Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Changing morality of humour

Saw this movie- 3 Idiots the other day. Its an interesting movie and can be discussed on a number of lines. For example- What makes it a hit, The use of emotional moments, The actual issue on education that it deals with, Super performance of the artists, Average music scores etc etc.

I feel like expressing my thoughts on the changing morality of humour over a period of time. In the years to come i will try to keep pace with changes and how they stand on the axis of time.

What struck me in the movie was the fact that it didn't have any bounds on what can be laughed at. For one, funny teachers (or masterji) with a chari in his hand has been a subject of humour since b/w movie days.
  • A paralytic father being shown in a humorous way
  • Friends poking fun at each others parents
  • Poverty in the home of one of the characters has been depicted humorously though actually speaking there is really nothing humorous about poverty or else people would have loved to experience it regularly
  • Middle class norms have been very blatantly laughed at e.g. daughter waiting to get married for want of dowry
  • A speech where the word 'balatkar' (meaning rape) has been inserted in the wrong place excites huge laughter in the crowd
  • Ritual of immersion of the last remains of one's life
  • Certain social beliefs like wearing rings for a safer tomorrow
The acceptability of humour in aspects which actually are not fundamentally humourous can mean the following:
  • Increasing acceptability of humour in 'holy cow' areas indicates mark of a more broad minded and liberal society. Assuming that society is equally broadminded when something it holds dear also gets scoffed at publicly
  • Mark of a society that needs to just let-go when it comes to entertainment
We are talking about shift of times of mid 50s when there would be a seperate comedian in the movie accompanying the hero. The hero would always be wise and responsible like Guru Dutt (how can he be a subject of laughter? :))  to gradual shifts where the key protagonist becomes comical like in Chupke Chupke, Andaz Apna Apna, Golmaal or Namak Halaal to raw below the belt humour which is quite common these days to broad based humour that we see in a movie like this one- where anything can suddenly inspire laughter.

If this movie is just an indicator of the two factors stated then probably it seems innocuous. But does it also somewhere serve as an indicator of a society which is gradually losing its sensitivity. In a metropolis, witnessing insensitivity is a norm. In fact seeing display of sensitivity becomes an event especially in public places. Can we imagine the impact of such humour on kids?

Or does it somewhere imply mocking of the shells that have enveloped and defined our identity since several years of hollow unchallenged practices like women should not be financially independent, an economy growing at 2.4% for decades hence majority remained poor etc.  Does this humour somewhere echo with the changing mood of the economic growth of the country and the upwardly mobile youth of today who wants to laugh at his own past and just come out of it? Is that the right way to do. Is there a moral question that we can't skip answering?

As someone expressed in an article that i read, are we also, in the process somewhere becoming part of the larger joke or probably it just means that the author of this blog has a weird sense of humour.

Anything can be true :)


Minal said...

Interesting insight Ujjwal. Way more constructive criticism than the usual bashing of the movie I've read! And guess that is expected from you;-)
Well from an intellectual perspective can't debate you but from a total movie buff and considering I take movies I watch pretty seriously - i think the issues you state can be ignored in view of the larger picture. The movie conveys a message and artists deliver straight from the heart. Atleast 60% of the film has its heart in the right place so can't we forgive these? Compared to the crap that is dished out - this movie comes like a breath of fresh air.
Keep writing - will go through other articles later!

Saurabh Gupta said...

To borrow a line from the above comment - constructive, thought provoking, and substantiated criticism.
Some other ways of looking at the parts you have pointed out would be-
Some of the humor is coming from Rancho - some would say his reality is also quite unfortunate, and unfortunate in the same way that he is poking fun at - thus the humor is not coming from outside but from within. Which takes away the malice, and in fact adds resolve to overcome the obstacle.
Some other parts indicate complete acceptance of the other ones disadvantage. To elaborate- If I have a handicap, most people would not want to talk about it, for it might hurt me, but will remain conscious of it nevertheless - which will show in different forms of sympathy - which will never give me the complete satisfaction of competing as an equal. On the other hand, when one has completely accepted my handicap, and is confident of his own acceptance, will not think twice about making a joke of it (with me and not behind me) - which completely conveys the equality, and all that comes along with it. Camaraderie shown in the movie, which many in engineering (or other) colleges can relate with, can certainly relate with this kind of joke.
Almost the same spirit is applicable to the jokes toward each others parents, and one must not ignore that along with the joke - there was shown an intense care friends took of parents - which reflected love. These jokes in a strange way blur the line between "You" and "I" (when the love is present).
Some other humor seemed like satire against self pity, which is really a greater evil than anything else.
Some of the middle class norms, are again a reflection of self pity. Not married, well, not married. Fretting over it, and worrying everyone - perhaps a subject which needs some humorous bashing.

Coming back to the central idea of your blog - 'changing' morality - got to agree, and pleasantly agree. If we as a society are not changing over the years, we must certainly get worried. Only one would hope we are not decaying.
In some ways we have also moved away from Hrisikesh Mukherjee's (one of my favorites film maker) interview scene of Gol Maal - though funny - but some serious type casting.

Having said all this, I would not be surprised if I am blinded by my admiration for Aamir Khan (only for his movies - not his politics ;-) ).

Ujjwal said...

I agree Minal that on a comparative note this movie surely has rich content and a very smooth flow. Lots of positives.
In fact there are a lot of other crappy stuff in movies which would be even more glaring indicators of the changing tastes. My concern was more on account of increasing acceptability of something which calls for further introspection, if not public discussion.

For example, why do I feel happy on seeing a certain scene? Am i relishing all aspects of that scene or do I have some reservations.

Ujjwal said...

Hey Saurabh, really interesting perspective.And thanks so much for commenting.

I agree that jokes are great equalizers or else they stand for mockery or ridicule if there is a feeling of one party feeling superior to the other.

I feel that when we talk about mature societies or evolved cultures, there need to be lot more indicators than mere sense of humour. That doesn't appear so evidently in our society for several reasons such as our inert stance towards democracy, self centricity in public life, stoic silence in the face of anything that is untoward etc etc.

When society starts showing marks of really positive behaviour at different levels, can we probably infer examples of such humour as breaking of a glass ceiling since I really don't think in our society people who go to discs look at people who can't afford a private school for their kids as equals. I am not stating that they are to be blamed for it. But that condition needs to be established for the humour to be validated. Of scoffing at self pity or girls not getting married on account of dowry etc.

The reality is that people are even today in extremely pitiable states and we can meet several cases on a day to day basis. And it really doesn't appear that humorous.

There were quite a few positive shots which very well reminded me of shots of 'Munnabhai MBBS' where Munnabhai goes around the city bringing smiles to the face of unknown people and everyone in the hall gets delighted. Looks like a formula to me now :(. Sorry for sounding cynical here though.

But for sure performance for really enjoyable. Undoubtedly. :)

疼痛 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rangashri Kishore said...

Dear Ujjwal,

Thanks for your insight on the Movie. I could never visualise it in that sense.

Well, I have been trying to get in touch with you thru Anupam Kher Foundation website. But no one answers. Infact I had mailed you reg requirement of books for your school kids.

Ms. Rangashri Kishore
Public Health Foundation of India
New Delhi