Laughing at ourselves

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When All India Bakchod took to the Sydney stage

AIB.Indian Link
Satish Bate/Hindustan Times

Comedian Tanmay Bhatt was hilarious as he ripped into Indian journalists’ behaviour towards celebrities as compared to their western counterparts.

“Journos on a Hollywood red carpet are like, ‘Hi Brad, Hi Angelina, you look lovely… who are you wearing…?’ Indian journos on a Bollywood red carpet on the other hand, lose every inch of their dignity (acts like he’s taking off his clothes), AISHWARYA PHOTO!! AISHWARYA BYTE!! AISHWARYA PHOTO!! AISHWARYA BYTE!!”

Of course he was trying to be funny, but it was almost as if he was recounting a recent real life Sydney event at which Indian journos descended wildly on a bewildered Aishwarya as she arrived to launch her signature watch at Longines.

But that is exactly what Tanmay and his partners-in-crime in All India Bakchod (AIB) do – lampoon contemporary Indian society and show it off for how ridiculous it can be.

AIB.Indian Link

And as his imaginary Aishwarya walked off the stage, Tanmay was still in character, shouting after her, “Bachcha kiska hai?” No, we are not going to translate that for non-Hindi readers, it is that rude.

Rude, that’s the other thing that AIB do. And they do it so well that rude would actually be a polite word. Indeed, they themselves would qualify “rude” with an adjective beginning with f.

AIB was at their rudest best as they took to the stage in Sydney recently.

AIB.Indian Link

Tanmay Bhat, Gursimran Khamba, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya rose to fame in India in 2013 as YouTube comedians but hit the national headlines with their infamous Roast which the Sanskaris took umbrage against. Ultimately, the protestors ate humble pie as AIB’s popularity went through the roof. Today, they are India’s best known comedy act, courageous in their attempt to lampoon the desh in times when all kinds of unnecessary boundaries are being drawn.

AIB.Indian Link

On the Sydney stage, AIB were joined by Abish Matthew another emerging star in Indian comedy.

The sell-out audience at the Enmore Theatre was also a revelation. Largely in their 20s and 30s they were seeking entertainment not traditionally offered by community providers and lapping up every minute of it.

AIB took the mickey out of anybody and everybody – politicians, Bollywood stars, cricketers, journalists, homophobes, the youth, the buzurgs, their own parents, themselves, Indians, Aussies, Americans, Koreans, the French, even Pakistanis, and admittedly only outside of India, the Shiv Sena!

AIB.Indian Link

Rohan took on his people the Gujjus: Lots of Gujaratis in the audience? Oh, so we are giving out complimentary tickets. Indians are the only people on the planet who travel thousands of miles to be with other Indians.

Khamba did the same for Sikhs: As a Sikh I have to say Manmohan Singh has really brought our community down… especially after all the good work Mika Singh has been doing.

Ashish Shakya channelled his own and all parents in their never-ending reminiscences about their impoverished childhood, despite their currently comfortable lives, and yet proclaiming: Hum Phir Bhi Khush The (But we were happy and content). Yeah, right!

Abish Matthew was brilliant with his take on toilet habits in public and what the nonverbal behaviour of cricketers really means.

In an interview on Indian Link Radio in the lead up to their Australia tour, Ashish Shakya unabashedly admitted Russell Peters was their major inspiration. (Russell must feel tickled pink to have become the Salman Rushdie of the stand-up world in India, inspiring a generation of comics in a new career just like Rushdie spurred on young writers).

Their mentor though would probably give them a few more lessons on audience interaction as they picked on those front seaters somewhat less successfully, but, hey, we’re just nit-picking here – in a show that otherwise went of superbly. And while we’re nit-picking, AIB, we expected a bit more Aussie content. So you had the mandatory convict joke, vegemite, Masterchef and Sydney/Melborune rivalry but perhaps there’s more material out there – Johnny Depp and the dogs, the Aussie cricketers well known in India that shoot off at the mouth…

As comedians, they were no doubt playing for a laugh. But as social commentators, which is ultimately what they are – whether they admit it or not, they were really holding up a mirror to modern-day India.

#WeAreLikeThatOnly