I remember watching an interview with the mild-mannered Amol Palekar once, in which he pointed out, in characteristic gentle fashion, that in most Hindi films, the director’s idea of a laugh was to show someone sitting down on a cake, for instance, or slipping on a banana peel. I must have been about 12 at the time, and I can’t explain why I remember these words so clearly.
But everything is for a reason. Hence I keep going back to Palekar’s observation as I watch one Bollywood comedy after another, during what is supposedly an era of rejuvenation for a neglected genre. And all I can say is, it was far better off neglected. For every Masti, No Entry, Heyy Baby and Partner, I would recommend umpteen reruns of Golmaal, Naram Garam, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron and Chashme Buddoor.
What is it with us viewers? What makes us describe crass, loud, vulgar, unfunny, crashingly dull films as ‘comedy’? Each of those adjectives — and then some — would apply to each ‘new’ Bollywood comedy that I have mentioned above.
And the worst part is that this seemingly endless flood of drivel seems to find more takers by the day. How else would one explain the creation of the nonsensical Welcome? Having failed to sit through it (and calling myself all kinds of a fool because I had sworn never to try and watch ‘new’ Bollywood comedy again), I keep wondering why we can no longer find humour in normal, everyday situations.
That there is no longer any room for subtle, cerebral humour is evident, but in the hands of the new breed of new comedy film makers, even slapstick is no longer funny. I mean, Rajkumar Santoshi made Andaz Apna Apna not so very long ago (13 years is no too long, surely?). Can’t we at least aspire to that standard instead of wallowing in unadulterated excreta?