Give us a good laugh, not a stupid one

I'm sure it's just me, and Comedy Nights with Kapil is a good show but though I've often tried to watch it, I've found it hard to get into. Most people will say it doesn't matter what I think — fair enough. Then they'll say only the TRPs matter and Kapil Sharma is a very significant media figure. Call me old-fashioned, but that's precisely why it's worth us thinking about Kapil Sharma's show. Especially since he doesn't always seem to.

A video grab from Comedy Nights with Kapil
A video grab from Comedy Nights with Kapil 

On November 26, the guest being Saina Nehwal, the show's cross dressing character Palak, did a turn as Serena Williams. The problem was not that Sania Nehwal, a badminton player, was supposed to watch a sketch about a tennis player. I mean kifark painda ji, ladies must be encouraged, as Kapil sanctimoniously said at the end.

The problem was that Palak was in Blackface — skin blackened, lips hugely exaggerated, like a minstrelsy throwback.

Do Kapil Sharma and his team, and the team at the television channel, not know that blackface is an intensely racist theatrical tradition, where white actors blackened their faces and painted on thick lips, to play stereotypical African-American figures? And that these figures were always depicted as sly or stupid, servile or cunning, always inferior, playing into the worst race prejudices which existed against a history of inhuman cruelty? Do they also not realise it's doubly offensive when at this precise moment, the news from their aspirational other, the USA, has seen of anger around a racist violence and grand jury verdict in the killing of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri?

If they do not know, they must be very well-off indeed, because only the well-off can afford the luxury of this blindness and ignorance.

It is this increasing willful blindness that has slowly erased all the complex traditions of irony, drollness, satire and even broad humour from our media screens, where comic talents such IS Johar and Om Prakash could once reign alongside flatter comics. And it is this blindness that does not seem to see how offensive it is that fat people are always shown only as stupid, graceless and a-sexual. That women are always sexy and ditzy or simple and domestic. That South Indian characters continue to have thick accents that are supposed to represent a thick mind. That, in their works, Christians are still lazy drunks and Muslims are extremists who need to mend their ways — as a short film by Brij Bhushan Sharma playing in PVR cinemas before the main feature suggests.

You can only really produce such images continually by being blind to the realities of caste violence and rape (then say caste is dead) and blithely proud of your ignorance, congratulating yourself on your success, but never using your new-found resources to question your assumptions. After some time, these highly skewed images become a reference point for reality in a cycle of ignorance and violence.

I'm not suggesting an arid landscape of stiff political correctness. Stereotypes often arise from reality. But we can be humorous about them either with the irony and affection, which comes from intimacy and knowledge. Or we can mock difference to confirm and propogate prejudice.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.

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  • Aditi Suresh30-Nov-2014

    Very well written. I am aware of the concept of blackface, and am shocked it was used on such a popular show. If something like this was cast in the US, it would cause a huge uproar. It shows how horribly racist we are. Sad that such derogatory stereotypes are used as comedy fodder. Shame on the writers of such shows. Its disgusting and regressive.

  • Rishi Agarwal30-Nov-2014

    Dear Mam, it depends on your own thinking regarding how you take things at you mind. There are thousands of controversial matters and social problems in this which are often shown in a humourous manner. This doesn't means that anybody is making fun of that. We should instead of raising questions on these things, rather promote frankness on discussing these controversial matters.

  • shambhavi sonal30-Nov-2014

    Its nothing like that .kapil luv u

  • shrikant kulkarni05-Dec-2014

    I completely agree with this. Kapil n his team are overdoing certain things like insulting the guests n onset viewers. Repeating the same punches. I can not tolerate mid behavior of Ali. I have stopped watching this show months back.

  • faisal hasan30-Nov-2014

    ma'am no doubt you are correct. And only halfwits would call you old fashioned. i am a class 11 student and in my class i see everyone talking about this dumb show, which on any good day would have made me dump my tv in the garbage. i dared to watch it once, but even though every second my lips were ready to smile anticipating a good joke, it didnt happen. And kapil sharma does show a sexist and racist attitude, and as almost everyone watches this show,it is bound to send out the wrong message.

