AIB Roast – Well done? Or Extra Rare?

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28th January. We had one agenda.
We spent our evening glued to our laptops. Offended. Disgusted. Amused. We watched the AIB Knockout right to the finish. Some of us, twice. This roast was the talk of the town.
Over the last week, social media has been flooded with an outrage on the negative feedback that the AIB Roast received. Rants on how the views of our politicians are regressive. How everyone just needs to “chill”. How it is a clear violation of our freedom of speech.

Now, I like to believe that I’m a liberal person, with liberal views and outlooks. My issues with the roast have nothing to do with it “being sexual” or “not in line with Indian culture”.
However, I disagree with the outcry on how the roast was completely harmless. I believe that there are real, negative impacts that this roast could have on the masses. And that many of us are conveniently choosing not to see them.

I sense eyes rolling already.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about how this post is going to be received. Especially since now, this roast has become a battle between “young, liberal” vs “lame, old, regressive”.
So, at the risk of being categorised among the likes of the fossilised politician who declared the roast a “porn show” (lol), I have to say that while it is indeed, liberating that the roast touched societal ‘taboos’ like casual sex and drug use with candid indifference. The show also involved content that I believe could be unhealthy for the masses.

Now before I begin, I’d like to say that I don’t have a solution. Only a point of view. I am not implying that the roast should never have gone live. Or that it should be censored. Or that those who filed complaints against AIB were right in doing so.
But simply that we acknowledge that there are two sides to the coin.
That a lot of the jokes, though intended in good humour, could have deeper consequences on a society that is highly diverse. And hence, fragile. That these consequences are real.

We come from a country where actors are considered gods. Where an overwhelming number of men from the 80s sported Amitabh Bachchan’s haircut in Deewar. Where Obama flooded our home pages for saying 1/3rd of a dialogue from a movie that released a decade ago. I think it’s safe to say that Bollywood has a deep impact on India.

But we can ofcourse, debate the influence that celebrities have on the masses. I don’t believe that celebrities talking about casual sex or drug use will directly encourage people to indulge in it. People tend to have a stronger stance on casual sex and drug use. It depends highly on their upbringing, peers and circumstances. It’s unlikely that the references they made about snorting coke backstage, will influence the masses to snort coke.
However, unlike sex and drugs; fat jokes, homophobic jokes, jokes about one’s skin type, are a lot easier to adopt. People are likely to direct similar jokes at people more aggressively, with a stronger sense of validation, because celebrities do it.
“Tanmay Bhatt is so fat…”, “Ashish Shakya is so black…”, “Aditi Mittal is only here so Ranveer Singh can have someone to jerk off to on stage”. These jokes might be perfectly acceptable within the context of a roast when directed at consenting individuals. But the truth is, it won’t stop there.

We need to acknowledge and accept that masses don’t live within the context of a roast. That these jokes will find its way to non-consenting individuals. That they will seep into classrooms, workplaces and homes. People will quote the same jokes, directed at the fat boy in class, the dark-skinned maid, the only woman on a panel discussion. And suddenly, the fat boy has lower self-esteem, the dark-skinned maid feels unattractive, being the only woman on the panel doesn’t feel empowering anymore.

We need to remember that while those who are offended can ofcourse, choose not to watch it, they’re still going to be surrounded by people who have. People who now, have a stronger sense of validation in telling jokes about one’s sexual orientation, body type and skin colour.
A discussion with my peers made me realise that we tend to underestimate, or simply not understand the impact that the media has on those from a different social strata. On those who are not as rational or mature. While many of us can be sure that watching the roast will not turn us into fat shaming, sexist homophobes, because “we simply know better than that”, we can’t ignore that there must be a good number of viewers among the impressive 8 million views that the Knockout received, that will think of degrading jokes as acceptable and ‘cool’.
And why not? Ranveer Singh does it. Arjun Kapoor does it. Karan Johar does it. India loved it.

Let’s stop believing that this roast is a symbol for social change. Stop glorifying it as a rebellion by a generation that has grown up being morally policed. While it is essential to fight for freedom of speech and expression, its important to remember that it comes with a context. Have we considered what it is that we’re fighting so relentlessly for? The right to be politically incorrect? The right to be offensive? The right to be degrading? The use of the words ‘liberal and progressive’ here, are starting to seem more and more like an oxymoron.

Perhaps it’s a ‘roast’ in itself that I have a problem with. I believe that roasts are a ‘healthy’ form of comedy for a very (very) niche audience. One that is ‘rational and mature’. One that laughs, because they really just “know better than that”. One that will simply enjoy 2 hours of ‘harmless’ comedy before returning to their liberal, cultured, enlightened lives.

But until then, the impact it could have on Indian society seems dark. Erm, I mean, black.

16 thoughts on “AIB Roast – Well done? Or Extra Rare?

  1. That’s a thoughtful article. I too watched the AIB roast that has been the talk of the week. However, I feel that the complaint was certainly uncalled for. This is because it happened with the consensus of all the people involved. In fact, it began with a warning, “All those who are easily offended may leave because it is gonna get even more vulgar.” And the YouTube version came with a 18+ warning. In saying so, I also believe that what you are saying is true. “We need to acknowledge and accept that masses don’t live within the context of a roast. That these jokes will find its way to non-consenting individuals,” which I feel is correct. So, of course, there are two sided of the same coin and it depends on the person’s mindset who watch it. Although making it such a big issue is certainly uncalled for, as it’ll only attract more attention.
    Apart from that, it’s nicely written. I too was planning to do write on it. But yours is a balanced piece that puts people’s mind to work and to think.

