No Clue Why This Was Top Trending in 2016

Last week, a rather unsettling email — which questioned my commitment to my religion (also known as the internet) — landed in my inbox. It claimed that a certain video was the top trending video in 2016 in India and suggested I take a look. Since the year had stopped pretending to be nice or bearable, I assumed that I may have missed it while sobbing about the year’s many tragedies.

This particular episode has 22,883,227 views. To put it into perspective, it is more than the population of Sri Lanka. And what exactly is this video the country has been going nuts over? An episode of The Kapil Sharma Show which had Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma.

Pic Courtesy : YouTube & Sony LIV | Shown Here : Brain Assault

Now there are several reasons I steer clear of anything that has Kapil Sharma and one of the biggest reason is the ‘casual sexism’ it promotes. The permanent fixtures on his show are two cis men, dressed as women. And these characters are meant to be caricatures — foolish, over-the-top, embarrassing and vulgar. Sharma’s ‘best’ jokes involves retorting to their stupid comments with his own wisecracks.
Salman Khan is introduced into the show as soon as it begins, but before that, of course, we have Navjot Singh Sidhu. Sidhu, who can laugh uproariously at everything from air to mosquito bites, opens the show doing just that. Salman Khan enters soon after, looking bored as hell. I never thought I will say this one day but it seemed that he got me.

Four minutes into the show and Kapil Sharma has already cracked a fat joke. “Achcha inki (Salman Khan) body hain, yeh utaar bhi saktein hain…yeh Pandey hain na humara drum wala paaji (the drummer of the band)…achcha ek din usne shirt utaari, pata nahin chal raha tha drum kaun hain, Pandey kaun hain (He {Salman Khan} at least has the body, he can take off his shirt…but our drummer, Pandey…once he took off his shirt, we couldn’t tell which was the drum and which was Pandey).” Navjot Singh Sindhu’s laughter booms, Salman Khan looks tortured.

The jokes then begin to move to some dangerous territory, namely the langot. The very inquisitive Kapil Sharma wants to know what is the reason behind Salman Khan denouncing his pants? Is it the ‘demand of the script’ or female fans? I tried rolling back my eyes farther, I had to dig it from the back of my brain with a scoop spoon.

Five minutes into the show and we have the first homophobic joke.
And voila! Five minutes into the show and we have the first homophobic joke. Salman Khan says, “Demand toh script ki hi thi. Aur, I think female fans se zyada, male fans isko appreciate zyada kar rahein hain. Samajh mein hi nahin aa raha (It was the demand of the script. But I think more than female fans, male fans appreciated this look. It was all very confusing)!” Everyone laughs like they have stumbled upon the best joke of the century.

Yeh kya ho kya gaya hain tumko bhai? Achche bhale toh the (What is happening to you? You were fine till a couple of days ago), ” he adds. “Ulta zamana aa gaya (The times have changed),” says Navjot Singh Sidhu, carrying this atrocity further.

Then out of nowhere, Rochelle Rao, part of The Kapil Sharma Show cast, trots towards Salman Khan, loudly wishing him Eid Mubarak. Kapil Sharma calls her stupid and shows her how to actually wish — he goes and hugs her and she tries to escape his clutches. Just some casual, comical harassment. Don’t we love it?

Kapil Sharma calls her stupid and shows her how to actually wish — he goes and hugs her and she tries to escape his clutches.
Shortly after this, Kiku Sharda appears in a pink costume and after some nonsensical chatter tries to feed what he claims to be ‘stale kheer’ to Salman Khan. Sooooo funny that I could actually feel my brain crackle and burn up.

Again, Khan seems to be the person you will be able to relate to on the set. He laughs, clearly because he has to and has realised that he has a long day ahead of him.

After some good seventeen minutes, Anushka Sharma is introduced. She is a sight for sore eyes and ears. There are some jokes cracked at her expense. Oh you know, those really funny ones on how women can’t drive? Those.

Navjot Singh Sidhu sees an opportunity and does not let it go. He says, “Jinki zulf ko dekh kar banda madmast baadal ho jaaye, Roop aisa qatil ki aashiq bhi pagal ho jaaye, Zaroorat kya hain mohtarma aapko kushti akhare ki, aap muskura do bade se bada pehelwan ghayal ho jaaye.” In all fairness, that seems to be the plot of Sultan.

The most trending video on YouTube, in all probabilities, took a subtle dig at the outrage around the ridiculous analogy.
Describing the experience of kushti, Salman Khan says “I felt like…” and Anushka interrupted. “What?” she asks. As an afterthought he says “…killing those guys.” Kapil Sharma says, “Bada soch samajh ke bolna padta hain aaj kal…aap bhi soch samajh ke hansiye. Sab phasenge (One really has to think before speaking these days…you all should also think before laughing. Or you all will be in trouble).”

If you are wondering what prompted this epiphany, you’ll have to be reminded of that unfortunate moment when Khan compared the rigorous work-out involved in getting a wrestler’s body to that of the physical trauma a raped woman has undergone. The most trending video on YouTube, in all probabilities, took a subtle dig at the outrage around the ridiculous analogy. Yup, what did we tell you about 2016?

Next comes Ali Asgar, dressed in a salwar kameez and jewellery. He makes a pass at Salman Khan, who knows not what to do. I assume we are supposed to find the idea of a cis man, dressed up as a woman, and hitting on another man, funny. At least from the raucous laughter on the sets, I am compelled to feel that I am in a minority.

The next couple of minutes is salvaged by Sunil Grover playing a funny know-it-all doctor called Dr Mashoor Gulati. Those were the actual few minutes in the episode that I stopped wondering who finds this nonsense funny. I think I had Anushka Sharma for company — she was pretending so hard to convince people that she was having fun that I could cry a tear or two for her.

