Sometime in 2005, Inspector Shamsher Singh – arrogant, angry, crass – made an appearance on the small screen, when Indian TV was suddenly busy looking for funny men and women. Despite the obvious flaws (stated above) in his nature, Singh was a charmer, and was played to near-perfection by now-popular Hindi stand-up comic Kapil Sharma. Punjabi-speaking, quick-witted cop from the hinterland was a character that catapulted Kapil Sharma to stardom. His brand of observational comedy which often commented on the difference between the urban and the rural, the rich and the poor made him a family favourite.
With great regret, however, we must announce that Inspector Shamsher Singh has gone missing, and it’s been a few years. He was replaced by a sexist, unfunny, offensive and unintelligent Bittoo Sharma – also unfortunately played to perfection by Kapil Sharma in Comedy Nights with Kapil. After three “successful” years, the show finally came to an end on January 17.
For three years, the show mocked women, ridiculed gender and offended common sense. For those living in that envious state of ignorance, Comedy Nights with Kapil is essentially a skit about a family – a businessman called Bittoo Sharma; his unmarried (oh, the horror) aunt; a hooch-loving, hyper and horny grandmother; a wife he loves to belittle; and presumably two neighbours played by men in drag, jutting out their chest because obviously it’s the best way to imitate a woman. Bittoo pokes fun at the size of his wife’s lips, and her father. The aunt, in every single episode, is desperately looking for a man to marry; while the grandmother sits on laps and kisses the guests (Bollywood’s best and worst) of the show. Those who were fans of Kapil Sharma’s earlier work as the sly Inspector Shamsher Singh searched for that observational wit in these caricatures.
Bollywood embraced it, unfortunately. After all, the show’s TRPs were reason enough to use it as a platform to promote their movies. Shah Rukh Khan, our biggest star, loved it, so much so that news reports say he is “sad that the show is ending”. The Khans made it to Comedy Nights with Kapil, as did the Kapoors. Weekend after weekend, the buffoonery made people laugh in their living rooms, and Bollywood ignored the rampant sexism in his jokes, and continue to do so.
Then in 2014, the show got a show cause notice from Maharashtra Women’s Commission for a rather crude and insensitive joke about potholes and pregnant women. One would think this action would make people sit up and take notice of how offensive the show can be. Surprise, surprise, the show continued airing, and Kapil fans mouthed the obvious – “don’t get so easily offended, yaar. It’s a joke”.
Imagine this. Indian TV’s most popular show, also most widely watched at some point of time, rose to a semi-cult status because of its sexist and misogynist content. Forget what it tells one about the show’s creators, writers and actors, it reflects even more poorly on us, the audience that consumed such terrible comedy.
The show airs its last episode on Sunday night, and while it’s the end of Comedy Nights with Kapil, it most certainly isn’t the end of his brand of humour.