  2. Well written! I haven’t seen the video myself, because I “know better than to do that.” 😛 But I like how you’ve managed to not pick sides. I wanted to blog about the same topic myself but now that you have put down very similar thoughts, I don’t think I should. I don’t think I can put it better myself. Like you, I believe that India isn’t ready for such things yet.

  3. Pingback: Mind your… What exactly???? | Thoughts

  4. That was a beautifully written article. Although I had done a blog with an opposite view, yours is truly interesting. I have to confess I hadn’t thought of this side while watching, or while writing my blog. Truly nice

  5. I like the way you have tried to explain how AIB roast would affect a certain set of masses. It gives us a sense of understanding of why it was not actually a totally harmless show. But, I may also like to bring across a point that there is nothing anywhere in the world that we can relate to generally. That does not mean we should ban stuff that does not cater with our ethics and so called culture. I know, you did not say anything about banning it, still. If we outrage against anything and everything, we may even outrage against skin creams, porn movies and everything that caters to a niche audience.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the show however offensive and filthy it was. Agreed, many parts of it did offend too, but about enjoying 2 hours and forgetting it, I am in for more of such roast comedies!

  6. When I watched the roast I found that it made me feel slightly uncomfortable even though I found most of the jokes funny. I didn’t know how to put that feeling or the cause of that feeling into words. You did an excellent job! Well done.
    I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one wondering about how this will affect school kids.

  7. Reblogged this on The Happy Lifeaholic and commented:
    I haven’t read the roast in question, but I definitely agree with a lot of Krishna’s views on the effects of watching celebrities engaging in fat shaming, anti-feminist, racist jokes on the impressionable masses. Even if you don’t watch the actual roast, definitely take a moment to read this post.

  8. Wow, finally someone who doesn’t have a black and white perspective. I agree with you when you say that the roast can have a negative impact on our masses, however, what the censor board employee tweeted later was completely uncalled for. The FIR? I don’t know. Our freedom of speech is not absolute, and has reasonable restrictions on it. I guess if a person or a group feels violated, they can use these restrictions to justify their complain. I do not know if the roast was unethical, but should it be banned? No.

  9. Well written. You asked what are we fighting for:
    We are fighting relentlessly for freedom of speech.
    We are fighting against morons who take it upon themselves to define “Indian Culture” and violently suppress those who do not agree with them.
    We are fighting against the simple fact that people in power can say utterly outrageous things and get away with it while a common person cannot.
    This show was a breath of fresh air in a country where is best rated comedy show features a perpetually drunk grandmother who has to forcefully kiss all the male guests and an aunt who is such a nymphomaniac that she offers herself to every male guest on the the show, regardless of his age. I am of course talking about Comedy Nights with Kapil.
    The point of a roast is not to have “societal obligations”. If people see the show and become negatively influenced so much that they think similar behavior to be OK in real life, then they are idiots. The world has a lot of them.

  10. “Let’s stop believing that this roast is a symbol for social change. Stop glorifying it as a rebellion by a generation that has grown up being morally policed.”

    It started here. I tried really hard to agree with this article because I get that this has been written in good taste, unlike the others which is just spreading hatred but I really couldn’t.

    While I’m open to the view that what celebrities say and do might impact a large number of people, I also firmly believe that we will blame anything and everything on something/someone. [Pornography for example can be viewed for what it is, one’s own sexual pleasure or it can be attributed to a lot of things such as objectifying women (granted, it does), broad spectrum patriarchy, etc ; ]

    The genre of insult comedy is not constricted to a very (very) small niche of people. Millions and millions of people around the world enjoy it in good taste. It’s been around for a while now.
    This roast wasn’t about social revolution, it wasn’t about freedom of speech, it was about comedians introducing a genre of comedy in this country that wasn’t previously ventured into. Comedy is comedy. Comedy is a medium of expression. It shouldn’t be attributed to no more, it shouldn’t be attributed to no less. It should be taken in the spirit of what it was meant to. The truth is, you are not stuck up, you are not “uncool”, you just have a different view point. Well, to each his own.
    And by that, I mean to AIB as well.

    There were enough warnings before the show started. I get comedic criticism regarding all the material being very sex oriented and repetitive. But I had a good laugh, and I moved on. Just like the rest of this country should.

  11. I agree with you on the free speech argument front. If AIB has the right to free speech, so do the people offended by the roast.

    It’s a perfectly valid concern–that the roast could have a “dark” impact on Indian society. But maybe if you flipped this situation on its head:

    The fat kid who thought he’d never make it to the spotlight sees Tanmay Bhat on stage. He’s happy, he’s laughing, he’s taking the jokes in his stride. Maybe he stops taking his appearance so seriously and looks beyond it. Maybe he stops thinking he should be protein fueled and muscular to be well-known and liked.

    Or maybe I’m too optimistic.

  12. Like Krshna, I too am not affected by the explicit nature of the roast – I think such overdoses of expletives are increasingly filling up public spaces everywhere. Like uncollected garbage and facebook stalking, it’s a facet of urban life today. What knocked me off was how the event made such an opulent show of Bollywood non-talent. From the brain-dead, intellect-insulting brand of tripe they produce and pass off as cinema, they have moved on to make their insipid mark on another public venue.

    I would have really liked the public roast to arrive in India on the wings of a higher level of talent… setting higher standards than AIB did with their fairly obvious swipes and some seemingly Internet-sourced gags. The stamp of all-conquering arrogance that mediocrity wore on that day was amusing, pathetic and disconcerting at the same time.

  13. So well written and I totally agree with you. I enjoyed parts of the show too. Some jokes I laughed and some were cringe inducing. The jokes about being dark skinned were so distasteful. What i found the worst was the smattering of rape jokes that were spread throughout. I may be a prude but the expletives wore me out.

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