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On the Loose: Developing immunity to insult comedy

One can only wonder why Rafi’s kids would bother about one random line in a panned film considering their father’s legion of followers, who seek out that very weepiness in his tone.

Written by Leher Kala | Published: November 7, 2016 6:03 am

Legendary singer Mohammed Rafi’s family is enraged by a dialogue in Karan Johar’s dud Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. In a scene, it has Anushka Sharma telling Ranbir Kapoor, “Mohammed Rafi gaate nahi rote the”. Speaking to http://www.indianexpress.com his son Shahid said it was an unforgivable insult: “I didn’t expect this from Karan Johar.” Anyone who’s heard Rafi’s Kya Hua..Tera vada sung in a voice of tremulous longing tinged with despair, knows, Rafi’s uniqueness lay in conveying an aching sadness convincingly. Artists like him or Adele who’s rendition of Someone Like You elicits tears every time have a gift to be able to sound heartbreakingly melancholic.

It’s not a joke, it’s a talent. One can only wonder why Rafi’s kids would bother about one random line in a panned film considering their father’s legion of followers, who seek out that very weepiness in his tone. However, it’s not news that Indians are extremely touchy, quick to take umbrage at the slightest criticism when none was meant. It’s why words like izzat and sammaan are thrown about so liberally in all Hindi movie dialogues and generations had to endure perpetually outraged heroes act out story lines of vengeance and family dishonour. In a nation, a sense of humour develops with success.

An ability to laugh at oneself is more likely among citizens who are flourishing or those who’s stature makes them immune to public opinion. Donald Trump couldn’t care less about being lampooned and parodied. Not always, though. Some years ago, actor Manoj Kumar sought legal action against Shah Rukh Khan over a scene in Om Shanti Om. In the movie, a look-alike duplicate of Kumar was shown being thrashed by policemen who had the temerity to not recognise him. The self important don’t find anything about themselves funny. Humour is always tricky but when it’s done right, flinging insults and poking fun make for the best jokes and is the hottest form of comedy right now. A subtle, straight faced yet provocative one liner on everything from religion, sex and politics is a method sharpened to perfection in sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Two and a Half Men. Meanwhile, in India it may soon be illegal to crack “Sardar jokes” in colleges.

In all seriousness, former Supreme Court Judge HS Bedi, who headed the committee that suggested those cracking “sardar jokes” be rusticated for ragging, doesn’t find this recommendation hysterically funny. It’s entirely lost on him that there is something fundamentally hilarious about enforcing punishments on people doubling up over Santa Banta jokes. While acknowledging that the incidents of ragging because of puerile humour “are not very alarming” Bedi insists they shouldn’t be encouraged. (Though one could argue that they should be banned for being so spectacularly banal.) The way to develop a sense for the absurd in such a dour lot of people is to raise the bar for funny humiliation so much, that Indians have no choice but to shed their righteousness and laugh. Like handling success or brickbats — so much is understood in the way you take a witty punch.


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  1. B
    Nov 7, 2016 at 8:13 am
    Rafi saheb is a legend. The magic in his tone is unparalleled. When he was singing it was so heart touchable people were forgetting themselves for the moment, be it romantic Sing Or sad song. When he was singing a sad song no surprise people would be in tears. He is "rote the" I think it is a respect to him. Why negative thought coming to mind.
    1. A
      Abhishek Gupta
      Dec 21, 2016 at 6:55 am
      I think insulting someone has become definition of comedy nowadays. But you must learn to let it go. Being furious and asking someone to apologize doesn't make sense. Indian public is being served what it likes. Insulting someone in the name of comedy is being liked, so it is blossoming. Having extreme thoughts, and giving respect to any eminent person to the extent of madness is nothing but sheer stupidity. One should learn to take jokes on oneself in a healthy manner. If you don't like, just let it go. Don't pay attention, don't make fuss about it.
      1. Dharamvir Saihgal
        Nov 7, 2016 at 3:31 am
        Things would certainly have been different,if these people knew what humour is.Utterance of such words for immortal Rafi Sahib in dreams even, may be disgusting.Such a buffoonery,tomfoolery and rubbish stuff is being served and that too in the name of humour and comedy.I have never come across anything comical or humours here in India for almost a decade or so either in movies,tv or on prints.Any way,coming back,I would say that such people by having earned name and fame by undesirable means think that they are the divine gods on this planet and the rest are all fools.