increasingly blurring, how do the two manage to keep audiences laughing? “On principle, we restrict our humour to ourselves. Here too, we make it a point to ensure that we do not make personal comments or those that may offend anyone’s family. Humour should be fit for family viewing. Most of our comedy involves making fun of each other, so that does not give us much scope to offend others. If we perform a skit with a politician as a subject, then the direction team mellows down the act if it tends to go beyond the limit,” Ali says.
Commenting on the recent Pakistan elections, Imran Khan’s pre-election propaganda and post-election mockery, Ali quips, “Before the elections, there was an sms circulating which said Khan would usher in a new Pakistan; after Nawaz Sharif was declared the winner, there was another sms circulating that said there was no money for a new Pakistan, so they’d have to work to improve the old one.”