Mumbai: The stage was set. Actors Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor made their entries amid a blast of confetti, dancing to a popular number, just as they would in a Bollywood award function. The only difference is that they were walking to the stage not to receive any award or to play the evening’s host, but to be ‘roasted’ — which in comic parlance means getting insulted.
Within seconds, they were bombarded with one-line jibes hurled at them by “roastmaster” Karan Johar and a panel that comprised a critic and several comedians. Under attack were Singh’s libido, his “loud and crass” Sindhi roots, a rival actor’s tattoo on his rumoured girlfriend Deepika Padukone’s nape.
At one point, stand-up comic Aditi Mittal thanked Padukone, seated in the front row of the audience, to have kept Singh “off the streets”, thus making other women feel safe. Kapoor was mocked for being the “most untalented” from a film family that already has Sonam and Sanjay Kapoor, apart from being constantly reminded that he flunked Class 12. In this slinging match, no one was spared. Johar, despite being the host, was subjected to all kinds of jokes on his much-debated sexual preferences.
All these played out, not for a select-audience, but in a ticketed public event. Nearly 4,000 people had turned up that at the NSCI
Auditorium in Worli for All India Bakchod (AIB) Knockout aka The Roast of Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh — an evening of “insult comedy”, a popular comedy concept in the West, where a celebrity is invited to be a punching bag.
To their credit, the two young Bollywood leading men played along showing a sporting spirit rarely seen in the Hindi film industry. “You upper middle-class idiots, you spent Rs 4,000 to see us getting insulted,” Kapoor said to the audience. “You could have watched Gunday 25 times with that money and saved us a flop,” he said, referring to the 2014 dud, in which he and Kapoor appeared together. The event, in a way, celebrated the year that has gone by, when old, stuffy Bollywood loosened up a bit and showed its ability to laugh at itself.
This attitudinal change can be attributed to the growing popularity of spoofs and parodies made by comedy collectives such as AIB and The Viral Fever (TVF) and their expanding reach on the internet.
If AIB’s event was remarkable for the unabashed Bollywood bashing, TVF pulled off a coup by getting superstar Shah Rukh Khan in their spoof talk show Barely Speaking with Arnub. In the guise of jokes, the superstar had to face some tough questions, like does he really buy the Best Actor awards? One of this year’s biggest viral hits was AIB’s Genius of the Year featuring promising young actor Alia Bhatt. It showed Bhatt parodying her dumb actor public persona following her disastrous performance in the general knowledge round of Koffee with Karan.