Virtually everyone in India is now talking about the (edited) version of the AIB Roast show on YouTube which was hosted by ‘Roast Master’ Karan Johar in Mumbai and presided over by the glitterati from the Bollywood industry. The talking point has been the use of offensive, insulting and politically incorrect language to create humour involving 2 of Bollywood’s upcoming stars Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor, who are publicly known to share a good companionship. If reports are to be believed, the audiences paid INR 4000 each (about CAD 80) to watch the show (*gulp*)! AIB or ‘All-India Bakchod’ (loosely translated – Bakwas = senseless and Chod = f**k, one who indulges in senseless talk) is an incongruous bunch of talented stand-up comedians who produce and act in satirical comical videos on YouTube often targeting politicians and film personalities.
When I watched the video, I was offended with the free use of foul language, it’s frequency and unfettered use in an attempt to create humour, when the audience in the video seemed amused and was laughing away to glory I was smiling in awe. 2 upcoming actors with some credibility bearing the brunt of a noxious attack from a gang of AIB speakers, the comments petrifying and undignified which would make anyone grunt in disgust but for the affable Ranveer and Arjun who were chuckling in absurdity, swearing back at the speakers now and then, and cringing uncomfortably in their red armrests (as would anyone) as their personalities were being torn apart by waves of filthy lexicons. For a good reason I was shocked why 2 young and promising actors put up their dignity and career at stake and signed up for this noxious onslaught, when the audience of their films was already doing it for them at the box-offices across the country regardless!
The whole debate about morality and culture, and the use of ‘offensive language’ has been raked up again in the garb of “hurting public sentiments”, and may I add, unnecessarily, and pulling us in the tussle between modernity and ethnicity; the right or the worse, the choice that we as intellectuals have to make over a mediocre event! It’s so depressing. The Maharashtra government has ordered a probe to investigate if the show was “vulgar” and in violation of laws, now why would one waste tax-payer’s money on such an ordinary event. The right-wing political party MNS in Maharashtra on the other hand has demanded an apology from Karan Johar, Arjun Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and others warning of dire consequences, luckily for them because their political fortunes were sinking already in the state for lack of a political agenda. And a police complaint has also been filed by the Brahman Ekta Seva Sanstha in Mumbai for use of “filthy and abusive language”. I am doubly upset now because the media and politicians haven’t helped by raking up an unnecessary controversy and offering credibility to such a crass show that it’s going to garner more hits and likes in the coming days.
Indeed the humour lacked an entertainment appeal so to speak, the speakers and the host sounded drab after a period with their continuous diatribe of raunchy and repulsive language, it was also shocking to see the free and open use of offensive language. Point taken. Let’s not forget that it was a privately funded show with full-grown adults paying for their own tickets willingly, it wasn’t a charity show involving the government or state money, and I don’t think any politician could be seen in the crowd applauding – if that’s true then it’s again his/her private business. The participants, the actors and the audience knew what they were signing up for. If so many others like me found the content to be offensive, my advice would be don’t watch it! If I felt any more offended than this I would hire a lawyer to fight a case in the highest courts of law in India. But any form of moral policing will only dent the fundamental structure of our democracy which we as a nation feel so proud about. Let’s stay away from advising others on the standards of entertainment and what others should and should not do, as long as they are doing it at their own expense and within legal terms. Let’s not play by our rules and pile up our definition of moral standards of entertainment and humour on others and ask them to “SHUT UP” and to fall in line.
A rational advice on choosing entertainment came in the form of a judgement from the Supreme Court of India. In its petition the All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front had argued that some scenes from the Aamir Khan starrer ‘PK’ hurt religious sentiment disturbing public order and hence the apex court should ban the film. The Chief Justice of India, RM Lodha said, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch the film. Don’t bring religious facets here.” also adding “These are matters of entertainment. If you restrict it, it will affect others’ rights. Everything is on the internet. What will you hide?”. Yes I am upset and offended, and it has hurt my sentiments. And honestly speaking, I won’t watch this crap again.