Shashi Tharoor is a man of secrets. Who would have thought that he, apart from being a walking thesaurus and professional public-speaker, would try his luck in stand-up comedy? Although I am ideologically opposed to Tharoor on almost all counts, the man deserves credit where due. His performance was a class apart, to say the least!
What is being increasingly witnessed in the Indian comic scene is that stand-ups are indulging in political commentary and comedy, as they rightfully should. The point of contention is not them doing comedy on Indian politics and politicians, however, it is a sore to the eyes to see them continuously deride one particular party and ideology. For instance, any comedian targets the right-wing to make a career for themselves. There is not one comic in the entire country today which claims to be pro-Modi or pro-BJP. While it is not a prerequisite, one cannot help but wonder how all major comedians are ideologically opposed to the right-wing. Is it an ideological compulsion, or a compromise on the same count for mere monetary and social benefits?
For this very reason, Shashi Tharoor’s gig for the ‘One Mic Stand’ series was a sigh of relief for many of us, who appreciate quality comedy, even if it does not ideologically incline to our thoughts. Airing exclusively on Amazon Prime, Tharoor outshined all the comedians in the series, and the celebrities they trained. According to the format, each ‘veteran’ comedian had to train a celebrity for a short gig. The celebrities included Vishal Dadlani, Richa Chaddha, Taapsee Pannu, Bhuvan Bam and Shashi Tharoor. If at all anybody comes second to Tharoor this time, it has to be Bhuvan Bam, the BB Ki Vines fame. The others, to be honest, were out-rightly boring. The veterans meanwhile, included Ashish Shakya, Rohan Joshi, Zakir Khan, Angad Singh and Kunal Kamra.
Kunal Kamra trained Shashi Tharoor. No surprises there, indeed. One would have expected Tharoor to deride Modi and the BJP, and the right-wing in general, like Kamra does. However, that was not the case. Although Kunal Kamra indulged in the usually boring sets which he has, Tharoor had three main points to joke about. Firstly, he targeted himself, his English and his vocabulary. He then cracked the audience up with his take on the journalism being practised today. However, the bulk of his focus was on the British, or the Brits as he fondly calls them.
Shashi Tharoor has grown to be known as the diplomat-turned-politician who openly demands an apology from the British for their brutal colonization of India, and the plunder they caused over this land. There were some digs at PM Modi too, however, they were all in good fun. What is admirable, also, is that he made himself a subject of comedy during the gig, something which Indian politicians don’t usually do. For instance, he remarked that people’s perception about him and his English was overrated. He also cracked a joke about his parents embarrassing him in front of guests, “Shashi beta inko bhi angrezi sunao na”; his father had once said. It takes courage to come up on a platform as a politician and make people laugh. As his beginning punch line, Tharoor said that he would be the first Indian politician to make people laugh, ‘intentionally’.
The idea and format of the show is noble indeed, however, too much time is wasted in showing the run-up to the actual gig. By which I mean that the preparatory stage is just over-shown. Moreover, the usual comedians coming on stage and cracking their usual sets makes the viewers impatient (except Zakir Khan, of course).
While Kunal Kamra was meant to ‘train’ Tharoor on the art of comedy, there is much more for the former to learn from him. Political comedy need not be structured on an anti-particular ideology/individual. To joke about a multiplicity of factors in Indian politics will always be welcomed more. Moreover, getting one’s facts right, and not twisting them just because one is doing comedy, is of paramount importance. Prior to Shashi Tharoor’s gig, there was a warm-up performance done by Kamra, in which he simply derided Arnab Goswami. Initially it was funny, I admit. But then it would be realized by anyone that the man is just running short of good content. The whole act was aimed against Goswami! Although Shashi Tharoor should be even more anti-Arnab, he did not deride him. This is what set his performance apart from the others.
Sapan Verma was the host of this series, and indulged in occasional anti-Modi jokes himself. There are others, such as Rajeev Nigam, whose entire comic career is based on the frequency of them deriding PM Modi, the BJP, and Bhakts. Varun Grover and Rehman Khan are other such example. If one removes Modi from the scripts of these comedians, there is hardly any sets these individuals would be able to come up with.
When one is exposed to such comedy, witnessing a political like Shashi Tharoor getting his hands dirty in the field is a comic relief indeed. The man has set apart class from crass.