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Thursday, May 26, 2005

death of the joke

It seems that a research of sorts is being undertaken to find out what resulted in the death of jokes. It is believed to be a global phenomenon, gone are the times when a slight dose of humor was considered necessary to liven up serious discussions. One of the management principles was to encourage humor in order to gain the attention of the audience to what one is speaking about. This culture was all pervasive – even serious reading matter enclosed within the covers of Reader’s Digest had its own shares of ‘Humor in Uniform’, ‘Laughter is the best medicine’ and ‘Life’s like that.’ They have survived the tests of time, unfortunately, that tang of old is missing.

A similar trend was visible in cinemas of yore. There were some cinemas made around characters who, by virtue of their actions and dialogue deliveries, evoked spontaneous laughter that occasionally went to extremes where one literally had to hold on to his sides to control the bubbling effervescence. Best examples are the duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Bhanu Bandopadhaya and Jahar Roy; alongside them we had sterling performances of the inimitable Mehmood, Keshto Mukherji, Johnny Walker and Robi Ghosh. The big ‘B’, Amitabh Bachhan has also lent his share of humor in some unique roles like the brothers Ashok, Anup and Kishore in that super duper hit ‘Chalti ka naam gaadi’. It is a sad state of affairs that the subtle form of humor is really and truly dead. What we get are loud versions of ‘when I laugh, you also must join in’ type, an extremely poor version of the slap-stick comedy. Those most suited to this role are Kader Khan, Johnny Lever, and Govinda.

Similar fate has befallen the comedy serials that once used to be popular and were enjoyed by one and all. Remember the ‘Ghar Jamai’, ‘Mungheri Lal ki haseen sapney’, ‘Wagle ki duniya’, ‘Hum Paanch’ and actors like Ananta Mahadevan, Ashok Saraf, Satish Shah, Raghubir Yadav and Anjan Srivastava among others? In the ladies group, only Sushmita Mukherjee made an impact of sorts.

It seems that the consensus all around is – why break our heads and sink our finance into repetitions? There is no dearth of jokers all around us, especially in the political arena. News channels vie with one another to highlight the funniest of the lot, who make a statement in one city and fly to another to retract it.

The joke is finally on us. It is certainly not dead, only – everything today is considered to be a joke of sorts.

As a character in one of the movies keeps repeating – ‘what a joke!’

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