Not even dark humour

Published: 03rd October 2016 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd October 2016 11:27 PM   |  A+A-

On Wednesday, news reports indicated that another comedy ‘roast’ had gone south.
In this case, it was roast of actor Tannishtha Chatterjee, who according to her own social media posts, agreed to participate in a popular television show as part of promotions of an upcoming movie. She claimed to have walked out of the show after all the jokes about her focused on her skin tone. While the television channel subsequently apologised, there are two key issues that have become topics of conversation.
What are the limits of comedy and freedom of expression? While Indian law does not protect free speech to the extent of laws in other western countries, in recent years there has been a growing demand for the limitations on free speech to be limited. This comes in response to censorship, a knee-jerk practice that various entities still adopt and call for when faced with works that they or others may find offensive. These entities, unfortunately, include the State.
To that end, comedy—even comedy that is in bad taste—must be defended and protected to evolve freely. Arguments against bad jokes are fair game. Chatterjee calling out such comedy too is fair, as she is not insisting that comedians be censored.
However, in recent years there has been a boom of comedy shows—on television and other media. Unfortunately much of the comedy that is emerging has been out of sync with the nuances of social justice—evidenced by homophobic humour in the famous AIB roast. Comedy can be a powerful weapon in challenging the status quo.
 Unfortunately, in the case of Wednesday’s roast, in India it too often seems to settle for reinforcing the status quo.
Even as women have stepped up to challenge the need for fairness creams, as certain countries have even banned such products, to only be able to find humour in the skin tone of an Indian actress is not just sad, it is downright lazy.


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