Friday, January 15, 2016

Mrinal Pande - Parody lost: A (Groucho) Marxist solution for detained comedian Kiku Sharda's problems

NB: A humble query to the thekedaars of our religious (or national) honour - Your esteemed Lordships! May we laugh at will? Or does laughter also require your prior consent and anticipatory bail? DS

India's powerful have yet to learn that they can't win an argument with a talented vidushak. 

The Sanskrit dramatists call them the vidushak, the likes of comedian Kiku Sharda, who is now in judicial custody in Haryana for parodying religious leader Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan on a TV comedy show. The word vidushak is derived from the verb "doosh", to contaminate. In theatre, it refers to one who contaminates the high seriousness of the theme by invoking raucous laughter. This is achieved by parodying the acts or the manner of some Great Hero or by asking inconvenient questions with fake wide-eyed innocence. The vidushak, a constant companion to kings and heroes, has a long and illustrious ancestry in theatre, ranging from Shakespeare’s beer-guzzling Falstaff to Kalidas’s ladoo-loving paunchy Vidooshak Maittil (Abhigyan Shakuntalam) to Kiku Sharda alias Palak of Kapil’s Comedy Nights.

Notwithstanding several apologies offered swiftly in front of the cameras, Kiku Sharda was stalked and arrested earlier this week by the police teams from Maharashtra and Haryana police like some terrorist who had snuck in across the western border. From Mumbai, the actor was taken to Haryana and presented in a district court. After he was granted bail, the poor man discovered that another case awaited him in another Haryana town. So our poor Vidushak was rearrested, and sent to judicial custody for a fortnight.

What were the charges leveled by Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insaan’s devotees? Kiku had dared, in a gag written by a posse of writers, to dress in clothes similar to the long-haired Baba’s (including a wig, gem-studded headgear, denims and a multi-coloured top) and mock the most revered figure. In this matter, art was merely imitating art. The godman has himself appeared in two films, in which he is depicted playing himself dressed as a rock star and a superman. He can fly, leap unbelievably high, and send rogue elephants flying as though they were pieces of paper, all to uphold moral values and save the honour of women. The devotee who lodged a criminal case against Kiku Sharda alleged that by parodying the respected godman, the Vidushak had “hurt the sentiments” of Ram Rahim’s countless followers.

Loyal fanbase
It may be remembered that Ram Rahim has some slight familiarity with police procedures himself. He is reported to be facing several cases ranging from molestation and kidnapping to castrating his followers on the assurance that this would get them a seat in heaven. But like the devotees of Asaram Bapu who is in jail on rape charges, the Babaji's bhakts are convinced the cases against him are baseless.

Kiku Sharada has been a non pareil accomplice to another popular comedian, Kapil Sharma, on hisComedy Nights with Kapil show. He has won countless fans for his roles as Palak, his female persona, and a country bumpkin Lachha in love with his buffalo. Both these characters come from the lowest social settings, but are quite often employed for droll, brilliant spoofs on the habits of India’s new elite, with their all-American accents, Ganganam-style dancing and Hollywood star swagger.

India's high and mighty have perhaps yet to learn that as VIPs, they can maim and kill friends-turned-foes, they may even coerce vote seeking politicians into visiting them as humble devotees and strike electoral deals with them in back rooms, but they can’t win an argument against a gifted joker. This one is already badly backfiring on the perps. 

The immortal lines from the Marx Brothers’ play, I’ll Say She Is, come to mind, in which Groucho plays Napoleon:

“Remember you can fool some of the people all of the time, and some of the people all of the time, all of the- oh the hell with that. I made all that up. Lincoln copped it from me… I am going to investigate this.”

Since the redoubtable Haryana police have detained Kiku Sharda, pleading a logical case for humour does not seem a workable option. Our only hope is that Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan will effect a divine intervention to help free a fellow comic. If the Baba likes, in a spirit of camraderie, he could use Groucho’s lines to brother Harpo from The Duck Soup: “You are a brave man. Go and break through the lines. And remember, while you are out there risking life and limb, through shot and shell, we’ll be in here thinking what a sucker you are.“