Humour Can Be A Great Asset

by Someswar Bhagwat

Many women, when asked what quality they like most in men, reply “a sense of humour.” Sense of humour is not just an ability to make others laugh. It also means the ability to grasp subtle humour, appreciate implied meaning and sense the finer points of life. One with a sense of humour makes more friends, goes higher in life and shines in any field of activity. He/she is not dumb or naive or a dullard.

I remember interviewing the most famous Marathi humourist then, Pu. La. Deshpande known to the Marathi literary world only as ‘PuLa’ over half a century ago. PuLa said that according to the ancient treatise ‘Nayashastra’ humour was born out of pathos (karuna rasa). Humour is the outcome of Man failing to understand the unknown – his faltering steps into the world….. his blundering moves. I had asked PuLa about another humour writer P. K. Are who wrote his name as PK and not Pra Ke (he was Prahlad Keshav Atre) as per the practice in Marathi. This was because he wanted to create humour from his own name. Fond of his peg of whisky, he used to say ‘PK when drunk and PK even when not tipsy’ (in Hindi peakey means after drinking) and one of his most famous plays {also filmed) was ‘Ekach Pyala’ (One more peg) as every alcoholic says he would have only one more peg… every one just the very last. 

Though he agreed that Atre’s humour was “on the surface”  because he, being a journalist (he was editor of ‘Maratha‘ daily), looked only at surface ripples and not for depth, as that alone makes news .  I thought Atre’s humour was great as best humour is regarded as that which deprecated self. Perhaps P.G.Wodehouse’s way of making fun of own English way of life and it’s hierarchy of Lords made him.my favourite author.

There are other humorists like Herbert Jenkins of Blundle series, Jerome K Jerome of the old-time America, Henry Cecil’s legal humour and Richard Gordon of medical world. Humour, PuLa said “is the safety spring of life, the ‘glass with care’ sign that stops us from breaking down under the stress of living in this complex world.”

In Indian languages few could be classified as purely humourists. Kaka Hatharsi and Surendra Sharma (who could tell a joke against self with a deadpan face) were most common fixtures in any ‘Hasya kavi sammelan’ as poetry remained the  forte of humourists in Hindi.  In Telugu Tenali Ramakrishna has been the all-time great who has been claimed by Tamil too as Tenaliraman though Tenali town is in Andhra. 

 But  the genre of humour never made much headway in Telugu books as Telugus and Tamils have a craze for cinema. As this medium took over the lives of Telugus, a class of comedians like Relangi ruled Telugu films. In the celluloid world of  India, where films provide escape  from the poverty and harsh realities that dominate, a class if actors came up as comedians who alone  be funny in films with male leads limiting themselves to heroics. 

Drunk Kesto Mukherji, ‘Madrasi’ Mehmood or comic Johnny Walker limited themselves to comedy in Hindi films. Very few like ‘Munna’ Sanjay Dutt inspired by Pach Adams of Hollywood would be heroes while being funny. All fun is for comedians with virtues monopolized by  heros and evil by villains. Indian heros have to be epitomes of virtue and all badness  is 0monopolized by villains. Villains and heroes can’t be funny or bad and rarely can comedians be heroes. Life in the make-believe film world  fun, villainy and virtues got compartmentalized. 

The hero is loved, the comedian is laughed at and the villain is hated. It never occurs to film-makers that anyone whose interest conflicts with one is a villain or that heros can also be funny. You have to laugh on cue and a villain has to be a personification of evil. The hero like the king can do no wrong.The viewer identifies himself or herself only with  the hero or heroine. Others are left to other people. 

The present-day  videos of Rahul Gandhi (as he could be, being grandson of a Parsi and not a  Gujarati) that show him talking of a machine that converts potatoes into gold and demanding the question to his answer, now viral on the social media, show that he is causing a lot of laughs. And the speeches are extempore, not  in Hindi written in another script as in the case of his mother Sonia.

 They  may  have been created by the IT cell of the Bharatiya Janata Party as alleged by the party  believing in dynasty rule.  But they do provide humour in Indian politics, sadly lacking after the demise of Raj Narain of UP, Joachim (joking) Alva of Karnataka and Mahant Laxminarayan Das of MP who could  drive people to death laughing. While they were regional the prince of the dynasty produced a national level joker. BJP may find it counterproductive to promote his funny image to demolish the Congress.  It may not be a tragic failure like Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker if people found out the benefits of laughing  and think it is ‘jest’ what the doctor ordered – as laughter is the best medicine. 

Dr Annie Besant was said to have felt that Indians as a class lacked a sense of humour. Rajiv Gandhi was  not born then.  


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