or rather, the lack of it. As GreatBong indicates in this fine post, we (Indians) are horribly humourless when faced with gags on ourselves - Sardars being the only honourable exception. I mean, for instance, would a Tamilian react well to a Mumbaikar narrating a joke (Thx Matthew) like
Siva spells his name out to an American over the phone:
S for She-cago
I for Indiaaa
V for Vaaa-ter
A for aa-rder
I would be very, very surprised if this didn't lead to a serious disagreement, ending up in which language is 'the best' - Tamil, Hindi, Sanskrit or English (believe me, I have seen this happen far too often). Ditto about Rajnikanth and Mithun etc. And equally, many Mumbaikars I know are very, very touchy about the infinite wisdom of India's self-professed Nazi, Mr. Bal Thackeray - any crack about him is certain to lead to a vicious argument. I can quote many more examples, but I guess I have made my point.
Of course, things get worse. Any joke on religion is sacrilege. A wisecrack on a stupid superstition - a so-called part of our maryada and sabhyata - is more often than not rebuked by a 'but, after all...' statement. And for the record - out-of-home romance is NOT part of Indian culture.
Think I am being pessimistic? Oh yeah?
Well, consider this: can a husband and wife - not a boyfriend-girlfriend scenario, nor a libidinous man cavorting with a concubine; just a plain, old arranged-marriage husband & wife - stroll quietly, hands entwined, thorugh a park in Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi, unheedful of the very thought that the moral brigade might sweep down on them at any moment? I don't think so; such 'park-raids' are becoming more and more common these days. Carrying your marriage-certificate in your wallet might not be such a bad idea, after all !
Why this sudden rant, you might wonder? Well, the rant itself was partly provoked by two bloggers I admire - Gaurav & HawkEye. HawkEye wrote a scathing article on Crystal Blur's spoof on the Mahabharata (a series starting here). Gaurav attacked HawkEye, HawkEye retaliated, and now CrystalBlur has a sarcastic piece up on her blog. I am sure the debate will continue.
Now, personally I felt that Crystal Blur's Mahabharata spoof was funny in parts, but often the humour was predictable - esp after reading a couple of the chapters. However, it didn't offend me much, but then I regard the Mahabharata and the Ramayana in the same vein, as say, Harry Potter or LOTR. To me, these are all but stories. As for the 'sexualization', well maybe Crystal meant it to be a sex-spoof all the time !! To be honest, I enjoyed Crystal's own Rishyashringa-spoof much more, esp as there is a pretty decent Malayalam movie called Vaishali on the same legend.
I also do not give credence to the gripe that it is only Hindu epics that are targetted - classic cases in point would be 'Jesus Christ, Superstar', 'Monty Python' (and the life of Bryan) or even the recent 'Da-Vinci Code'. Agreed that these were not 'sexualizations', but is that the issue here, really - I mean, with the Kamba-Ramayana, and Lord Krishna and his 1500 wives, and all that !! Moreover, before attacking/satiring other religions, shouldn't we at least attempt to laugh at ourselves ?
In the end, do I have a conclusion ? No, I have to admit ;) !! Just felt that I had to write something on this ongoing war of words. For the record: irreverent junta, Crystal's spoofs are highly entertaining; for the more devout, avoid Crystal like the plague !! And do check out both Gaurav's and HawkEye's blogs !!