Wednesday, July 28, 2010

With Ravi Baswani's death, it's the end of a generation of comedians in Bollywood who didn't have to try too hard to be funny

Making people laugh isn't easy. If you've tried it, specially at a gathering, you'll know. Unless you're one of those brilliant stand up and improv comedians.

When it comes to Bollywood movies, I think the subtlety is lost. It's very often loud, slapstick and a grating delivery of dialogues that our Hindi films try to pass off as comedy. I mostly squirm when our films attempt it. I'm not being mean here to an industry i dote on. It's just that I think we're not very good with the comic element.

I hate it most when actors make the jokes and then laugh at them themselves! That's supposed to be a cue for audience to laugh, i guess (duh!!) but it falls so flat on its face.

I also hate it when at a theatre, the audience is howling with laughter, holding their stomachs and doubling up and I'm feeling cheesed off. I mean, I doubt sometimes if I'm human at all. (When most in the theatre are crying, I'm often all giggly).

Most of us from my generation must have watched "Chashme Baddoor" and "Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron" and laughed and smiled, watching it every single time it came on TV. What makes Baswani different was that we laughed at his comic timing, we laughed at the situations and dialogues. We did not laugh at him.

In Bollywood, comedians were laughed at because they were fat. That's what happened to Tun Tun most often. People just saw her come on to the screen and laughed at her. They equated being fat with being laughable at. Then there was the comedian Lilliput who was supposed to inspire laughs because he was short. Most of the jokes/dialogues were about such physical attributes of the actors.

Let's admit it, (may his soul rest in peace) that Baswani wasn't exactly good looking. He also had a bit of cross-eye, something that he could have allowed directors to bank on or he could have used himself. But he didn't. He wasn't funny because of the way he looked. He genuinely had a comic sense, brought out excellently by directors like Sai Paranjpe and Kundan Shah.

I'm not one who subscribes to Priyadarshan's brand o slpastick over-the-top humour. I hate it when Paresh Rawal screams his dialogues (he's immensely talented, yes, but hie's equally great with emotional roles). I hate it even more when Akshay Kumar laughs that incredulous stupid laugh of his. I could never stand Jagdeeps' double entendre and loud jokes either in the films of yore. Even Lakshmikant Berde became unbearable with his exaggeration.

I'm no expert on films, and I can't give a point-by-poinbt criticism here. But all I'm saying is that there are very few comedians we've had who were great, individually, as well as in groups. They were offset by teh humour, chemistry and comic timing of another co-actor who held up their talent for us to see -- Satish Shah, Shafi Inamdar, Swaroop Sampat, Farooq Sheik, Rakesh Bedi, Deepti Nvl, Kader Khan (sometimes). But most of these people worked for me because of those around groups. Yes, Farooq and Deepti can't be termed comedians, but if you put these names together you know what kind of movies I'm talking about.

I could appreciate Johnny Lever only on some stage shows, never in films. Anupam Kher, I still believe is best at human, normal, emotional roles. Keshto Mukherjee just tripped on drunken humour.

Amitabh Bachchan (esp. "Chupke Chupke") and Aamir Khan have some good comic timing.

Whew...ok this is too longish a post. I hate reading them, I'm sure you do too. So I'll stop just liek that. Peace to Ravi Baswani.

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