Are we really such an insecure society that we cannot tell the difference between an insult and a joke? All around me, various posts keep mushrooming about how the All India Bakchod #AIBroast was violent or racist or sexist or insensitive. People are sitting on high stools, passing judgments, talking about how it is not correct for the current situation and context of India.
Why did these people not rise up with such fervour when santa-banta jokes started doing the rounds? Or when Bharti became every household’s darling? Or when Comedy Nights with Kapil Sharma became the country’s most popular show? Or when Ekta Kapoor’s numerous regressive shows were floating around?
Why are a bunch of stand-up comedians being made an example of? Stand-up comedians have been cracking this country up for years now. And their content has been much more insulting that the Roast’s at times. But we laughed. We laughed because we knew it was in humour or satire. Like Charlie Hebdo. Like RK Laxman. Like Miranda. Like Tagore’s Tasher Desh. Like Ray’s Hirok Rajar Deshe. Humour and satire deserve the space, freedom and respect to function as an independent and democratic medium of critique.
I stand by Freedom of Expression. BUT, one should be well aware of what one is saying. Freedom of Expression is tricky business. The AIB Roast had multiple disclaimers (unlike Aamir Khan’s supposed ‘warning’ ad for Delhi Belly which is actually a promo in disguise). It was posted on YouTube, which requires you to be above 18 to watch mature content. It was the video version of a live event which was ticketed AND was for 18 year olds and above. Now, when someone like Aamir Khan criticizes this event and calls it ‘violent’ (there was a bunch of adults laughing at each other on an adult show meant for adults. No, not for kids, who can be scarred for life. But adults. That is ‘violent’ for the man who made Ghajini?), I have a problem with his Freedom of Expression. Like I have a problem with Praveen Togadia’s Freedom of Expression. Or everyone who spoke against Rushdie and Nasreen and Lars Von Trier and Kashyap and Rajkumar Hirani’s sensitive-but-abysmally made PK.
As for whether the content was funny or un-funny, that is for each of us to decide according to our preferences. I found the Ayesha Takia joke funny. You might say that it is not. But if you twist it around and say that it is an insult to large-breasted women, I WILL tell you to shut the fuck up.
Play that same fucking tirade in your head when you use ‘bhenchod’ to greet your best friend.