  • Anamika30-Nov-2014

    Give us a good article, not a stupid one

  • TK02-Dec-2014

    questioning indian iq!! thanks have fun and enjoy......wasting your serious ....THERE IS NOTHING HUMILIATING OR CREEPY UNLESS YOU MAKE IT ....BLAME YOUR NEURONS///////THNKS

  • Gulab Sanjeev Kumar03-Dec-2014

    Things remain as they are till a tight slap is received alike GOHAR , well Kapil beware and thing high.

  • srikanth04-Dec-2014

    Its waste replying. You dont publish anyway. You publish only those you are biased about.

  • Syed M. Irfan01-Dec-2014

    Totally agree with your views ma'am, I myself found most of the so called punchlines in KNWK too bland to digest. Secondly, as it happens in most of the stand up comedians' case (in India), they arrive with a lot of fanfare, but once they start riding the popularity charts, the grossness increases. The best comedy is created at one's own expense rather than mocking someone, humiliating someone in the crowd (studio audience) or resorting to vulgarity.

  • karen garewal03-Dec-2014

    this is exactly what i thought when I saw that episode, we indians get very upset when we are being made fun of but we don't think for a minute when we make fun of other races, apart from crossdressing, I have another reason to hate this show now

  • Ravi Kishore03-Dec-2014

    Good Article. When we succeeded in the Mars mission, there was a cartoon in US showing a cow at the door. There was a huge uproar in the media and the publishers had to issue regret. A benign thing like that is not OK with us. In contrast, we will show Union Jack being worn in shorts by Rishi Kapoor. Think of anybody wearing the tricolour like that. We are simply mindless entertainers at times

  • Abhishek Thakur01-Dec-2014

    I don't think Kapil Sharma's team would ever have known- in fact, very, very few educated people in India would know about it, unless they have lived in US or studied their race relations/media.Having said that, there surely needs to be greater sensitization. For an aspiring, global economy, people should make an effort not to look ignorant or worse, biased.

  • Prem01-Dec-2014

    I have never seen Kapil Sharma's show, but I feel that author is not justified in her criticism of portrayal of black people in his show.. Most Indians are not aware of the racial connotations of black face and bigger lips as they have come in little contact with Africans. Some months back, the current defense minister dragger himself into a controversy for calling Africans Negroes. Before this incident, I never realized that Negroes is actually an offensive term. Black appears to be much more

  • anchal kumar02-Dec-2014

    It is a sad part of the show that even the live audience do not get spared. Anybody who has watch the show realize it that show host and the so called gentleman , sitting on the chair between the audience always make a rude comment on the audience, It is even more pity that guest also do not have a courage to stop those nonsensical comments of these two;s so called humorist punch.

  • Abhijeet03-Dec-2014

    Kapil show is as cheap as it can get. for nutbrains and nobody else. It displays how dumb an average indian become

  • Milind03-Dec-2014

    Kapil's show is to entertain Indian audience and your article is surely for buttering US people. You are quoting that painting face black is considered racist in USA, kindly give your views what Indian people think when the 'Baharupiye' paints their face blue to imitate Lord Rama or Krishna or they paint their body orange to indicate Hanuman.Your article shows that you are more interested in licking the feet of USA than appreciating our own people. Shame on you!

  • satyabrata das01-Dec-2014

    stupid direction and stupid programme

  • Amit Kumar01-Dec-2014

    This is purely one's opinion which should be kept to individual only. This is pure humor and nobody should feel like being targeted. Guys give him some space after all he is making us laugh in these busy times..

  • poonam01-Dec-2014

    Well.. anyhow the writer of this article has got good publicity like Ezaz Khan.. Kapil s paying for his success.. lots of objectionable things r happening in this country k.. no point to discussing on this.. We always LOVE U KAPIL SHARMA..

  • raman01-Dec-2014

    this is what happens when all the 'oh we the oxford educated; english speaking' lady/gentlemen see an entirely indian setting through their western prism. kapil's show's motive is to induce a genuine laugh. why introduce an entirely foreign concept like discrimination against blacks in indian setting. if the uproar is about indian prejudices; had he used a south Indian stereotype; then the uproar was justified. but black discrimination?? why even bringing that?

