Like I mentioned in my last post, I was delighted at the antics of M/s Khan and Khan at the recent Filmfare Awards. I must say though that audience reactions were nowhere near as spirited and good-humoured as the MCs’ witty presentation. Every time the duo cut too close to the bone with their incisive repartee, people grew distinctly uncomfortable. Not all the recipients of the spoof awards were happy. Whenever names were mentioned, people close to the ones at the butt of the joke looked daggers at the jokers of the night. The laughter and applause were, much of the time, no more than polite.
Which led me to wonder, as I’ve done before on this blog, whether we, as a community, are too serious. Is that why we don’t to humour too well (apart from some racist clichés and juvenile slapstick)? I’ve been thinking about it and have come to the conclusion that the answer has to be no. Here’s why.
Think of the classic Hrishikesh Mukherjee film. Let’s take Chupke Chupke or Gol Maal as examples. These movies were rich with situational humour, outrageously funny and largely free of racial stereotypes. They even poked fun at some rigid middle-class social mores. And Hrishi-da was a math and science teacher, before he became a filmmaker!
Think also of the Hasya Kavi Sammelan that was often aired on Doordarshan, particularly around Holi time. The poets like Shail, Chakradhar, Muradabadi and others were astute social and political commentators. With acerbic wit and rich irony, they tore down barriers, trod on toes and spared no one. Their political satire was particularly sharp and fearless. Consider too, our cartoonists (Laxman, Ninan, etc.) who are among the best in the world at lampooning the powers that be on a daily basis.
So no, we are not without a funny bone. Perhaps we are a bit inhibited. Perhaps we are held back by the weight of propriety and history. But we have a distinct, highly developed sense of humour. It only remains to bring it out in the open and centrestage in the public square.
Actually, even that was done long ago by the unlikeliest of people, Mohandas Gandhi. Asked what he thought of Western civilisation, the Mahatma, without missing a beat, said, “I think it would be a good idea!”