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The death of comedy

Bollywood has sounded the death knell of comedy says Saibal Chatterjee.

entertainment Updated: Sep 08, 2005 18:27 IST

The joke's on Bollywood. A section of the Mumbai film industry has gone and sounded the death knell of genuine comedy even as the genre was on the verge of resurgence thanks to the Vidhu Vinod Chopra-produced bittersweet Munnabhai M.B.B.S. and Priyadarshan's rip-roaring Hera Pheri and Hungama.

That pronouncement may sound a bit strange given that several comic romps have raked in big bucks in recent months. But does anybody in his right mind really believe that the future of Hindi screen humour lies in flicks as imbecile as Masti,Kya Kool Hain Hum, Maine Pyaar Kyun Kiya and No Entry?

The producers of these mindless films have ridden all the way to the bank on the back of liberal doses of lowbrow adult humour. Fair enough. The ploy may have helped them fill their own coffers, but it has left the genre in a state of tatters.

Don't get me wrong. I have no quarrel per se with sex comedies. But can I dare to plead for a little intelligence and subtlety from Bollywood's bulls-before-a-red-rag filmmakers. They only end up giving sex comedies a bad name.

The multi-faceted Billy Wilder built his Hollywood career around films like Irma La Douce, Some Like it Hot and The Seven Year Itch, which extracted every ounce of wit possible from the battle of the sexes.

The whimsical Woody Allen has made a few good ones in his time as have the less cerebral Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. Swedish legend Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night was essentially a frolicsome sex comedy. So sex comedy doesn't always spell sleaze. But try telling Bollywood's balderdash peddlers that!

Closer home, even the likes of B.R. Chopra (Pati Patni Aur Woh), Basu Chatterjee (Shaukeen) and Hrishikesh Mukherjee (Sabse Bada Sukh and Rang Birangi) have successfully dabbled in the genre. Gulzar's unforgettable Angoor, one of the best comedies ever made in Mumbai, had moments of mature humour but they were so seamlessly dovetailed into the narrative that they only added an extra dimension to the verbal and situational wit inherent in the film.

Nobody really expects Gulzar-like refinement from the makers of Masti and Kya Kool Hai Hum, but can we hope to be spared the horrors of a sequel like the one the K2H2 guys are bent on hitting us with?

These exploitative, profit-seeking producers have sought to pass their films off as "harmless fun". Harmless they may be - they are so badly mounted and acted that they are unlikely to leave any impression on anybody's mind - but fun they certainly are not.

When you realise that one of these films, Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya, has been directed by the desperate-for-a-hit David Dhawan, the man who in the company of the delightfully zany Govinda had redefined Bollywood comedies in the 1990s, you know that the Mumbai industry's comic vein, weak at the best of times, has fallen upon really hard days.

Comedy is dead! The reason is obvious: when sex meets humour in a movie brew devoid of adequate acting and sufficiently sharp scripting, you have a concoction that isn't 'kool' at all.

Take No Entry as a case in point. Barring the old workhorse Anil Kapoor, there isn't a single actor in the film who really knows what it takes to be an actor. So what you end up with is a comedy that is a tragic waste of resources.

First Published: Sep 08, 2005 18:27 IST