Barring a few exceptions, comedy in India has long stayed a predominantly male territory. This explains why women are mostly relegated on the sidelines and left with relatively secondary characters when it comes to the casting of these shows. But Shilpa Shinde was certainly expecting something different when she recently signed up for Star Bharat's Gangs of Filmistan.
However, as per the media reports, the actress ended up quitting the show even before its debut on Monday, August 31st and the reason won't even shock you. Right after quitting the show, she shared in a recent media statement, "I had given my 200 percent, I had done a lot of hard work which obviously was not seen at all. I felt like I was being used as an eye candy. I came, I uttered two lines and went off."
She further added, "They have used my name. I am doing the show after two years, I should have been at least given a special entry. Till the time we were performing the scenes without Sunil ji we all were doing great, the moment he started doing gags, we got sidelined. I am working after a gap of two years, why will I try to spoil everything, but I want to say that I was getting exploited on the sets when it comes to acting. This show is being made to give Kapil Sharma a competition. I am giving an open challenge to the makers if you want to make the show all about Sunil Grover, then please rename it to The Sunil Grover Show and air it on the weekend when Kapil's show airs, I am ready to work. After having an experience of so many years I am being used as a prop, is it justified?"
Sad as it is, this is certainly not where the Indian comedy shows' sexism ends. In fact, it's just the beginning. More than half a decade ago, when Comedy Nights With Kapil first aired on the Indian TV, it became an overnight sensation. The show had the most illustrious stars of the country making guest appearances, offered an easy respite from the slew of saas-bahu serials that were airing in dozens on almost every channel, and offered clean entertainment (or so it appeared back then). In no time, Kapil became the undisputed comedy king of the country, and his jokes a part of household banter. All of this while very few could detect the strong vein of sexism and playful misogyny that ran through the show.
Kapil Sharma kept objectifying women in the show, including the guest stars but kept calling his wife (played by the very lovely Sumona Chakravarti) "chappal jaisi shaqal ki" while he was at it. Long things short, he either kept objectifying women or shamelessly insulting them. There was never an in-between. Speaking of tropes as projected on his show, the wife was ever the sulking, nagging inconvenience while the bahar wali always an enticing temptation.
But then again, who are we to complain about the gharwali-baharwali jokes? Haven't so many of us grown up hearing them in our very homes while growing up. Deny as much as you want to, but there's no other way to explain those pati-patni jokes that always have a way of finding their way in our Whatsapp inbox.
It's rather alarming how so many of these jokes revolve around an aggressive wife and women who just effectively change and ruin your life after marriage, household chores that are again done by women, appearance and body weight, and how the bechara man is constantly torn between the wife and his mother. Basically, most of these jokes revolve around thoughts and ideas that would certainly offend if served without a tinge of humour. If you think about it, perhaps these jokes are our society's way of making its misogyny and sexism palatable. Perhaps it's our society's way of presenting its sexism in an agreeable guise. And this will keep happening till women effectively take a centre stage and actively address this huge, problematic gap.
Back in 2017, Anupama Chopra organised a panel discussion on the topic, 'Is there sexism in the comedy industry as well?' Now, here's the catch, out of the six panelists five were men who 'tried' giving their two cents on the topic. So eager were they to answer this question that Biswa Kalyan Rath, Vipul Goyal, and Tanmay Bhat decided to take a lead while Aditi Mittal sat and watched. She heard them go on and on, waited for them to finish, and then destroyed the panel with one single comment, “Can I talk now? Is it ok to speak?”
Well, we'd ask the same question: can women comedians take the centre stage and finally talk? As for Shilpa Shinde, we are glad that she did. No one wants to watch a show that's made to mollycoddle a single man's ego after all these years of Comedy Nights With Kapil. At least not us and you shouldn't either!
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