Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Great Indian Laughter Challenge

Good comedy is serious stuff. It’s not everyday that you rock back, slap your thighs, and laugh loudly. Sure, there is the occasional smirk, titter, snort, ironic half smile or chortle that an email or SMS throws our way. But a good hearty laugh? Now that’s a rare thing…

In my life, rip-roaring laughter has come more from real life experiences and sights than from movies, comics, emails, books, SMS’ or any other mediums that try and infuse a bit of laughter in our lives. To be fair, PG Wodehouse did get me close to laughing out loud and Calvin & Hobbes actually did make me laugh out loud.

But when I compare the intensity of laughter to the time Jijo fell into the colony gutter, or when Dad tried to cut his own fingernails or when Rahul Kaul was enacting “Basic Instinct” in dumb charades at IIFT, all others come a very poor second. Yes, I admit, other people’s tragedy has always been my comedy. But that’s another story.

Hindi movies have tried relentlessly over the years to make us laugh. And there have been some sparkling successes too. Who can forget the hilarious Golmaal, Chupke Chupke, Padosan, Chalti Ka Naam Gadi or the bouts of uninhibited laughter that scenes from Hera Pheri, Amar Akbar Anthony, Sholay, Andaaz Apna Apna, Seeta aur Geeta, and more recently Bheja Fry have invoked. However, these examples are few and far between.

Hindi film humor, for most part, is burlesque and rather clumsy. Formula scenes, formula characters, and very low brow comedy - that’s what has characterized Hindi Cinema for the last few decades. And that’s why Bheja Fry needs to be applauded.

I had gone with very average expectations to see Bheja Fry. To say that it exceeded all my expectations by a mile is to put things mildly. Its one of the finest comedies I have seen. Its under stated, real, and unbelievably funny. If you have not seen it yet, bitch slap the back of your head and call yourself stupid.

Watching BF made me think of the usual ‘comedy scenes’ in Hindi movies. There are patterns and commonalities across scripts when it comes to Bollywood’s attempts to make us laugh.

So here it is people: my list of the most common, and for me, the most trite comedy sequences that the Hindi Film industry has unleashed on us. Set ups that I believe should now retire from scripts as they have outlived their funny life.

I am putting up five which really get my goat. They are in no particular order. Please add on your (not) favorites…

1. The DRUNK: The most common medium used. Keshto made a career out of it, AB raised it to a fine art. Others failed miserably. Time to throw some cold water on script writers face and ask them to rethink on what makes India laugh.


2. THE HAKLA-TOTLA-BEHRA routine: This one is the most intolerable. To make fun of someone’s disability has got to be the low point of humor. And the Kader Khan- Shakti Kapoor renditions of this routine have made it more so. A definite ‘no more please’

3. THE RAKHI SCENE: This one is the most bizarre one. Somehow the act of tying a Rakhi, or rather attempting to (b‘coz that’s where the humor lies!) is supposed to be funny. Many a time we have been subjected to a lengthy scene where the sidekick, or an incidental character, and sometimes even the hero is faced with the prospect of getting his wrists decorated with an oversized bling rakhi from someone he has been having wet dreams about. Nana Patekar in Tiranga, Anupam Kher in countless movies… Completely avoidable.

4. THE DRAG SCENE: Getting a guy to dress up as a woman is gross and not funny. I remember having a hard time holding back my popcorn after watching Amitabh in ‘Mere Angne Mein’ or Govinda in Aunty No.1. I think I did puke after watching Naseer in a bathing suit in Tehelka. On this one, I am willing to take the legislative route and ban any further scenes which cause so much trauma.

5. PAGALKHANA ROUINE: Have you ever noticed how a mental asylum is portrayed in Hindi Films? All the inmates are free to roam around and more often than not, they are playing air cricket! I have been to a mental institute (no, not as an inmate but as part of a social service routine from school) and its nothing like this. People are there for treatment and not to play cricket with an imaginary bat and ball. And no, they do not roam around free and they definitely do not run a comb through their bald plate repeatedly!

So these are my top five people. Please add on…


itchingtowrite said...

inspite of the irateness evident- i cudn't stop laughing... the drunk is the worst though, followed by pagalkhana..

Mausumi said...

Personally, I get quite irritated with the parochial slant of Hindi the "Madraasi" character always lifts up his lungi to fight with you or have a stupid accent...the "Bangali Babu"..also has a stupid accent...wears dhoti and says " aami tomake bhalobashi"...pleeeeaaase

the mad momma said...

loved Bheja Fry..the husband watched the original in French and proceeded to sit by my side and ruin it for me.

in case i havent said it loud enough.. love your blog.