Last week, when rumours about the film Udta Punjab being banned by the Censor Board were flying about thick and fast, one of my friends said, “I wish the government and all its agencies would stop treating us Indians like we’re kids. They don’t need to tell us what we can or cannot watch. We are fully capable of behaving like rational adults and whether or not we want to watch Udta Punjab should be a decision left to us.”
Sorry dear friend. If the reactions to Tanmay Bhat’s Snapchat video are anything to go by, we Indians have a long way to go before we behave like rational adults. To recap, Bhat posted a video of a fake fight between Sachin Tendulkar and Lata Mangeshkar (both played by Bhat himself) from his Snapchat account. In the video – and this is the cause of much of the outrage – he has Tendulkar say that Mangeshkar is “5,000 years old”, that her face looks like it was underwater for eight days and that like Jon Snow in the TV serial Game of Thrones, she too should die.
Reactions from Twitterverse, especially from Bollywood, were swift and condemned this insult to a national treasure. Anupam Kher, after establishing his right to talk about humour by stating that he is “9 times winner of #BestComicActor”, described the video as “disgusting and disrespectful”. Riteish Deshmukh stated that “disrespect is not cool”, while Celina Jaitly demanded that Bhat apologize to Mangeshkar.
Not to be outdone, the political class went one step further: the BJP and MNS filed police complaints against the comedian while the Shiv Sena described him and All India Bakchod (AIB), of which Bhat is a founding member, as “mentally deranged”. The Mumbai police reacted swiftly to what can best be described as a non-issue: they said they would ask Google and Youtube to ban the video.
The CBFC chief, Pahlaj Nihalani, went so far as to say that banning the video was not enough and that Bhat should be arrested. All this because of a few jokes that are childish at best, crass at worst.
The jokes may be in poor taste but how exactly do they affect Tendulkar and Mangeshkar? Neither of them is likely to be defamed by these jokes or suffer any loss, financial. People might lose respect for Bhat instead – as many claim they already have – but no one will lose respect for Tendulkar or Mangeshkar, at least not because of this one rather unfunny funny video.
So why the hullabaloo? If anything, this controversy is yet another indication of the herd mentality in our online lives.
One person expresses disproportionate anger over something trivial and everyone else quickly jumps onto the bandwagon, trolling and bullying the author of the supposed outrage. Politicians, who are supposed to address real issues like sanitation and infrastructure, are quick to latch on to the furiously lashing tail of this public anger and initiate legalised harrassment in the form of police complaints and FIRs because they have rightly identified sustained social media outrage as the best form of publicity.
Who knows, maybe Bhat himself did this for publicity?
The comedian has remained remarkably calm despite the best efforts of the “daily rage labourers” (the hilariously apt descriptor coined by AIB in its video Unoffended).
In any case, Bhat is the only person to have offered the most rational ( but funny) reaction to the whole brouhaha, with his tweet, “Please pay me, Snapchat.” We’ll take that as the last word on this and move on with our lives.