Akshay Kumar flew into a rage on the sets of a TV comedy show and pushed a comedian after several humiliating jokes were cracked about his co-stars Lisa Haydon and Jacqueline Fernandez. One performer said Lisa looked like a kangaroo, since she came from Australia, and there was also a comment about looking like a ‘black African’.
The actors were appearing on the sketch comedy show Comedy Nights Bachao to promote their new film, and while some of the lines penned by the scripting team were genuinely funny, others were clearly low-brow.
While the format of the show necessitates insults, there is a clear line between what is funny and what is just plain racist, sexist or disgusting.
Whatever Akshay Kumar’s reactions were, it is time that we as a nation demand more maturity in the humour put forth in TV shows and in Bollywood too. We still have so many movies making fun of people who are dark-skinned. Skin colour is a huge target that continues to reinforce the myth that fair is good, dark is bad. Dwarfism is another common target, with filmmakers forgetting that it is a physical condition and there is nothing funny about being a dwarf. Then there is the poor and infantile depiction of gay persons in our movies. Though there are a smattering of movies that are now portraying the community in a more nuanced light, the fact is that there are still movies that depict a limp-wristed stereotype of gay people.
Fat people are also targeted routinely in our movies. Shown as slow and even repulsive at times, they are the butt of jokes from an industry that venerates the sleek, six-pack gods, and disses fat people as slothful souls. These are caricatures of people, parodies at best to be pitied, laughed or simply dismissed as aberrations.
We need classier scripts, a more empathetic approach and an eye for the truly funny, rather than the gross filch that is sometimes dished out as comedy. Let us come of age as a nation when it comes to humour.