A group of comedians in India recently put together a roast comedy show -- featuring some of Bollywood's biggest names – but they greatly underestimated the backlash that would await them.
In the traditionally suppressed Indian society, where anything and everything – including PDAs – can offend masses, insult public sentiments and lead to legal prosecution, the troupe known as All India Bakchod (AIB) organized a show based on the format of the famous Comedy Central Roast.
Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor – two of India's hottest young actors – volunteered to be roasted, despite knowing that they will be subjected to some of the vilest jokes by a panel full of foul-mouthed jokesters. The show took place in front of a capacity crowd of 4,000, and went viral as soon as its video was posted on YouTube.
But just a few days later, the webisode which fetched Rs. 4million for various charities, was removed from the video sharing site. Such was the barrage of criticism and threats of legal repercussions that AIB actually took the video down itself. The condemnation, which began on Twitter, soon boiled over as the Maharashtra government assured its fuming citizens that it would review the show tape for obscenity and take appropriate actions. It didn't take long for FIRs to be launched.
By now, a show that was supposed to make people laugh had ended up highlighting the age-old divide of liberals and conservatives in the Indian society. Twitter trends #AIBNationalShame and #WeStandByAIB sum up these two ways of thinking perfectly.
The Indian censor board member and filmmaker Ashoke Pandit also joined in on the opposition of lewd jokes cracked on the show. Ironically, he did so by abusing roastmaster Karan Johar and his mum. It got so ugly that the comedy quarter behind the harmless roast had to retract the video with this statement:
"...Things got to a point where people who have supported us, people who work hard to make what we do come to life, were put in a position where things could get deeply unpleasant for them. And that’s a problem. We can live with abuse, hate, anger, fury, rage, ignorance, bigotry and perhaps even bullying. But we don’t want anybody to get hurt because of us. And we do mean anybody."
Actresses Sonakshi Sinha and Alia Bhatt – who both attended the show and were the butt of several x-rated jokes – summarized Indian narrow-mindedness perfectly in these tweets:
So nice to see twitter is filled with such angels who point out hypocrisy n never use foul language n have nvr laughed at dirty jokes (haw)— Sonakshi Sinha (@sonakshisinha) February 3, 2015
Some "not taking life so seriously" lessons are needed. DESPERATELY!!!!— Alia Bhatt (@aliaa08) February 3, 2015
India may be progressing and it may also soon overtake China as the world's fastest growing economy, but the hostile reception to AIB Knockout indicates it still has a long way to go before it can take a joke.