Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Funny Bone

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 !!


Hawkeye said...

I'll respond to your blog because it is probably among the most logical responses I have seen.

I agree that I should have better pointed out my main points of disagreement with crystal's blog. but as is evident, the critisism I wrote in a hurry led the discussion to a different topic.

i would appreciate a person who says " i think ramayana and mahabharat are like LOTR and HP and so I will spoof them". You are at least direct. But dont pretend that you are a "devout" Hindu and that you revered the Holy Mahabharat as written in the book by a specific author (and say some wrong name).

she is sexualizing it. so let her say it. Gays, sex arent the only contemporary issues now in the world. there are other wonderful contemporary business problems that have mahabharat analogies.

seinfeld and other stand ups mock many demographics but they 'mock'. they never say.."this caricature is the real 'jew'. not what others have led you to believe" when they mock jews..

i wud have been comfortable had she just said what she was out to do. and had she confessed her real ignorance of the epic as a disclaimer. this i-am-telling-you-like-an-expert thing pissed me off. she is after all trying to get mileage using this. thats it. nothing else.

Ranjit Nair said...

HawkEye, I am in no way 'devout', much to my mom's despair ! Like I said, I was puzzled as to what drew your ire - the claim to the series being a 'contemporary contextualization' rather than the sex spoof it actually looks like, or the very fact of somebody making fun (ok, a bit more than that !) of an epic, or both. I agree with the first, and am sorta ambivalent about the second, which was what I tried to say in the post anyway. Dunno how Gaurav got into the fray, though !!

As for commenting on Crystal's knowledge (or lack of it), am in now way qualified. In fact, I did learn coupla interesting things from some of the comments on Crystal's posts - for instance, that Shakuni was connected to Bhishma; never knew that before.

As an aside, have been trying to get a copy of Peter Brook's version of the Mahabharata for a long time. Have you (or anybody else reading this) seen it ? Any comments, or other recommendations ?