I followed the controversy back when it first came out, but I couldn’t find a version to watch anywhere back then. And then the controversy died down, and it was posted online again, but I stopped caring. Until a couple of people in the comments here reminded me!
I looked it up to see why I had such a hard time finding it back when it first came out. It was posted on January 28th on the regular AIB youtube channel. And then a bunch of FIRs were filed and they pulled it down on February 3rd. So, I missed it in that initial 5 day window, I think I can forgive myself for that. Especially since I have now finally gotten around to watching it.
(Here’s the video, if you have a need for it)
For me, the overall tone of the show was nailed by one of the comedians who said that everyone in the audience is sitting there thinking “Why are they saying in public what we say at parties?” This is the film society in jokes, the stuff they all say behind closed doors, only recorded and posted on youtube for the world to see.
Bigger than that, this is how people are in the “real” world. They joke about sex, dating, even skin color variations. Religion, drugs, nothing is forbidden. It was an effort to blow the doors off of the hypocrisy and fear of the established society, to hold up a mirror and remind them that this is what they are like, for real, even if it isn’t what they say in public.
And thus, controversy! From the general society, who was excited to jump on the judgement bandwagon, to want to pretend all of this stuff wasn’t true. And from the film industry who, I think, had a little more of a shaded approach. It wasn’t just that they thought these young people shouldn’t say these things. It was that they thought it was bad for the industry if this stuff was aired outside, that it was asking for more censorship and more government crackdowns that would effect everybody. There’s a reason for the policy of what you say in private, and what you release in public.
Speaking of “these boys”, I was really interested in how Arjun and Ranveer were used. When I first heard about this, I thought it was strange that they were the ones being roasted, since they weren’t really that famous or powerful or with that much stuff about them to be used for a roast. But really, they were just there as placeholders. They each had things that could be joked about, girlfriends, Arjun’s weight, him failing the 12th standard, Ranveer’s insanity and ladies man reputation, and so on. But the main point was to use them, and this whole event, as a jumping off point to skewer the industry as a whole.
And, bigger than that, as a jumping off point to toss in the comedians best general jokes from their stand-up routines, jokes about masturbation and weight and lots and lots of jokes about sodomy. This is the kind of comedy you hear in stand-up clubs in Bombay, among friends joking in bars, really among friends joking everywhere, from teenage boys in tiny villages to young professionals in Bangalore. It’s just not the kind of thing that people like to acknowledge they say.
So, what were the jokes? I took notes so I wouldn’t forget anything important! My first note is Karan=Bitchy! He is so awesome! And he is having the best time! He served as the roast master, which meant he got to talk the most. Introduced the whole event at the start, including a disclaimer that it will be very raunchy and if you don’t like that, don’t watch. And including a joke about his mother watching in the front row.
Those two things together tell you everything you need to know about the event. It’s going to be raunchy, but it’s also going to be cheerful and social and a strangely family event. The overall mood isn’t “mean”, it’s celebratory, that we can all laugh together over the stuff we usually laugh about separately behind closed doors.
So, what is the stuff they laugh about? Well, buying reviews for one thing! Which was just a controversy and everyone publicly pretended it never happened, but here we are making jokes about it because we all know it really happens. Also drugs, casting couch, dating co-stars, Gayness, and buying awards. Because, again, we all know this stuff happens, we just don’t usually joke about it in public, instead we make solemn public statements and shake our heads over it.
And the thing about the jokes is that they tread the line of being so over the top that they are clearly exaggerations. Talking about Karan forcing sexual favors for roles, about Ranveer taking drugs, all that stuff. Sure, there is probably a kernel of truth to it, obviously Karan has had relationships with some of his mentees in the past, and Ranveer’s energy onstage is…..extreme. But it becomes funny when we bring it out in public and pretend that it is even bigger than it is.
There were a couple of jokes that hit the nail on the head with no exaggerations, but were actually the things we never say, even in private. A joke on Arjun about Boney falling for Sridevi, which was a scandal that rocked the industry, but which more importantly is still rocking the Kapoor family, so we don’t usually talk about it directly. There’s a joke about Adi Chopra being “invisible”, which is a super in joke since he is never photographed or seen at parties. And also something that isn’t directly said much, because he is so powerful.
You know the only thing they don’t really joke about? The stars. The big big stars. Amitabh comes up once, Shahrukh and Salman and Aamir are not touched at all. And even the Amitabh joke is a pretty simple one, something about how K3G was the worst thing he had ever been in, and he’d been in a coma. The “he’d been in Rekha” joke was just sitting there waiting, but they veered waaaaaay over to the side to avoid it.
That’s the thing, that’s what makes it a really family event, a good-natured event. They joke about Sanjay Kapoor’s career, about Alia’s ignorance, about Karan’s melodramatic movies. But they don’t hit the real sore spots, they aren’t talking about Alia’s father’s alcoholism, or Arjun’s mother’s death, or anything else that “we don’t talk about” not because of hypocrisy, but because of simple human decency.
And I am thinking that is the tone set by Karan? Because he is the person involved as the official “host”, and the one with the biggest in crowd connections. He had already “used” the AIB to help out Alia with their video on her, taking their comedy but keeping it within careful acceptable bounds (a video making fun of Alia, that didn’t touch on anything in her personal life). And it is a remarkable event he organized, top celebrities in the first row, everyone else wealthy enough to pay for expensive tickets, and all the money going to charity.
Let’s see, what else? Oh, there were a lot of reaction shots of Alia because of all the jokes on her, which let me see that she was sitting with her mother and full sister, and Zeenat Aman! It might have been just a coincidence of seating, but I loved seeing Alia and Zeenat laughing together.