It's the world's most unoriginal thought but boy, is it true. After being bombarded by non-stop gloom and doom - a continuous mix of bad news and self-flagellation ('we are so corrupt, we treat our women, children - and plenty of men too - so badly, we are so casteist and classist and communal and racist, we are doing such a useless job on the economy, it's a miracle we get anything right at all etc etc'), all of us (or at least definitely me) need to laugh a little at our sad situation. Before we manage to mess even that up (or before it is declared illegal, and zealous upholders of the law - such as a certain police inspector in Mumbai - begin enforcing the law with, er, zeal), we should quickly try and watch Laugh India Laugh, the latest avatar of The Great Indian Laughter Challenge.
Laughter Challenge used to air on the now-defunct Star One channel and was probably the first real stand-up comedy show on Indian TV. It had some of the biggest names of Hindi comedy, from the inimitable Raju Srivastava to other funny men such as Naveen Prabhakar, Sudesh Lehri etc. Since the format was such a success, it was only a matter of time before it was revived - which it has been, on Life OK, the channel that has replaced Star One.
The stand-up comics on the show include people from all over the country - and from across the border too. Yes, there is some regular stuff (husband-wife jokes etc) but it's mercifully very little. Most of the acts are full of sharp, biting humour and no one and nothing is spared - whether it is politicians in UP or the Punjab police, baba Ramdev or the importance of speaking Marathi in Mumbai.
Most of the comics are also excellent mimics and bring the house down with their flawless imitations, whether it's their take on a village simpleton called Gauri who arrives in Mumbai for the first time or a Bollywood star.
The judges panel consists of comedy veteran Shekhar Suman, actor Chunky Pandey and singer Mika. All three laugh a lot and make uniformly encouraging noises. In the time honoured fashion of such comedy shows, the hostess is a PYT called Ishita who usually appears in short, tight dresses and high heels that could pass off as stilts. If only she would say her lines with equal style. I'm not suggesting you need a PhD in acting to host a show of this nature, but a slightly better performer would not be a bad idea.
Zee has started yet another fiction show, called Rab Se Sona Ishq. As the title suggests, this is a Punjabi show in Hindi. So bhangra dancers, tractor races, swaying yellow fields (alas, not mustard, but sunflower) are de rigeur.
Our heroine is yet another heroine in the grand tradition of chirpy, lively heroines given to skipping about the mustard fields, having long conversations with Godji (in this case a mannat wale baba), buying bangles at the local mela and in general being so cute that you can't make out if she's crossed 18 or if she's still stuck at age eight.
There appear to be two heroes: one is the peppy heroine's raffish fiancé and the other is the nice, decent village do-gooder. It seems as if the story will soon shift to London. So if parandis and puttars in vilayat are your scene, this is the show for you.