Kapil Sharma won television’s early comedy award and has gone on to become a big sketch comedy show host with movie stars who show up to promote their films. On paper, there’s nothing wrong with the core idea of the show. People love to see their favourite movie stars gush over ‘oh my god you’re so beautiful’ kind of praise.
But the show has serious cringe-inducing elements. Kapil Sharma insults the character Gutthi - a man dressed in women’s clothes - again and again in front of a live audience.
Of course, Bollywood gave us ‘Kajra Mohabbat wala’ (Kismet, 1968), ‘Chhuk Chhuk Chhak Chhak’ (Rafoo Chakker, 1975), and even Apna Sapna Money Money that showed up in 2006 had men dressing in drag, and that was supposed to be comedy. But night after night watching Kapil Sharma insult Gutthi, a man dressed in seriously offensive drag, is not for everyone.
Or so you’d think.
The show went on to become hugely popular. It’s when the team broke up (and Kapil Sharma vanished for a while) that the new format - that’s blander than vanilla ice-cream without the vanilla - made its appearance with a wilder laugh track.
This Netflix special is clearly Sharma's makeover hour in front of his family, friends and audience. ‘I’m not done yet’ could have been edgy, but it’s just sad, like sugar added to red wine. People do it, but they might as well drink juice.
How can you not clap when someone says, ‘My dad was a handsome man’? Or show you their childhood pictures? It’s funny once when you say, ‘That’s not really me, that’s really baby Lornardo Do Caprio’, but ‘my brother’? And then add, ‘He’s sitting in the audience’? Whenever stand-up comics have family members in the audience, they go on to say seriously funny things about them. But not here. There’s a wife, but she was crying happy tears. And we never ever do the ‘Your mama’ jokes in India (even when you try telling people that Shakespeare started the ‘Your mama’ insults trend first).
So Kapil Sharma sticks to what seems like an endless stream of WhatsApp funnies sent in with Good Morning messages: ‘I wasn’t drinking alone, I was with Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker’.
I don’t follow him on Twitter, so I was surprised to hear that he drunk-tweeted Narendra Modi. But he doesn’t even go to the obvious joke after that: other people drunk-tweet (or drunk call) their exes, and I drunk-tweeted the Prime Minister. It became ‘I was chased by Modiji’s fans to Maldives to an internet free hotel room’. True, we're not at a point where it's par for the course to make fun of a President’s hot-mic moment about calling a right wing journalist ‘a stupid so and so’ days after he blurted it and that too at a press conference.
Kapil did make a funny observation about a previous Prime Minister’s love for sweets. And about his city Amritsar. I wish he had more to say about kulchas, instead of making a passing reference. He does the same with his ‘struggle’ to become a movie star in Mumbai. Everyone who comes to the city of dreams has a story about sharing overcrowded rooms and being scammed. But it takes a real artist to make people laugh about it rather than just say ‘ek doosre par chad ke sote thay’ (we slept on top of one another). Todd Barry, a stand-up comic whose Netflix special just released, is funnier when he reads out an article from Esquire magazine and adds his comments to it. Here we have a collective ‘aww’ inducing finale when Kapil Sharma sings a song he wrote for his late father.You may not like Vir Das talking about two Indias, I did. You may love Kapil Sharma’s TV show, I don’t. But there are funnier Indian-origin comics out there who observe our way of life and talk about quirks that only we have. Search the Net for Kabir Singh (as Indian as a name could get) and you’ll laugh at why we brown folk cannot become serial killers.