India was a country with a poor sense of humour. We rarely used to laugh at ourselves and even in the creative era of jokes, lampooning politicians and religions were frowned upon. Every national newspaper has a cartoon and at best you could make fun there.
The most vulgar jokes that would go viral would be the Holi jokes where people would record and distribute audio cassettes of.
Then a few years back, two momentous things happened.
1. The people were downright frustrated with the arrogance, corruption and the disasters of UPA2 coupled with the mainstream media's refusal to go after them in the initial stages.
2. The explosion of social media.
While the August Kranti agitation of 2011 was one result of the above, the other quiet revolution that took place was the humour industry of India.
It tentatively started with common citizens posting witty status messages on Twitter and Facebook and then as more and more people jumped on to the bandwagon, it mushroomed into a full-fledged revolution.
Every day the Internet in India abounds with thousands of jokes, memes and funny photos that are circulated on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and email.
Some Twitter handles focused solely on humour while spoof accounts acquired cult following with even the spoofed celebrity sometimes making a note of them.
One of the first to hit the big league was Faking News which took on the high and mighty of India and acquired a cult following. It got so big that it was taken over by the giant Network 18, which is now controlled by the billionaire Mukesh Ambani of Reliance industries.
The UnReal Times followed and so popular has it become that it sometimes is looked upon as The Real Times by many unsuspecting readers. Both these sites are seen by the high and mighty and some one-liners have also been picked up by the campaign team of Prime Minister Narendra Modi!
If handles and websites flourished, then in the age of YouTube, videos couldn't be left behind. Video Channel The Viral Fever Videos has reached the big league. A spoof of Arnab Goswami and the Aam Aadmi Party got 4.5 million views and one of Roadies 3.3 million. They even managed to rope in Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan and have many regular features.
However something that is stealing the show is All India Bakchod. (The name itself pushes the limits, like the name the name of one their videos: The Times of Boobs!) In the past their Dharna Dance (on Arvind Kejriwal) became a classic and they even got Alok Nath when his #Sanskari memes were trending on Twitter.
They always catch the pulse of the nation and when Alia Bhatt jokes were trending they got her for the video Alia Bhatt - Genius of the Year, which garnered nearly 8 million views. They've done videos on porn and turds and generally go all out.
However they have probably outdone themselves with their latest Knockout - The Roast of Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh. First, it's probably the most high-profile indecent, sleazy and politically incorrect show ever publically featured in India.
Apart from the above two Bollywood stars it also had filmmaker Karan Johar and film critic Rajeev Masand on stage apart from dozens in the audience (including Alia Bhatt who got regularly picked upon).
While it may be too indecent to publish the jokes here, they covered...
1. Absolutely obscene and sexual gestures by the celebrities on stage including those related to various forms of copulation.
2. Non-vegetarian jokes some of which wouldn't feature even in certain bachelor pads.
3. Explicit use of words relating to male and female sexual organs.
4. Politically incorrect jokes spanning religion, nationality, race, skin colour and fatness.
5. Karan Johar's (not so secret) gay inclinations totally out into the open.
It would be very difficult to put many of the jokes out of context here but only on watching the whole video does one get the full context. Anatomical parts, parents, lineage, multitude of guests sitting in the audience-absolutely nothing was sacrosanct.
While such shows may have occurred privately in many establishments all across India, this is the first time something has been done so publically and by so many famous people.
It's not been even a week and already Part 1 of the roast is heading for 5 million views. While a lot of people are crying foul and demanding that FIRs be filed left, right and centre, one much congratulate the team for doing something so bold and unprecedented in Indian humour.
They have pushed the boundary really hard and it remains to be seen how the public will react in the long run and whether this will bring a sea change in attitudes of conservative Indians.
Whether you stand with #AIBRoast or not, humour (both political and obscene) has well and truly arrived with a bang in India in the 2010s!
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.