Karan Johar
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AIB: No laughing matter..

Karan Johar

By HT

Mumbai, Feb. 4 -- On December 20, the comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB), along with stand-up comedians Abish Matthew and Aditi Mittal, TV personality Raghu Ram and film critic Rajeev Masand, roasted actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, at a show hosted by Karan Johar.

The edited version recently went up on YouTube along with a disclaimer that the content was for "adults only". While the insult comedy show received both positive and negative feedback on social media, on February 2, the Maharashtra government ordered a probe following multiple complaints to the Mumbai police against the show on grounds of obscenity.

The cultural minister of Maharashtra, Vinod Tawade, was quoted saying, "Some people reported to me that the performance had vulgar language, and enquired if the performers had the censor certificate. I asked cultural affairs director Ajay Ambekar to conduct an inquiry. There is no problem if they have a certificate. If they don't, we need to find out how the stadium allowed such a performance..."

On being contacted, Vijay Nair, director of Only Much Louder (the company that organised the event at the National Sports Club of India, Worli), said there's no requirement of a censor certificate to put up a show. "For a show like this, you need a performance license. We had that. You also need to take permission from the local police authorities; we had that, too. When the police called us to inquire, we told them the same thing."

ASHOKE PANDIT'S SHOCKING TWEET

Film-maker, and a member of the present censor board, Ashoke Pandit was perhaps trying to criticise AIB's roast while trying to match them with some crass humour of his own. Instead, he ended up posting an offensive, personal barb against Karan Johar. In a series of tweets, he called the event a "porn show" and went on to write: "Karan Johar could have easily shown his position while performing sex to his mom at home instead of making it public (sic)". With #AIBroast trending already, this added further fuel to the fire, with Pandit drawing a fair amount of flak.

Not the first 'roast'

A roast or insult comedy - a format that's been popular in the west since the 1950s - was introduced to India last year when actor and comedian Vir Das's comedy festival roasted actors Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey. Stand-up comic Daniel Fernandes says, "It's the first time that a roast of such a large scale has happened (referring to the AIB roast). However, everyone present in the room was aware of the content, and had given their consent. The problem lies in whether certain people, first, understand this format, and second, if they accept it."

Audience reaction

Film-maker Homi Adajania, who was in the audience, says, "I have no clue about the legality. But keeping that aside, slamming the performance for vulgarity is a travesty against free expression. It was a closed door venue. The audience bought tickets out of free will. The civilised world has access to an uncensored Internet. How can anyone in their right mind have an issue with this? Will it be accepted if AIB filed an FIR against our painfully regressive TV shows saying their sensibilities have been insulted? Obviously not, because it is your choice to consume what you like."

Designer Kunal Rawal, who also attended the show, says, "Similar content from the west has been available all this while on the Internet, and we've all been watching it. As the audience, we know what we are in for."

Social media outrage

The show, which got lakhs of hits within hours of going on YouTube, was applauded by many members of the industry. Aditi Rao Hydari, who saw it online, feels that if certain people do not accept such content, they must refrain from watching it. She says, "A roast is meant to be provocative and abusive. I wish we could elevate the humour - because it needn't only be about abuse, sexism and racism..."

Ranveer, Arjun, Karan, and the AIB members remained unavailable for comments.