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Rise of the spoofs

Batman, Superman or The Hulk are arguably some of the most memorable superheroes of all time. But what if Batman became Baatmaan (check it out on YouTube!), another sort-of superhero who has just one special power – gullibility?

brunch Updated: Feb 16, 2013 17:53 IST
Manit Moorjani

Batman, Superman or The Hulk are arguably some of the most memorable superheroes of all time. But what if Batman became Baatmaan (check it out on YouTube!), another sort-of superhero who has just one special power – gullibility? Add to that a dollop of naivete, and you have a character that travels in a bus wearing his Bat Suit, visits an auto dealer to find a replacement for his missing Batmobile and gets duped by The Joker quite easily. Go online and you’ll even find a post-metamorphosis Spiderman. Only here his name is Makkad Man and the Municipal Corporation is after him for leaving webs all over the city!

From the Mahabharat scene in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro to Amul topicals every week; from Saturday Night Live to movies such as Scary Movie and Tere Bin Laden; from newspaper strip cartoons to cola wars, we are being inundated with spoofs. Online videos such as Baatmaan and Rowdies, which went viral with thousands of views are only making the lampoon genre more popular. Plus, thousands of spoofy images are posted on Facebook every hour, mocking a football, cricket or an examination paper. Nothing. it seems is sacred, it’s all fodder for parody now!

Cracking the Spoof code

So what makes a spoof so appealing? "It is a natural human feeling to want to see someone getting screwed," says ad man Josy Paul, the man behind BlackBerry’s recent ‘Action Starts Here’ campaign, and one whose visiting card spoofs his own life. Instead of an office address, it has a car and a flight number. He’s travelling most of the time, you see! "We do it on an everyday basis, when we mock someone or a stereotype concerning Punjabis, Tamils, Gujaratis and others. Spoofs just do it more professionally," he explains. The main objective of a spoof is to elicit laughter for the moment. And it works because people want to see the funny side of their heroes. "If an important guy slips on a banana peel, everyone will laugh," Paul says. "That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it’s funny. If just anybody slips on the peel, it isn’t as funny. That’s why many movies show bloopers as the credits roll."

Film Spoof

When it comes to parody, there is a clear difference between what works and what doesn’t. Prashant Raj, co-director with The Viral Fever, a Mumbai-based spoof-video house, says that something like Shah Rukh slapping a guard can turn out to be a very funny spoof. "So, we take people like Shah Rukh, Salman or Raghu Ram and make a spoof around their eccentricities. What can also be spoofed well are events around them." Raj should know. The Viral Fever’s popularity began with a show called Rowdies, which poked fun at the original Roadies. Certain things are still off-limits. "Unlike the US, in India nobody spoofs politics as it is very risky," he says. "It is only now that Indians are warming up – a little bit – to making fun of

themselves. Spoofs are another indication of this new sensibility."

Riding on pop culture
Most spoofs take off from where a popular story or film or animation series ends. Whether it is Rowdies and Baatmaan in the Indian online space, the How It Should Have Ended series worldwide, or even Supermen of Malegaon, all these have been inspired by a popular movie or TV series, says documentary filmmaker Nitin Sukhija, best known for his satirical portrayal of the Malegaon film industry. “Shah Rukh is always the good guy with his arms wide open. Now if I see the villain beating him instead, or if he suddenly becomes grumpy, it can be very funny. A good spoof has shock value,” he adds.

Food for laughs
A good parody should make you laugh, but it’s only an excellent one that can also make you think. A Guide To Smoking, a 5-minute spoof film, for instance, mocks the unhealthy habit. “With spoofs, people hit out at established ideas,” says Gaurav Raturi, part of the Filmb-ooth group that hosted Spoofhmania, a six-day spoof-film and video festival in Delhi some time ago. Subhashini Dewada, one half of the duo Subhashani-Vinimay, which won the Best Short Film Award at the festival for Creamerica, which takes potshots at both James Bond and CID, says that even someone not into serious cinema is attracted to a spoof, “as it is wrapped up in comedy and still raises the issue.” Spoofs of such iconic lines as “mere paas maa hai” and “kitne aadmi they?” in ads have, perhaps, contributed to their longer shelf life. Those who wrote these lines might have never imagined the cult status they’d attain!

SpoofBetter Spoof than Goof

His name is Shafiq Bachchan, though his real name is Shafiq Ansari. And he can get into any Amitabh Bachchan role without breaking into a sweat. And why shouldn’t he? Ansari has reprised Big B in every movie that the Malegaon parallel film industry has churned out. The same goes for Irfan Ilyas, their very own Gabbar. From being a R50,000 venture with a cassette video recorder, the Malegaon industry has gone on to become a lucrative spoof factory. "The people of Malegaon spoof out of necessity. They have no other option," says Nitin Sukhija, who went there as a journalist to write about the industry, but stayed back and made a documentary about it. "From where do we get a train for the robbery sequence in Sholay?" asks Ilyas. "So we use the best deluxe bus available in the town. For the horses, we have no option but to use cycles!" The local Malegaon touch to Sholay: When Thakur gets hurt, he isn’t taken to a hospital, but to the Wadia Dava Khana, a local clinic, instead!

From HT Brunch, February 17

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