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Comedy’s here to stay!

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Laughter, they say, is the best medicine. Going by the ever-growing popularity of comedy in show business today, people are taking that advice quite seriously.
Peter Ustinov, noted writer and actor, had certainly known what he was talking about when he had said, “Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.” For comedy is a look at life through rose-coloured glasses- a gentle jab at its many complexities. Time enough to worry about mundane everyday things- comedy lets you put your feet up, relax, and shut out the outside world.

Comedy, apart from “keeping the heart sweet” (in Mark Twain’s words), has recently been making waves in Bollywood. Hollywood and television sit-coms across the seas have always had a special place for comedy. Geniuses like Charlie Chaplin and entertainer Bob Hope pioneered the comedy movement. Its culmination is everywhere to see today.

Back home, everyone is cashing in on the comedy frenzy that has overtaken practically the rona-dhona kind of films. All one needs to do is just switch on the television set and there is either some kind of laughter challenge showing, or a hit sitcom. Funny movies are, of course, aplenty.

The multiplexes and movie theatres have been chock-full of recent comedy releases. BHAGAM BHAG, GOLMAAL and BHEJA FRY are just a few examples. BHEJA FRY itself was made on a modest budget of just Rs. 55 lakh, and went on to gross crores at the box office. Saikat Ghosh, 18, an avid movie watcher, says, “I went for the first-day, first-show of BHEJA FRY, and I wasn’t disappointed. The storyline was great, and Vinay Pathak and Rajat Kapoor were superb as always. Comedy has always been my favourite genre.”

But why this sudden frenzy about comedy? It seems war films, animations; even musicals- have all taken a backseat to laugh riots. Sunil Doshi, producer of BHEJA FRY, explains, “We Indians have a herd mentality. If, for any reason, one particular comedy movie works, everyone else will be eager to cash in. The next thing you know is every director in Bollywood is making a funny movie! Thus, the success of a particular genre plays a big role. Besides, comedy is a great stress-buster.”

The recent release, PARTNER, starring Govinda and Salman Khan grossed Rs 42 crore in the first week itself. Quite a staggering amount, isn’t it? The amount that this kind of movies grosses at the box office is testimony to the fact that they are much in demand. Basabdatta Basu Roy Choudhury, an undergraduate student, aptly says, “I’d watch any day a PARTNER or a BHEJA FRY over a KABHI ALVIDA NA KEHNA!”

However, the preference for comedy is evident not only in Bollywood today, but in very much a scoring point in the advertising industry as well. Comedy is more frequently used today to establish a brand image. For example, an ad that comes to mind is the Indica V2 ad, where a group of girls ask a boy on the road where they can find someone to rub suntan lotion on them. The boy tells them to try the Beach Café! Puts a smile on your face, doesn’t it? Bodhisatwa Dasgupta, copywriter at Ogilvy and Mather, New Delhi, stresses, “In advertising, we seek to make the audience remember the product. There are greater chances of that happening if the ad were to have a certain zing to it. And what better way to add zing to an ad than put a healthy dose of comedy into it? Yes, using that technique will give a definite guarantee that the viewer will remember the ad, and buy the product!”

Take for example the Naukri.com’s Hari Sadu ad which even bagged the "Campaign of the Year" award in 2006.
The Hari Sadu ad won the “Campaign of the Year” award at the prestigious Advertising Club Kolkata, Consumer Connect Awards held recently. The ad was created by FCB Ulka, New Delhi.

The creative concept of this commercial revolves around Hari Sadu, a domineering boss, with a storyline borrowed from a typical Hindi film formula of villain, hero and supporting actor (hero)!!

The message is that every employee has the right to make his or her own choice, with Naukri on hand to help.

And what better way to convey the message than comedy. Many of us would be able to connect to the ad when the subordinate, who has apparently got a better job from naukri.com, spells the name of his boss Hari Sadu over phone right in front of the boss with a choicest invective for every alphabet. H for Hitlar, A for arrogant, R for rascal and so on…

Apart from creating waves in Bollywood and our advertising industry, the comedy genre has made people sit up and take notice in Hollywood too. Where would we be without the antics of Mr. Bean? How many teenagers today would not know the existence of the hit sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and the American Lucy series by the older generation? And of course, one cannot forget the typical British humour in Yes, Minister’, Carry On sitcoms. For all of us have grown up with them. There is another reason for this mass adulation for comedy according to Doshi, “We live in dark times, characterized by socio-economic and political disturbances. Therefore we need distractions, we need to know that there’s a side of life that is bright and happy, and untouched by sadness, grief or violence. Comedy provides that much-needed respite. You can always depend on comedy to get you out of your depression.”

Comedy need not necessarily have reason, it need not have a cut-and-dried storyline. You needn’t wonder how the character will end up in the end. Comedy simply gives us a reason to laugh. As Groucho Marx said – “Humour is reason gone mad.” Move over- tragedy, shift aside-soap Operas… Comedy’s here to stay!



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