I Don’t Find Tanmay Bhat’s Video Funny, But Should He Be Arrested For It?

Posted on May 31, 2016

By Karan Mujoo:

Tanmay Bhat and a tweet calling for his death

As an urban, educated guy who is fond of standup comedy, it’s logical to assume that I must be in Team Tanmay Bhat. Surprisingly, I find that assumption to be on a bit of a slippery slope. That’s because I am not quite sure what Team Tanmay Bhat stands for, particularly in the context of this video.

I know the overarching philosophy and beliefs of the new age Indian comic are freedom of speech and the right to push the boundaries of comedy. And I am all for that. But if you are backing this video then you just stand for spectacularly unfunny jokes (‘she’s 5000 years old’ is not a joke, but a classic 5th standard schoolboy insult) and a bid for short-term sensationalism. And that I am not in favour of. Being pro-Tanmay Bhat for this video has almost become a peer pressure situation in certain circles. And if you give into that, you are not only losing freedom of speech, you are also losing freedom of thought.

The best thing, however, is to abandon both Team Tanmay and Team anti-Tanmay and join Team Neutral. From neutral’s point of view, things become slightly clearer. What has happened is a classic case of a comic experimenting with a new medium and willingly or unwillingly creating a Frankenstein’s monster in the process. Just before creating the ‘Sachin vs. Lata’ monster, Tanmay had also done a wonderfully erudite and funny snapstory on feminism. But I guess that was not sensational enough for the guys who run the 9 O’clock news in this country. So, Tanmay obliged them by taking on two of the biggest icons of this country.

I am not a Sachin or a Lata fan and I also agree that no celebrity or politician should be beyond the ambit of comics. But the way they were taken down was laughable. There was no insight, humour or fun. It just seemed like a vindictive video made by a high school bully. And so an invitation was extended to the biggest bullies of them all – the MNS and Shiv Sena. And they did what they do best, they got offended.

Once they entered the fray, reason went out of the window. It was suggested that an FIR should be lodged against Tanmay Bhat for this video. If that’s the case, let’s start with the state of Punjab lodging an FIR against the rest of India for its continuous crass insults masquerading as ‘Santa Banta’ jokes that have delighted Indians for so long. If we are going to take jokes seriously, then let’s not hold back. After the State of Punjab is done, we should arrest all the politicians who forward crass, sexist and racist jokes on WhatsApp while guffawing loudly in the Parliament.

In our indignation and outrage, we forget that we are a country that loves cheap humour. Hopefully, there won’t be any police action against Tanmay because as much as I dislike this video; I hate the notion of free speech getting threatened even more.

Also, to put things in perspective, as you read, the news channels across India are debating how much longer they can squeeze out this story and a farmer somewhere in Maharashtra is gazing at the skies in the hope of rain. And the Earth is completing yet another rotation.

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