  • Shivani01-Dec-2014

    If you know Russell Peters, I tried my damn hardest but couldn't find one article condemning Russell Peters. Peters' stand-up performances feature observational comedy, using humour to highlight racial, ethnic, class and cultural stereotypes. He often refers to his own experiences growing up in an Indian family, and impersonates the accents of various ethnic groups to poke fun at them. As he told an audience in San Francisco, "I don't make the stereotypes, I just see them."

  • Rajesh04-Dec-2014

    This show is pathetic like Bollywood and most of Indian TV. People have low standards so they enjoy it. The only thing that annoys me is that people force me to watch it and then bother me when I dont laugh. They actually accuse me of not understanding the joke. And I have to point out to them that I dont laugh because I am not a brainless ret@rd.

  • Amit Kumar02-Dec-2014

    Have you actually watched full episode?? they never made joke about any player. wearing black makeup may me racist in some western states but most of the Indian people are unaware of that. in american tv shows like BBT they make some serious racist jokes about Indians and show it in a humorous way. No one questions them. you know judgemental people like you always look for the negative side of things, point them out and try to look intellectual which you are actually certainly not.

  • twinkle02-Dec-2014

    This is not USA, madam. Have you seen what kind of shows come on USA televisions? They have too much seggregation in their society. Kids leave their home as soon as they turn 16/18. Will you be able to bear that?? Too much criticism is bad. If you are seriously concernrd, directly contact Kapil Sharma for this issue and I'm sure he would love to listen to you.

  • vijay mehta01-Dec-2014

    Yes, I agree with the remarks.One should be careful while making such episode.But the this is the show all about.At times it humiliates the questioner.Then realizing it, kapil will make it light with polite remarks. But humiliation of questioner remains.That is why now people do not stand up for questions.Show organiser has to manage fake questioner. Who would like to be made fool through' khinchai '.

  • rahul01-Dec-2014

    wat is that !!!! oho it is only matter of happy laughing moment. do not take this wonderful show intention otherwise.Kapil show is fabulous and they also appreciate women that is why sania mirza, and saina nehwal was invited.Author please do not mark on womens dignity and greatness how you can write such stupid rubbish thoughtful blog. Please take it lightly its humor or nothing.Why Ms. Vohra you are taking dill pe , pls take it normally no body can insult womens . pls dont wrt such blogs

  • Nishant Gupta30-Nov-2014

    You should accept one fact that India is a country of Hypocrites. Sometime you must have also laughed at or mocked a person with darker color or fat belly etc. So please stop complaining and accept you are also part of this "HYPOCRITE" culture.

  • Ashit Sen01-Dec-2014

    Isn't this clearly a case of sour grapes for the author? It is understandable if someone of the caliber of Johnny Lever is jealous of Kapil's success. But who is this aunty? Kapil would not even keep her as a maid in her house, let alone a critic. LOL

  • Lakshminarayan30-Nov-2014

    I fully agree with you. In fact this is not the first time this happened on this particular show. I have watched it innumerable times, Kapil mocking black people, especially Africans. I don't know why these crappy people are still behaving like isolated Indians who haven't seen the outer world. He always comments on the lips of a certain race, their colour and so on. Isn't there any other thing in this world that can be made fun of?

  • joe30-Nov-2014

    Kapil comedy has a distinct crowd. Part of India ,not all and as India growing his fans are too. This is how entertainment world is growing and getting rich at the cost of dirt poor people. The celebrities are even proud of breaking 200 3300 carores record and certain population of India are very glad to listen and see their acts. As it is said show must go on.

  • rinsy02-Dec-2014

    its not only this episode, but every other episode. comedy has changed and gone to higher levels. i dont know why kapils show still potrays laughing on smone slipping on banana peel kinda sketches and then calling it comedy.the actors just come to promote their movie, but if it wsnt for tht, noone wud ever turn up in tht show. it seriously lacks content. just bunch of people dressed up like girls falling and tripping and acting stupid.

  • Asma01-Dec-2014

    i agree with u, thanks for the article. i too was wondering why women were shown in such bad light as in character wise, dadi drunken old women who drools over all men and such other thing. It is sad.

  • r s sovani01-Dec-2014

    While you may have a point about being politicaly correct about racial sensitivity, it is a comic show and some leewafy needs to be given to the artists. Otherwise even the transgenders will find the cross dressed characters ofensive. The depiction of kapil's wife, some women characters at whom kapil makes passes should all come under scrutiny. There is of course no end to this if we get started. the author may of course suggest better ways of depicting Afrikan persons in our shows.

