Stand up comedy is just getting its teeth cut out in India. It’s a big thing, yes, and many people have made careers out of it, but the recent #MeToo movement has taken the wind out of the sails of the comedy movement.
Every other day, names and accounts of sexual harassment are jaw-droppingly surprising. In a matter of three days, the biggest name in stand-up comedy in India, AIB, is headless. Tanmay Bhatt has stepped down, Gursimran Khamba has been accused of sexual harassment, Utsav Chakraborthy has been accused of asking for nudes and sending them to under-age girls., In one fell swoop, AIB is this close to become a ‘was’.
It’s not like AIB hasn’t weathered bad times. Its Roast polarized the audience and it was one of the few times that AIB got some mainstream press. But the victory that AIB had was thumping. So big a victory, that Tanmay could afford to joke about the difference between a police complaint and a FIR at the launch of his series for Amazon Prime.
That’s because audiences were divided about the roast was derogatory or not. When you hear that roast, you know something’s off, but not many have the cinema background to describe what. But this time, it’s different. When Utsav Chakraborthy says that his nudes tweet needed to be seen in ‘context’, you understand that a pathetic, reason -for-the-season concept’s been working about.
What these accusations have done, is put everyone on a backseat. The issue with these accusations is that these are just accusations – most of them even rising out of private conversations. We don’t exactly know what will happen now. If there’s litigation, and if these accusations go to court, there’s a procedure of law to be followed. Most celebrities accused of sexual harassment have already gone the defamation way.
So, while Khamba and Tanmay have stepped back, the whole of AIB will be vary now of making public appearances, making new shows, being seen in public – what that will do to stand up comedy In India is anybody’s guess.