How Kapil Sharma made comedy a business of mocking women

Have we failed to register how deep-rooted sexism really is in our society?

 |  4-minute read |   23-09-2015
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It's not a story you've never heard before. A small town man comes to the big city with eyes full of dreams. He struggles for survival, scouts for opportunities to showcase his talent and after many years of struggling, interspersed with dollops of failures and a sprinkle of success here and there, he manages to make it big. All it takes is one opportunity that turns him from random nobody to the nation's latest funny man. Yes, there's nothing original about Kapil Sharma's story. Yet, his rise to stardom is one that cannot be ignored. His weekend comedy date with the average Indian family is steady and now he's even making his foray into filmdom, as the leading man no less. And yet, there's still nothing original about his story. Neither his rags-to-riches rise, nor his jokes. And certainly not his sexist mindset that's more than evident in both his TV show and his upcoming debut movie.

In a country such as India, it's routine to mock women. Whether it's a Tamil magazine branding leggings as vulgar, or uncouth Twitter users trolling female actors for voicing their opinion on the controversial meat ban, look around and you'll find an instance of female-bashing almost every day. It's no surprise then that one of television's most-watched shows, Comedy Nights with Kapil, happens to be one where a man generates most of the laughs while ridiculing his on-screen wife for her looks, a woman plays his desperate-to-get-married aunt and two men dress in drag, one portraying a drunk, forever ready-to-kiss-men grandmother and the other playing to the hilt the dumb girl-next-door stereotype. The fact that all this in the name of comedy generates large number of TRPs isn't a joke though. What's worse is that the same man now gets a chance to bring this buffoonery on the big screen, making more money and getting more popular.

Call it occupational hazards or whatever else you please but I happened to watch the trailer of an upcoming comedy movie that marks the debut of Kapil Sharma in Bollywood. The film has this overrated funnyman married to three women with a girlfriend on the side as he goes about fooling each of them and asking, perhaps the audience, Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon? There's also Arbaaz Khan in the movie playing a deaf character, perhaps out to prove that his earlier films weren't his career worst yet. The trailer isn't funny from any stretch of imagination but the film is directed by Abbas-Mustan so perhaps the real joke lies somewhere there.

What the film promises is basically a big-scale version of the kind of comedy that's got Kapil his success. All the three women playing his wives are not just unknown actors but in the movie, dumb and pativrata enough to not realise that they're all living in the same building, one on top of the other. As for his girlfriend, she's busy baring her body as you're left wondering exactly why would she, a decent looking woman, bother dating someone who looks as generic as Kapil Sharma. There's another scene where one of Kapil's wives is busy fighting over his underwear with the maid, both claiming they can identify his underwear better. And all this is supposed to be funny.

When he first started making fun of his on-screen wife on his TV show, the jokes, though extremely sexist, were still spared till they became a permanent fixture. Now, every time the woman walks on screen, you can expect a dozen lines that insult everything about her from her lips to her face and sometimes even her family. And let's not even begin on the other characters, each belittling women better than another. Everything about that show reeks of sexism and reduces women to either a caricature or something so silly, you can't help but laugh at. And with his upcoming movie, he's planning take things further.

How is all this comedy?

Objectifying women or showing them as downright dumb, over and over again is nothing but lazy writing, not to forget a reflection of our society's innate image of how women should be. And the fact that these things continue to rake in the ratings further proves the point. The show is watched by people in big cities and smaller towns alike and enjoyed by men and women both. Is this a sign that as a nation we find nothing funnier than women being made fun of? Or are we so used to nasty remarks being made about them that we've failed to register how deep-rooted sexism really is in our society?  

Why blame just the politicians, for they are as much a part of our society as us, the ones who weekend-after-weekend laugh at Kapil's ridiculous mocking of women in the name of "comedy". We're the ones who'll probably throng the theatres next to watch his debut movie ensuring he gets a chance to make many such stupid, downright disgusting movies again.

Writer

Saurav Bhanot Saurav Bhanot @sauravbhanot

Writer, wannabe fashionista and not one to mince words. Also, traveller by heart and yogi by soul.

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