Speak When Spoken To

I’m in the midst of a few thoughts right now. One of the greatest cartoonists of our time, RK Lakshman passed away recently. He is credited for the creation of a cartoon character called ‘the common man’. Through his work he has left behind a reflection of himself in the ‘common man’. For years RK Lakshman used his wit, intelligence and creativity to reflect the hypocrisy of our country. While india continues its long battle with corruption, humor plays an important role in reflecting the opinion of the masses.

The simplicity of the common man is what tickles our thoughts. RK Lakshman had a lense through which he could view everything around him and recreate it with such innocence and honesty. Of course he offended some but he hit the nail on its head with the blatant truth.

So here comes the thought of free expression and speech. How far is too far? In the wake of a the Charlie Hebdo incident this thought crossed my mind so many times. Its disgraceful and unforgivable  the heinousness of the crime but is it still ok to step on broken glass when u know it could cut u? Secondly, who decides what is appropriate humour and what is outright disrespectful?

 A group of Mumbai based standup comedians who call themselves All India Bakchod (AIB) hosted the 1st real Bollywood roast in Mumbai.  For a couple of days it was trending on everyone’s Facebook and Twitter wall. All of a sudden the ‘moral police’ woke up to this piece of entertainment and labeled it ‘culturally unethical’. 

The complainee stated ” The show, which can be seen on YouTube and other websites, was extremely abusive and it is not only ruining the clean image of the Indian culture & women, but is also misleading today’s youth,”

Just because obscenity is sung in a tune and called an ‘item number’, it makes it no less offensive. For some perspective, here is a translation of a very popular bollywood song that plays on TV with no age restrictions or objections. 

Joban hai pyaasa to jor kare
Ainvai ye din mein bhi shor kare
Takiya bana lipat le
Kambal bana rapat le
Tan hai kateela par 
iski ada hai shaitani
This youth is thirsty, and hence loud,
It makes noises in the day even..
Make it (my body) a pillow and hug it,
make it a blanket and glide over it..
The body is jagged, but it’s style is naughty..

Night ki naughty kahani
Ye Halkat Jawani
Teekha ye namkeen paani
Ye Halkat Jawani
Night ki naughty kahaani
Jawaani.. Ye Halkat Jawaani..
the naughty story of the night,
this careless youth..
This salt water is spicy,
this mean youth..the naughty story of the night,
this careless youth..

Sadly, the AIB roast has been taken off YouTube. Personally, I enjoyed parts of the roast. Repeated sexual implications are little over the top for my sense of humour. But I enjoy the innuendoes and outright honesty in humor. So the roast was a little long but an entertaining watch for me. 

The roast began with a very detailed disclaimer giving the audience a very clear picture of what was to come.  Insult comedy by it’s very nature is designed to be offensive and all of a sudden people who had absolutely nothing to do with it woke up and said “this is offensive”. Well, that was intentional. It’s like sipping milk out of an expired milk carton and saying “let’s shut down the dairy!”. Satirical and insult comedy and fairly new age styles of comedy in India. There is a large section of the urban indian audience who enjoy this structure of comedy.

So heres going back to my initial question. There are different styles of entertainment and different structures of comedy. Then why should there be a one size fits all sort of format in humor? We are an intelligent country with the gift of freedom of speech. Then why do we need governing bodies to tell us what we can and cannot speak about?