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AIB’s New Show That’s Not Just Funny Business: Should You Watch?

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By Rohini Banerjee:

“You remember corruption? It’s that thing you used to care about before beef,” wisecracks All India Bakchod’s Rohan Joshi, and, in its very first few minutes, sets the tone for a show which, for India’s most talked-about comedy collective, is a foray into completely new territory. ‘On Air With AIB’, the comic quartet’s first television outing, and first tryst with hands-on news comedy (which they very determinedly claimed will be a complete turnaround from their now-infamous roast), is them hopping full-fledged on the John Oliver bandwagon. Going bilingual—with Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya hosting the English version and Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba hosting the Hindi version—they take on corruption scams, The Whistleblower Protection Act, the Israeli Prime Minister and more, in the pilot episode that aired yesterday (29th October 2015) on HotStar, Star TV’s digital platform. While they addressed some serious issues—like the common instances of whistleblowers dying “mysterious deaths”, and how the proposed amendments to The Whistleblower Protection Act are actually going to endanger their lives further rather than protect them—they brought their signature humorous edge to it, with jokes and gags that were almost always on point.

on air with aib

“In America, whistleblowers are like Voldemort—you can’t name them. But here, whistleblowers are like Rahul: naam toh suna hi hoga!” went one joke about the lack of anonymity provided to whistleblowers by the new proposed legislation; and this was just one among many such incredibly witty one-liners. There were jokes on Rahul Gandhi, the terrible state of police security provided to Vyapam whistleblower Ashish Chaturvedi, Ashok Khemka’s multiple transfers, Chandrachur Singh, Robert Vadra, and many others that really hit home. However, the most interesting part about the episode was the final segment, where stand up comic Abish Mathew interviewed Dr K. Padmarajan, who, satirically dubbed ‘the election king’, holds a record for losing the maximum number of elections (171, to be exact). Padmarajan’s whimsicality and fascinatingly candid stories provided a nice change of scenery from the otherwise newsroom-style format. Another interesting and hilarious addition to the show was a mock public service advert on corruption, featuring a surprise cameo by “jaane-maane villain” (well-known villain), Prakash Raj, which ended with the slogan, “bhaago graahak bhaago (run customer run)”. It is these little quirks that kept me glued to the screen, and brought more variety and character to a show that could easily have fallen flat if not done right.

However, despite its many positives, On Air With AIB is not without flaw. The Hindi instalment, hosted by Tanmay Bhat and Gursimran Khamba, seems awkward and unpolished in comparison to the easy-flowing banter of Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya’s English version. The jokes don’t land as effectively in Hindi as they do in English—something that perhaps even Bhat and Khamba are aware of, because of which they seem less confident and more conscious while delivering the punchlines. They often fumble, or give in to unnecessary histrionics which, on many counts, seem unwieldy and plain weird. However, their content is still solid, and I really hope that Bhat and Khamba work on levelling out the kinks in their script and performance, and make it as effortlessly funny and impactful as the English version.

So far, they have definitely stuck to their promise of being something “different” from their usual fare. Both tone and content-wise, this seems vastly different from what they do on YouTube. There is no doubt that this is a brave attempt, and an excellent way of bringing to attention things that Indian mainstream media often ignore or brush aside.

Social and political satire has always existed in our country: whether it be R.K Laxman’s ‘Common Man’ comic strips, animated clips in between news broadcasts, or shows like the classic ‘Office Office’. In more recent times, socio-political satire has found a steady audience in social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and hence, ‘On Air With AIB’ is almost a natural progression in this trajectory. It is interesting that Star TV, the network originally associated with Ekta Kapoor soaps and saas-bahu dramas is the one supporting this enterprise. This is perhaps an indication that the time is ripe for Indian television to evolve and come of age, and invest in more topical, real, and hard-hitting programming like this one. The fact that Star is supporting this show, and working so hard to promote it and help it reach diverse audiences is testament to the fact that Indian audiences are ready for something different—something that will challenge the status quo. However, the question remains whether All India Bakchod will be able to start the kind of critical social conversations that John Oliver or Jon Stewart have done through their shows. In a national climate where censorship, bans, and offence-taking has become the order of the day, will AIB’s voices of dissent be crushed too? That, only time will tell. Till then, I look forward to the rest of the episodes in the series, and hope that they don’t shy away from delving deep in their social and political commentary.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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