Zee TV’s new show, Gangs of Hasseepur aims to follow actor-director-comedian Peter Ustinov’s adage, “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious,” . The show which highlights socially relevant issues will see comedians like Raju Shrivastav, Bharti Singh, Suresh Menon, with a lot of fresh faces, take centrestage. It’ll be hosted by actor Ragini Khanna, while Mandira Bedi and Tanishaa Mukerji will judge the show.
What is it about?
Pankaj Saraswat, who has directed The Great Indian Laughter Challenge and popularised the concept of stand-up comedy in India, is also the creative director of Gangs of Hasseepur. Ask him how much time it took to finalise the format and he says, “Planning the show took a while, but in terms of writing, rehearsing and putting it all together, we did it in exactly 10 days. Zee wanted to make a show around elections, so they approached me, and the rest of it was just organic. Bharti has been my find, and I’ve known Raju Shrivastav since …Laughter Challenge, so putting all of it together, wasn’t very difficult.”
Interestingly though, the crux of the show is highlighting relevant issues, and things happening around the country in a funny way. Programming Head of Zee, Namit Sharma, further adds, “We wanted to do something on social issues, but we’ve structured it in the most commercial way. There are jokes on migration, onion prices, electricity, quirks of Bollywood celebrities, and more.”
Gangs Of Hasseepur is a finite series, and will run for eight weeks. “It’s not going to be on air till the audience feels like throwing away the TV. For me, a television show is like bubblegum, the minute the sweetness goes out, you should throw it, no point streching it,” laughs Saraswat.
The show will have stand-up comedy, as well as spoofs and a variety of other things. “We have a spoof on Arnab Goswami and his panel discussions, among other things, which we’ve not seen before on a comedy show,” he adds.
Are comedy shows losing popularity?
While The Great Indian Laughter Challenge, and other fiction shows like Office Office and Sarabhai Vs Sarabhai enjoyed immense popularity and are remembered even today, there seems to be a dearth of comedy shows on television in recent times. Probably, it’s only Comedy Nights With Kapil that has become a stupendous hit, giving tough competition to other shows. So, is the popularity of comedy shows waning? “The lack of interesting content could be the reason why comedy shows are not doing well. In recent times, broadcasters and producers haven’t nurtured enough talent belonging to this genre. If you look at the English comedy scene, shows which happen at the Laugh Factory and other places, they allow young talent to grow. And it’s not about Zee TV or Gangs Of Hasseepur, it’s about exploring different types of comedies,” says Namit Sharma.
As far as competition is concerned, Sharma adds, “If it’s good content, it will work. There are so many daily soaps which work across channels, despite competition. So, why should non-fiction be treated differently. Let ten comedy shows work, it’s good for us.”
Verdict of the judges
For judges Mandira Bedi and Tanishaa Mukerji, this is the best job they could have asked for; being entertained while doing their work! “I’d done a show for Zee, called Ghar Jamai fifteen years ago. This is a great thing for me to reunite with Zee. Moreover, I just have to sit and laugh. I am looking forward to just coming to work each day.” Mukerji echoes the sentiment and adds, “The essence of this show is that we have taken common, everyday issues that worry us and shown it in a humourous manner. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, because each person is trying hard to make us laugh.”