Comedies: more boo hoo than ha ha

By Khalid Mohamed

They’re sureshot sellers. No matter how crass and cretinous, they do click. And so goes that chant all over again: it was AWFUL but it brought the big bucks home. So hyuk hyuk to all those who had issues with Humshakhals (by the way, its spoofs on internet were super brilliant), Grand Masti, Kya Kool Hain Hum part 2 or 20, Chashme Baddoor (a mangle of Sai Paranjpye’s original), and Main Tera Hero which is not likely to inspire Main Teri Heroine since David Dhawan has never ever gone woman-centric. Now that would be funneee.

Neither are you likely to be treated to a Pinky Sharma ki Dulhaniya. Because, our comedies just don’t tickle the ha-ha bone, unless the men dominate the scene. Once in a while, the leading lady gets away with equal footage. Alia Bhatt, the season’s current flavour, did in 2 States, or almost. The plot was narrated through the point of view of a scruffy Arjun Kapoor, addressing a psychiatrist, invisible but for her pad and pencil. What kind of notes she took, heaven knows.

Riteish Dehmukh

Riteish Deshmukh

Needless to report, spin-offs are on: House Full (mercy be, without Sajid Khan at the helm), Golmaal Next (presumably once Rohit Shetty is done with his more starry, car-demolition epics). A retread of Shaukeen  is on, about three oldies with a roving eye originally played by Ashok Kumar, A K Hangal and Utpal Dutt. Let’s see how Paresh Rawal, Annu Kapoor and Piyush Mishra step into their classic footwear. Sunny Leone is to show up in Mastizaade or some such, with Tusshar Kapoor who still has to escape the cheesy ghetto. Of late Riteish Deshmukh turned Ek Villain with a steely gaze, so he just might be spared of any more of those trouser-dropping farces. Bully for him.

Back to the key point. Vulgarity and derivative humour are popular. So what’s my or anyone’s problem? The problem is that rank BAD films with no taste, no originality and certainly no cinematic worth, don’t have to be applauded just because of the stacks of cash they make. So do several trades and businesses, which none of us are likely to condone simply because they’re profitable. If laughing gas sells, so do toxic substances.

And whether it’s Golmaal or Khatta Meetha, why can’t the film’s producer, director, writer or the producer’s wife – whoever firms the title – devise an original one? Why rake up the memories of the chucklefests of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterji? Sorry, the Next-in-line Gen hasn’t matched up. And that’s this monsoon’s mega-understatement.

Moreover, every comedy today depends largely if not entirely on muttonheaded humour, poking fun at the ‘dames’ and turning them into sex objects. The heroine huff and puff, the heroes slap them, call them all sorts of names. In the case of the lamentable Kambaqht Ishq, a male cutlet had sauced, “Women are good only for one thing!”, a statement that raised a controversy of sorts and was damage controlled by the PR machinery.

Besides the male chauvinism, slapstick is of the done-to-death kind: exiting and entering out of the wrong doors, hiding under the bed…or in the closet, and ho-ham-ham, overdoing the digs at gays, overweight people and occasionally, even at physically impaired characters like those who can’t speak, see or hear.

And it goes without saying that elements of the screenplays are lifted from DVDs ranging from the Ben Stiller and Jim Carrey flicks to the earlier Hollywood ribticklers of Jerry Lewis, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. No one seeks to beg, borrow and steal from a Charlie Chaplin though. Too difficult to adapt, obviously. Curiously enough, the ‘Dance of the Bread Rolls’ sequence from Chaplin’s Gold Rush was lifted in Anurag Basu’s Kites. Now that was funny, albeit unintentionally.



Humour is appealing when it isn’t laboured. To display underpants, naadas, and go “Awoooo” as if in heat, like Shakti Kapoor did in the David Dhawan films of yore, is plainly execrable. The hyper-risque ‘comedies’, from the early Dhawan Bhawan, initiated the degradation of Bollywood entertainers. Sarkailo khatiya left nothing to the imagination, and Govindabhai had no second thoughts on making the audience chortle with absurd songs like, Teri nani mari to main kya karoon and Meri pant bhi sexy. Kadar Khan added salt to the comedy wounds with nonsensical dialogue on the lines of, “Main tere bheje ka falooda bana doonga.” Falooda indeed.

