A day after comedian Tanmay Bhat’s video of a mock conversation with veteran singer Lata Mangeshkar and cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar sparked massive outrage on social media, some voices have come out in support of him and his freedom of speech. Many in Bollywood also sharply reacted to Bhat’s Snapchat conversation making “national news”.
Titled “Sachin v/s Lata Civil War”, the video posted on Facebook on May 26 by Tanmay, took jibes at the 86-year-old singer and the 43-year-old cricketer, which prompted the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena to lodge a police complaint against the comedian.
“Everyone has a certain line. When you cross it, you get into other people’s space and start to offend them. But in comedy, you have to push that line — that’s why it’s a risky business. People have a right to be offended by anything. If they were offended by Bhat’s video, (it’s) fine, but they don’t have the right to violence and intimidation. It is also ridiculous how everyone has jumped on board with their two cents. There are much more important things to talk about in India right now. It seems like people were just waiting for an outrage. I find it hilarious that a Snapchat story has become national news. It’s also sad to know that every single thing you put on the internet can cause offence — and people are getting more and more intolerant by the day,” said Sahil Shah of the East Indian Comedy Group.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sanjay Rajoura, stand-up artiste and actor, said, “This sort of a thing is an everyday exercise. You put up something and there’s an unnecessary commotion. It’s simple — if you don’t like it, don’t watch it! By watching it, you give it more popularity. Bhat’s video itself wasn’t very funny. The humour was very childish. Why did he make fun of such icons? If he wanted to make fun of someone, he could have gone for the idol worshippers, the corrupt. There’s a drought in Maharashtra, Vijay Mallya has run away with crores, the JNU protests have rocked the country. Instead, people are paying attention to this. And all the police are trying to do is block the video. With all the proxy servers, what is going to be blocked?”
Comedian Anuvab Pal said, “I would really love it if someone gave me a list of people that as a nation we can only praise no matter what they do — beat up their loved ones, set things on fire, etc. Everyone is saying, ‘you’re allowed freedom of expression, but I don’t like what you’re doing so stop it’. It’s just ironic. In other countries, humour is reciprocated by humour. Here, we respond to humour with prison. In regard to the video — perhaps I would have laughed at it if I was 14. But Bhat has the right to put stuff up just as people have the right to be offended.”
He added: “In India, the parameters of what you can and cannot say change if you are a celebrity. A celebrity’s stuff reaches so many people that they are supposed to have moral responsibility about what they say. But how can a comedian have moral responsibility? Their stock-in-trade is to be ridiculous.”
Batting for freedom of speech, Pal said, “I guess Sachin and Lata are iconic characters, but everyone is iconic to someone. Everyone is sacred to somebody. I just want people to realise, though, that a personal Snapchat has become national news. If someone is making silly videos with their friends at two in the morning, must they be sentenced? Accused of what” ‘Irresponsible face-swapping’? That is the true comedy of it. And those news channels who claimed as fact that Bhat was asking Snapchat for money for his promotion of the app, they are the real comedians. They are doing my job for me.”
Author Chetan Bhagat took to Twitter:
You cannot arrest people for making jokes. Even if the jokes are bad. Really.
— Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) May 30, 2016
Music composer Vishal Dadlani said the “glory” of both Tendulkar and Mangeshkar would not be “lessened” by a “rude joke”. “It’s OK, it’s all good. Sachin is a legend and Lata Mangeshkar is a Goddess. Their glory isn’t gonna be lessened by a rude joke. Calm down!,” he tweeted.