  • farah01-Dec-2014

    super fine write!ignorance is a bliss in such weird comedies...

  • Agree01-Dec-2014

    I find the cross dressing acts in the show obscene and offensive. Thank You for writing this.

  • tps cheema30-Nov-2014

    i do not was palak who was trying to be funny rather than any fun at sareena.....and ma'am in a country where thousands of jokes r cracked about sikhs why r u being so sensitive toward these.....we sikhs take them in our stride sot should u......if u start looking for bad points u will find them galore in THE GOD ALMIGHTY just watch and laugh

  • Mitul Doshi30-Nov-2014

    Completely agreee.... and dats wer i believe Rohit Shetty has done a pretty good job in keep his comic scenes more general..rather than female centric or sex based

  • denish30-Nov-2014

    The laugh is usually at the expense of somebody. I also observed that it overdid it to a hurt level many times At other times the gags are so poor only canned laughter with that of sidhu enables a wry smile.. Otherwise the most appreciable is the spontaneity, witty replies, social messages and a poles apart subject when compared to run of the mills like ghar ghar kheli, joda akbar, simaran.

  • Navin01-Dec-2014

    I agree with your points. The present has no place for sensetive, thinking people. I got tired very soon myself and could not complete reading the article. Hope you find the strength to go through such nonsensical times.

  • sudhakar rai01-Dec-2014

    Mamm, You are still living in old fashion, Indian mentality is changing, not entirely, because of these staement.I request dont put these stateent.

  • Arjun01-Dec-2014

    Agree with your views, I think apart from palak, kapil should start thinking of better roles, rather than displaying his horny bua

  • Nitin Soni02-Dec-2014

    It was all in a humorous manner. Tomorrow you will condemn any cartoon/caricature.Ma'aam, there are some other very important issues to be discussed rather than coming in limelight with escalating this type of issues.

  • aditya03-Dec-2014

    the population is hardly 1 crores of your club class highly educated people so you are a kind of minority who have such an exclusive knowledge and information but unfortunately rest of the 124 crores neither know about this nor they care about such thing, they are building toilets so don't bother them ok. it is winter, take blanket and have a good sleep.

  • Sajid04-Dec-2014

    Let me remind "criticism hurts". We are in awe of and addicted to a so called comedy show where most times, badly dressed stupid acts are so silly that it seems like a desperate amateurish effort. A few sharp and clever one liners are the only saving grace. Honestly speaking somethings wrong with most of us as an audience. How much stuff in one episode is actually funny without being abusive. Think about it.

  • Ankit Singh01-Dec-2014

    I suggest you to watch the stand-up comedy acts across the world. Almost each one of them uses different stereotypes and racial flavour to create humour. The best way to kill stereotypes is to laugh them out rather than sleeping over them with a serious demeanour. If you say that the comedy quotient of CNWK has deteriorated over a period of time and losing intelligent humour rapidly then I'll definitely agree with you but it'd be wrong to call it racial and derogatory.

  • Tushar Mody01-Dec-2014

    Kapil's programme is made to entertain....

  • vijay02-Dec-2014

    "Dil pe mat lo yaar!!!". It is comedy. Just laugh and forget. Do not bring racism and other ideas into this and spoil the fun.

  • Praveen Verma05-Dec-2014

    Everyone has the right to opine about what they feel about anything.I am in total disagreement to her views.If she does not like the show, who is asking her to watch it?

  • ajay pundir30-Nov-2014

    sure you are not alone there are people who dont like these cheap comedy shows, almost all shows are alike. only wah-wah on sab is diffrent and has a class apart. but I am not sure how many people watch it. I dont understand how people watch program like all current comedy shows. they are are cheap and just try to public make laugh at their cheap jokes. comedy show's host have to produce something which cannot be really good if it is every day.

  • Wiraj30-Nov-2014

    really nice article. one has to be unprejudiced even if he or she wants to create some fun and this responsibility becomes bigger while portraying some prototype or famous and well known personality. Very nice views. I particularly share those of yours about not being in to Kapil Sharma show and similar programs. it kind of disturbs me when others go on laughing with the lines and I find it creepy/ humiliating for someone or anyone.I congratulate you for expressing freely.

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