If there is one complaint about our celebrities, it’s that they take themselves far too seriously. So it should have come as a pleasant surprise that three Bollywood celebrities decided to become the butt of all jokes at a show hosted in Mumbai by a comedy group. But instead of having a good laugh over The AIB Knockout, where actors Arjun Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and film director Karan Johar were roasted, the show has attracted flak from various organisations for the language and ‘obscene’ gestures used in it. Based on these objections, the Maharashtra government has ordered a probe.
A roast typically features the chief guests being poked fun at by a panel of judges in front of a live audience. The tenor and language vary from show to show but humour is the general theme. Criticism against and appreciation for the show, which was released on YouTube, have poured in. While many people lauded the ‘roastees’ for being able to laugh at themselves, some also found the language used crass and condemned it. However, the objections raised by a member of the Central Board of Film Certification, Ashoke Pandit, stood out for the crude words he used on Twitter to condemn the event and Mr Johar.
The level of intolerance to a form of art and, more importantly, the unseemly expressions used to condemn the event should raise the question as to whether Mr Pandit should not have focused on his job as a member of the censor board. Going by his tweet — which cannot be reproduced in print because of its content — it is clear that his understanding and tolerance of a genre he is not familiar with is limited. Definitely, criticism is an art form he is not comfortable with.
India is not a homogeneous country, but is a confluence of different customs and cultures. One should be mindful of people’s sentiments. But this does not mean that the government — or vigilante groups — dictate how artistes can work provided they do not break the law or go completely beyond the pale. A society moored in such an ancient civilisation as ours, where satire has been an accepted form of expression for centuries, should be able to withstand a little ribbing now and again.