Sometime later, at one point, Sunil Grover and Chandan Prabhakar, dressed as a woman, start a mock wrestle. They pant, they make faces, their wigs come off and the audience sounds like they are having a hard time keeping their stomachs from splitting. Understandable, I was almost in a similar space — only my head was the one at the receiving end of this extreme experience.

Advertisements

TiG Review : SULTAN

Fear not, Bhaisexuals — all is well with the Salman Khan Image Makeover Machine.

His latest, Ali Abbas Zafar’s Sultan, is as much evidence as is needed. This year’s solo Eid release — a Khan staple — is an unabashedly gung-ho sports melodrama about a Haryanvi wrestler named Sultan Ali Khan. In this film, Bhai is often shirtless and beating up people. He’s also a simpleton who manages to get the girl of his dreams. In a bizarre party sequence, women in cocktail dresses ask him in accented Hindi to leave his wife and go for one of them instead, but Bhai smiles shyly and instead croons a romantic song dedicated to his significant other.

*Ka-ching!*

It won’t matter to the box-office or to legions of Khan’s fans that Sultan is, at best, a somewhat-above-average star vehicle that uses well-worn commercial cinema tropes along with a few engaging wrestling/mixed martial arts sequences to cast its spell. The result is a familiar-ish, crowd-pleasing spectacle that occasionally skimps on basics like good writing and solid characterisation. While it is far ahead of last year’s abysmal MMA drama Brothers (2015), with which it has much in common, it still sacrifices authenticity here and there for the benefit of rousing ‘filmi’ moments.

When we first meet Sultan, he is a 30-year-old beefcake with a fledgling dish antenna business in his hometown (Rewari, Haryana) and the proud possessor of 1 nos. heart of gold. He doesn’t wrestle, however; all those bulging muscles (including the ones in his head) are the result of his ability to successfully chase kites better than kids, some of whom are half his age. On one such run, he chances upon Aarfa (Anushka Sharma), who is also a wrestler — a state champion at that — despite the fact that she possesses literally zero muscles and somehow always finds the time to get her make-up just right. Perhaps Meera from NH10 (2015) grew fond of rural Haryana and decided to stay back.

 In what has become a bit of a trend in Salman movies of late, the best actor in the film is the guy who plays the star’s best friend: Anant Sharma, who plays sidekick Govind with plenty of enthusiasm and the film’s most believable Haryanvi accent. As Sultan falls head over heels in love, with song situations for numbers like ‘Baby Ko Bass Pasand Hai’ and ‘440 Volt’ being spelt out as clearly as possible, Govind is with him every step of the way.
Zafar — who is also credited with story, screenplay, and dialogues — makes it very clear that he isn’t interested in subtleties. His film, while peppered with several watchable moments, is unabashedly male, with some mild feministic posturing that eventually rings hollow. For instance, Aarfa, who is shown to be wildly independent and focused on her dream (winning an Olympic gold medal), resists Sultan’s amorous advances at first. Taking this as a challenge, Sultan approaches her father Barkat Hussain (a typically genial Kumud Mishra), who runs a local akhaada, and asks to be trained for the state championship. A couple of Benny-Hill- and Rocky-inspired montages later, Sultan has become so good that he’s vanquished someone twice his weight. Suddenly, Aarfa has fallen in love with him. Later, she even gives up on her own dreams so that he can chase them. (Spoiler alert: he does, and succeeds! So much for years of training and discipline.). The only real reason given for this change of heart is that she’s in love and wants him to be happy, and this seems out of character.

Meanwhile, many years later, a sports entrepreneur named Aakash Oberoi (Amit Sadh), who is one of the people behind a failing franchise called Pro Takedown, attempts to bring Sultan into an MMA league (featuring actual Ultimate Fighting Championship fighters such as Tyron Woodley), eight years after a tragedy came between Aarfa and him (this, again, is literally fed to the audience) and led to him quitting wrestling forever. The second half, as one would imagine, is all about his return to the ring in a quest to win her back.
Khan, who has been playing the brawny simpleton for a while now, coasts through on his looks and the practiced ease with which he can disguise arrogance with almost child-like innocence (note: I’m only talking about his acting here). Despite often looking too old for the role, he somehow makes it work, and even displays surprising agility in some of the fighting scenes as well as one signature break-dance move in the song ‘Jag Ghoomeya’ (I was actually shocked by how well he did it).

Aesthetically, the film has all the hallmarks one would expect from a commercial entertainer: ever-present background music (Julius Packiam), sweeping shots and predictable usage of slow-motion, thunderous sound design… you know, the works. Towards the latter half, Randeep Hooda makes an enjoyable, Burgess-Meredith-like appearance as Fateh Singh, a man who runs an underground fighting club in old Delhi, and takes a gone-to-seed Sultan under his wing. “Saala saand,” he mutters delightedly, as he watches Sultan win a fight on TV — one of the film’s more pleasurable moments. Other moments, which attempt to hammer in cheesy, ‘It’s about fighting what’s within you’-like life lessons, didn’t work as well for me, admittedly.

But my biggest problem with Sultan is that it just doesn’t try hard enough to escape its own limitations, something Kabir Khan managed well with last year’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015). In a year in which movies like Airlift, Neerja, Kapoor & Sons: Since 1921, and Udta Punjab — to say nothing of the Marathi blockbuster Sairat — have changed the idiom of commercial cinema, Sultan is happy to stick to a more dated form and indulge in fan service.

At the end of the day, Zafar’s film is likely to have mass appeal and even win appreciation. But the yardstick being used is Salman’s filmography itself, and I reject the notion that the star is his own genre because it’s a convenient excuse to make mediocre films that will be over-praised merely if one gets a few of the basics right.