It’s strange. We have every variety of tearful domestic drama on our mainstream Hindi entertainment channels but practically nothing in the sitcom genre.
A scene from Nautanki Comedy Theatre on Colors
Unless you count Sab TV which is a full-fledged comedy channel. And I guess you have to count Sab TV, because its long-running show Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma, keeps showing up in the weekly list of top TV shows.
Dilip Joshi, who plays the lead role of Jethalal, a Gujarati businessman (a tautology if there was one), is fine, but watching his wife Daya Ben (played by actress Disha Wakani) is the equivalent of seeing (and hearing) nails scraping down a blackboard.
Not only does she appear to have a speech impediment, but the premise that imbecility = funny is, well, not funny.
Anyway, to come back to our mainstream entertainment channels. While sitcoms may be conspicuous by their absence, comedy shows are not.
Ever since Laughter Challenge became a hit on the now extinct Star One entertainment channel many years ago, stand-up comedy, mimicry, acts, gags are all very much part of mainstream programming. Sony’s Comedy Circus is a great example.
The best part about this trend: the host of talented funny men this genre has thrown up, such as Krushna-Sudesh, Kapil Sharma, Raju Srivastava etc. (also the mainstay of live shows and events, the fillers between performances).
Last week, Colors launched its new weekend comedy show – Nautanki Comedy Theatre, anchored by actors Tushhar Kapoor and Neha Dhupia.
The show has nothing to do with nautanki, though it does have a cast of recurring characters who perform a series of little skits/acts in a loosely connected story.
There are familiar names like Sumeet Raghavan, Kamya, Saloni etc – and old-time film villain Ranjeet (hardly, er, known for his comic timing). Of the two episodes telecast so far, the second one was far funnier: the characters included a Mr Kalia who runs Kingkisser Airlines and sells beer on Goa’s beaches since he’s so broke and so much in debt.
While some parts of the show were quite funny, the gag writing could have been better. I mean, viewers should be laughing out loud while watching, not just faintly smiling occasionally.
Meanwhile, I have to say that I’m on board Megha’s journey in Saeed Mirza’s Yeh Hai India Meri Jaan on Doordarshan (this is a show where a young city girl Megha, with a crew of five people, sets out to discover India, rather, north India).
She has just finished travelling through Gujarat, meeting – among other people – the Madharis, tribal herdsmen of the stunning Banni grasslands, whose lifestyles are precariously poised in the face of modern development.
But Megha and her crew also encounter a delightfully eccentric doctor in the town of Aadipur. Dr Ashok Aswani is a passionate Charlie Chaplin fan and runs a club dedicated to the great comedian.
He dresses up as Chaplin and wanders around the town, followed by a train of other club members (yes, all dressed like Chaplin), from children to an elderly gentleman with a walker.
As Megha moves into Rajasthan, I wonder who she will meet there!