Last December, the All India Bakchod (AIB) troupe of comedians participated in what is known throughout the world as a "roast", meaning a comedy event in which consenting famous people appear and are openly joked about in front of a paying audience. The style of humor that characterizes a roast is adult language and jokes being made about one and the other.
The AIB Knockout roast was the first ever to be organized in India and it was hosted by star director and producer Karan Johar. The event starred Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, and at a lesser degree Alia Bhatt, Deepika Padukone and Sonakshi Sinha, who all took turns being roasted by the panel on stage and heartily laughed at the jokes being made about them.
No one thought that putting the video of the event up on Youtube would cause such outrage among Indians. In February a lot of ink flowed regarding the decision to bring the video down, raising the important question of what Indians are free to express or not, or the role of humor in Indian society. Internet and social media discussions and heated controversy over the event made the roast become a trending item across the Indian Internet. Recent news is that the AIB team will be guests at the India Today Conclave 2015 and will hold a panel discussion on freedom of speech.
At the Hindi Cinema Blog we wish humor in a roast were more classy and less cheap or politically incorrect, but in the end we accept that this is just a matter of taste and if adult entertainment is "out there" we are definitely not forced to watch or consume it if it is not our cup of tea. The roast, we have to admit, despite all this, still managed to feature several highly funny moments Jokes were at times so over the top that it was clear they were false jabs meant to be funny or even marks of affection and definitely not personal attacks. The atmosphere between the audience, the roasted and the roastees was a success and one might say it was liberating to see an Indian audience in action laughing at utterly adult humor, in a society in which "adult" activity or sexual allusions are kept well under wraps. Another positive point about the roast that tends to be forgotten is that the event gathered an impressive amount of money for charity and thus had a humanitarian angle to it.
So the question is: To Roast or Not to Roast?
At HCB we would like to stand by the side of those in favor of tolerance, freedom of speech and humor, particularly if it concerns consenting adults who are not harming anyone else. May the AIB roast be understood one day for what it was: an adult piece of entertainment one had the option to watch or not.