Saturday, April 21, 2012


My last post was written a long time ago. I posted it recently only because it was lounging around in the drafts section for too long. But polishing it up with the IMDB links and adding a few newer movies to the list led me another stream of thought. What sitcoms or comedy TV shows would I recommend to others?

Turns out it's a more difficult question to answer than I imagined. I realized that I've not followed any Indian TV series in more than 8~9 years. And to think that I've been outside India only half of the time. Most shows are generally crap... everywhere. Even then, it's not difficult to end up with a list of around 5-10 good American shows, 2-3 British ones (I've only just begun looking for them) which one could watch and follow.

Very few good Indian shows come to my mind. Most are not recent. And since I only speak Hindi and Marathi, I wouldn't want to comment on shows from other languages. But I'd wager there are much more good Marathi shows than Hindi shows. Probably because a relatively smaller audience, and even smaller funding opportunities automatically weed out the bad?

It also leads me to wonder about sitcoms. I now realize how language is an important factor to humour. When we crack jokes in Marathi or Hindi, they are generally puns, or play on words. Probably my lack of a good literary grounding in these languages is the cause for that. My knowledge is limited to some of the works of P. L. Deshpande.  I recently re-listened to some of his recordings (where he reads out and performs his own essays) and was struck by how different it is to what one sees now. He includes puns and play on words, yes, but his jokes are better written. There is a premise, a lead up and then a pay-off.

The better comedies in Marathi (405 Anandvan, Gangadhar Tipre, ... oh-god I can't remember any more!) tended to sprinkle it with some serious-er moments, but always followed the golden rule of not having the characters in on the joke. For the characters, the situation at hand was something of concern... they didn't realize it was funny to others because they were invested in its outcome. Which makes it so much more enjoyable.

Among the many gripes I have with Indian tv and cinema is that to me it seems everyone is trying to ape the flash-bang-hollywood movies and popular tv. We should rather figure out what we do better and do it.

Here's a parting thought: Watch shows like 30 Rock, Community, Doctor Who, Sherlock, Coupling, and even The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. Now how many recent Indian shows can you think of that make laugh out as loud (Ok.. that IS subjective I know). Or rather, think of which show you can quote from and have someone else instantly recognize it. "Sorry Shaktiman" is one, but is only said ironically. :-/

[Edit: The post and thought was mostly inspired because I spent some time in an improv troupe, and some people I know from there write 'notes' (on fb, so can't link here) or blogs on such analysis often.]

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