TV channel’s ‘self-censorship’ on Modi-Rahul jokes proves India has got no sense of humour
New Delhi, Oct 27: Go to YouTube and check out popular American television comedy shows, you will be inundated with provocative jokes on President Donald Trump. In fact, since Trump became the President of America, there is literally a proliferation of jokes around him and his administration, where popular comics--be it Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert or Jimmy Kimmel-- unabashedly roast Trump and his cronies.
Now, let's take the case of India. We too have several comedy shows on TV and yes, nobody dares to crack "political jokes". So, all we have is full of husband-wife and saas-bahu (mother-in-law and daughter-in-law) old jokes boring us to death.
The reality is that India's promising comedy industry is not the result of television channels. Thanks to stand-up comics, who are brave, brash and love to criticise our politicians, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, that we get to laugh a bit amid all distressing episodes.
Moreover, we have a burgeoning social media, in spite of its own pitfalls, has helped comedians let loose themselves and crack a joke or two to the chagrin of our politicians.
That is why we have dedicated social media handles/accounts taking regular digs at Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rahul, the Congress and Lalu Prasad Yadav, to name a few.
However, in spite of all our laughter doses, the Indian audience grudgingly feels the absence of political satire on our TV channels (although we have 100s of TV channels).
Many say it was better during the Doordarshan era, when the public service broadcaster was the only TV channel in the country till late 80s, where the channel in spite of being run by the government had occasional mild fun at the expense of our VIPs by a few Hindi comedians on a couple of shows.
The issue of political satire on the small screen hogged the limelight on Thursday, when a young and promising stand-up comedian, Shyam Rangeela, popular for impersonating our netas on social media, accused that entertainment TV channel, Star Plus, in one its comedy shows, judged by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, gagged his jokes on PM Modi and Rahul.
Rangeela said he was asked not to poke fun at PM Modi and Congress VP Rahul when he did a skit for a comic reality show, "The Great Indian Laughter Challenge".
The entire "self-censorship" by Star Plus against the 22-year-old comedian started after the private channel invited him to perform on its popular show.
He said though his stand-up was appreciated he was asked to prepare fresh material in a short time as the channel did not want to offend anyone.
"Before they called me to perform on the show, they knew I specialised in mimicking politicians like Modiji and Rahul Gandhi. Initially, they said not to mimic Modi but were okay with poking fun at Rahul," he told PTI.
Rangeela claimed after a month of shooting, he was asked to shoot with new gags as the channel would not air the Modi-Rahul jokes on air.
"Later, they said I can't mimic either of them. They asked me to prepare a new skit in five days--without mimicking Modi-Rahul. I told them I would not be able to put up a fresh stand-up in such a short time. But I did prepare something and did the shoot. It was not impressive enough as it led to my elimination from the show," he said.
In spite of the channel staying away from airing Rangeela's controversial political skit, it has now gone viral on social media.
The comic said he did not know how the video with the original skit landed online. He said he got to know that the previous one was available online after someone tagged him on Facebook.
"Someone tagged me with the video on Facebook and I was happy it had gone viral. But I don't know who put it out. But I think it must be someone from the production team."
Regarding the entire issue of "ban on his jokes", Rangeela said he does not want to be a part of the controversy.
"I was really hassled the two months that I was there. I have told the channel that I don't want any more trouble. But what happened with me was wrong," he said.
As several media houses wrote/broadcasted the news on gag order on the young comic, the TV channel refused to clarify its position on the entire matter.
Although till now there is so evidence that the TV channel has been asked by any individual or organisation to stop airing jokes on Modi and Rahul, observers say that Star Plus's controversial decision is a classic case of "self-censorship stemming from the fear of challenging the might of powerful people".
Probably, Modi is right when he tweeted earlier this year that "we surely need more humour in public life".
We surely need more humour in public life. https://t.co/AKo0WN6KzC— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 17, 2017
Unfortunately, Star Plus did not pay heed to Modi's grouse on lack of humour in public life and decided to "ban" Rangeela's hilarious skit poking fun at both Modi and Rahul.
You can watch Rangeela's complete video below: