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Are Bollywood stars fine with Indian stand-up comics mocking them?

You can land your private jet on Sonakshi Sinha’s large forehead and wish Anil Kapoor on Bal Diwas because of his body hair. With more and more stand-up comedians taking potshots at Bollywood in their shows, are the stars ready to laugh out loud or wriggle in discomfort?

The king of comedy, Charlie Chaplin, once said, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” The legend’s quote sums up what stand-up comedians do to tickle your funny bone. 

The East India Comedy consists of Kunal Rao, Sorabh Pant, Sahil Shah, Azeem Banatwalla, Atul Khatri and Sapan Verma

The stand-up comedy scenario in India may still not be at its peak, but it’s getting there fast enough. There is an audience which believes in tolerance — the ones who would happily laugh aloud at a joke cracked at their expense and not throw stones or stage a dharna in protest.

Seeking inspiration
Bollywood is an intrinsic part of our lives. And for stand-up comedians, Tinseltown serves as a major source of inspiration for their gags.

There have been jokes from Sonakshi Sinha’s large forehead where you can land your private jet to Anil Kapoor being wished on Bal Diwas because of his excessive body hair.

From left: Buddies Gursimran Khamba, Tanmay Bhat, Ashish Shakya and Rohan Joshi came together to form AIB1

United to tickle
There are several stand-up groups like All India Bakchod (AIB), Schitz en Giggles and East India Co.medy. Besides, there are also special shows and award functions dedicated to Bollywood such as The Royal Turds, The Ghanta Awards and The Golden Kela Awards which ‘celebrate’ the ‘worst’ of Bollywood.

Buddies at work
Four friends — Gursimran Khamba, Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya — came together to form AIB in 2012. They began with making podcasts which received a favourable response.

Later, they also made it available for free downloads to reach a wider audience. They even managed to pull in the likes of comedians such as Jose Covaco, Raju Srivastava, Johnny Lever and even Russel Peters in their podcasts.

Vir Das

Familiar subject
According to Gursimran Khamba, “The spoofs on Bollywood are most relatable as everyone is aware of it. Also, it helps Bollywood by keeping it alive within the minds of audiences so it’s a win-win situation on either side. When we perform live there’s usually no problem. On the Internet, depending on where you decide to upload it, people can choose to force you to take it down or monetise your content so that they end up benefitting.” He adds, “There are fans who love saying terrible things in the comments sections. I think Bollywood has come around to realising that spoofs also end up benefitting them. Earlier, there was a culture that studios would get angry if you made fun of a film, but now they get in touch with us saying how can we do something funny around the movie that will help more people hear about it. It’s a positive change.”

Warming up
Joshi, another member from the AIB group, points out, “I think Bollywood is slowly starting to warm up to the idea of spoofs. They realise now that a five-minute video joking about them will not destroy their R60 crore movie.

Sometimes you face ego issues or fear from actors and studios as they don’t want a negative image of themselves or their movies to be out there. I also feel that a small section of Bollywood now understands that in the age of social media, people love it if you make fun of yourself.”

Roll on the floor
Stand-up comedian and actor Vir Das, who featured in films such as Go Goa Gone (2013) and in Revolver Rani and Amit Sahni Ki List recently has a show called Ripping the Decade. It covers a lot of Bollywood, which will surely get you rolling on the floor.

According to Das, “Anything that’s popular will always be the first choice of the comedian. We have the golden trinity — Bollywood, sports and politics. We can’t do much with sports and politics, but Bollywood is the best option available and people love it. There are different levels in the industry and everyone has a different sense of humour. I feel celebrities have a good sense of humour. I have hosted many award functions and cracked jokes about them and they all loved it.” The East India Comedy was founded by Sorabh Pant in 2012 and is India’s busiest comedy company. It has roped in comedians such as Kunal Rao, Sapan Verma, Sahil Shah, Atul Khatri and Azeem Banatwalla.

The East India Co.medy did a record 130 shows across the country last year.

Easy target
Says Pant, “Bollywood is relatively an easy target. I don’t do many jokes on Bollywood, but we do have a couple of spoofs on Bollywood and people love it and we get a good response. I believe comedy is full of surprises and we need to keep surprising the audience.”

He adds, “As far as making spoofs on Bollywood is concerned there have been many instances when stars have asked stand-up comedians not to go ahead with the spoof, but the current lot are young and they have accepted it. Many stars have also attended our shows and award functions. They have been supportive.”

Class act
One of the first woman to do stand-up comedy in India, Aditi Mittal has been rated amongst India’s top 10 stand-up comedians. She was one of the first five Indians to be featured in an Indians only stand-up show called Local Heroes, organised by the UK based, The Comedy Store.

Says Mittal, “Bollywood is all about volume and mass and let’s face it movies are only a combination of it and when you sell it at such a large scale, we should make fun of it. A lot of people in the industry have a better sense of humour and mow they all have started supporting us.”

Westside story
“In the West everyday there are some or the other spoofs being made and the stars know that it’s uncontrollable. But here, as it is still on a small scale, it is controllable.

Slowly, but surely the industry is rising and the one who wants to support will always support and the one who doesn’t will never,” she concludes.

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