Dhawan may have tamed down a trifle from those uber lewd days, but wasn’t beyond displaying Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan in Hawaiian hula skirts in Mujhse Shaadi Karogi. Oftentimes, he has claimed inspiration from Manmohan Desai, but the nerves jangle when you think of a remake of the chocolate-box fantasy Amar Akbar Anthony featuring Salman Khan with brothers Arbaaz and Sohail in the eponymous roles. The remake was announced but yaaay…scrapped.

Besides a lack of truly hilarious storylines and catchy music, today the genre is devoid of an actor who excels in the funny business. No one can compare to the comic stealth of Guru Dutt (Mr and Mrs 55), Kishore Kumar (Half Ticket, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi), Dharmendra (Chupke Chupke, Pratiggya) or strike up the comic timing of say Amol Palekar and Ashok Kumar in Chhotisi Baat.

No gamine Madhubala, Geeta Bali or Sridevi on the scene today. Katrina  Kaif, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Priyanka Chopra are not likey to be described as ‘spontaneous comediennes’ either. Deepika Padukone in Chennai Express? Not bad, but only by contrast to Shah Rukh Khan who majorly hammed.

Dilip Kumar in Ram Aur Shyam

Ram aur Shyam

Back to the intuitively comic actors, Amitabh Bachchan in Manmohan Desai’s Amar Akbar Anthony, Naseeb and in Prakash Mehra’s Namak Halaal was nothing short of spectacular. And who can forget the delights served by the awesomely versatile Dilip Kumar in Azad, Kohinoor and Ram aur Shyam?

Clearly it isn’t nostalgia which makes a connoisseur of comedy stick to the vintage giggle inducers besides regretting the fact that the comedian  per se is extinct. There are no supporting actors of the calibre of Johnny Walker, Mehmood, I S Johar around. Once Johnny Lever entered, the comedian became a cross-dresser, dished out in the plot as an add-on. Inevitably, subsequently the heroes appropriated the comedy track, not  always successfully. Ask Emraan Hashmi to segue into the comedy mode, and you’ll wince. Ajay Devgan, glum faced, tries but is infinitely superior in roles demanding dramatic intensity.

Lavishly budgeted films made in the name of escapism bank on scripts which are contrived to titillate the audience. Some examples: Anees Bazmee (No Entry), Vipul Shah (Namaste London) and Rohit Shetty’s Golmaal series. These have sought to cram in as much macho heroism, female subjugation and a senselessness as they possibly can.

All these directors are neither expert technicians nor skillful story-tellers. They have banked on star power and puerile plots to hook the audience to their “time-pass” first weekend grossers. In the event, none of the directors is likely to be remembered for his film’s spontaneity, easy wit and unbridled humour.


Suniel Shetty, Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar in Hera Pheri

Occasionally, and that’s the key word, occasionally, Priyadarshan did deliver a technically-superior and lighthearted stumble-bumble film. His Hera Pheri was sought to be franchised but lost it way somewhere in the production banner jungles. Oddly, he did not direct the second Hera Pheri. Priyadarshan’s flaw has been his tendency to hack comedies out ceaselessly. Forget Hollywood and Malayalam remakes, bro. Maybe he has after his unfortunate Jacky Bhagnani hotch-potch Rangrezz.

Arguably, two of the best made-in-Mumbai comedies after the black-and-white era happen to be Kundan Shah’s satire Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, and Rajkumar Santoshi’s zippy Andaz Apna Apna. To them, I would add Kishore Kumar’s far-out Badhti ka Naam Daadhi. Now that was comedy.

Today, there are more tears than laughter.

Follow Khalid Mohamed at @Jhajhajha on Twitter

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3 replies »

  1. “Main Tera Hero which is not likely to inspire Main Teri Heroine since David Dhawan has never ever gone woman-centric”

    correction He did made Biwi No. 1

    Superb article


  2. I am surprised there is no mention of Sunil Dutt, Mehmood and Kishore Kumar starrer ‘Padosan’. Thats a comic caper that still elicits laughs.


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