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The decline of comedy in Bollywood
10th Aug 2008 22.30 IST
By Nikhil Kumar
Can you recall the last time you saw a real good Bollywood comedy with a credible story and a cohesive script?
I can't. Because comedy in Bollywood has of late become synonymous with everything that is nonsensical, campy and over-the-top. Just cram in as many gags as you can; to hell with the script. Rope in a superstar with a charm to pull the crowds, cast a stunner opposite him and - if the producer's pocket permits - get some American or English band or singer to croon a song in between. And voila, a corny comedy is ready to be served. Sadly, that seems to be the mantra of filmmakers nowadays. And, to be fair, there's not much wrong in it when there are people to lap it up. The only trouble is that such no-brainers become a norm and spell a slow death of the comedy genre. And that's no laughing matter.
Take, for instance, a classic comedy like 'Chupke Chupke'. At the bottom of the film is a tight script with properly fleshed out characters. Not even a single gag is deliberately squeezed in and yet there are hilarious moments aplenty. This seamless interweaving of gags into the backbone of the story was what the real mastery of making a comedy film used to be. And such movies have great repeat-view value. You can watch them again and again and still find joy out of the known jokes. Be it 'Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi' or 'Golmaal', 'Satte Pe Satta' or 'Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron', Hera-Pheri or Lage Raho Munnabhai - such films become memorable classics.
The same can't be said of the present-day monstrosities like Welcome or Partner which have turned the whole way of making comedy films on its head. The script or the story isn't important at all. Nor is of any significance the progression in the plot. Such trivial things are secondary. What matters is the number of jokes (not necessarily their quality or originality). The more the better. Depending on these gags, the situations in these films are moulded and contrived, and at times superficially tagged on like some appendage.
Almost all the recent comedies by Anees Bazmee qualify the aforesaid formula. They are all nothing but a series of gags strung together to give the semblance of a story. The only reason they succeeded is because they had a charismatic star to carry off the stupidity with élan.
The same goes for Singh Is Kinng , which is much much better than Bazmee's previous torture (Welcome) but way way below what can convincingly be called a true-blue laugh riot. Yep.
What works in the film is Akshay Kumar and Akshay Kumar alone. Take Akshay out and the film falls flat on its face with all its goofiness and buffoonery. I know these remarks may raise many a hackle, but guys please consider this for a moment.
For how long can filmmakers continue to conceal their sub-standard product behind charismatic stars and big production houses? A no-brainer comedy once in a while isn't a bad thing, but should comedy necessarily have no brains? Does it have to be senseless and stupid to make you laugh? Is intelligent comedy a bad, forbidden thing that we should not expect from our filmmakers?
The truth is - forgive the cliché - comedy is a serious business and a difficult one at that. And it takes a real master like Kundan Shah or Hrishikesh Mukherjee or even Manmohan Desai to get about this business.
Lage Raho Munnabhai
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