Neither fun, nor funny, ‘Comedy Nights’ has racial humour: Tannishtha

Neither fun, nor funny, ‘Comedy Nights’ has racial humour: Tannishtha

Parched actress Tannishtha Chatterje is all for being roasted, but her recent experience on the popular TV show ‘Comedy Nights Bachao Taaza’ was neither fun, nor funny. She explained in a detailed post on her Facebook page that the level of humour on the show is despicably low, especially because the jokes they cracked to ‘roast’ her were highly discriminatory and racial in nature.


We have to understand what roast means. What is satire? Satire is when you actually make fun of anything that is in a position of power. Institutions, political leaders, religion, very big people or institutions that are in a position of power. Satire never says that you have to attack things which are already marginalised, biases and minorities of a society. That is not satire. That’s a bully. There is a difference -Tannishtha Chatterje


Tanishtha with co-star Radhika Apte and director Leena Yadav was on the show to promote her latest film Parched. What really angered the actress was the fact that she was told it’ll be a ‘roast’, but the makers didn’t understand that concept at all. What she found herself in the middle of were racist comments that the makers thought were humorous. Tannishtha feels that the show is regressive and humiliating. But what is worse is that its makers don’t even realise what they’re doing wrong.


A ‘roast’ is an extension of a counter of a ‘toast’. You toast somebody’s life and instead of just saying ‘oh you’re so great, you’re contribution is so great’, you make fun of that person’s contribution to his/her field of work. That’s what actually a roast is all about. It’s a form of actually celebrating that person’s life.


Tannishtha shudders at being reminded of the show’s crass humour, which she believes is deeply rooted caste prejudices that no one is willing to address today.


This is not about me, this is not personal. This is actually propagating a very deeply problematic thought in our society, which is not only about skin tone. It is very deeply related to our caste system. You have to understand that, we never talk about it.


The 35 year old actress is known for her bold performances and unconventional choice of roles. She also says that the Comedy Nights Bachaao Taaza episode is not the first time she’s faced racial comments as an actress.


If you’re telling me that you’re going to ‘roast’ me, I’m in for that. Then do that. Don’t interpret this as comedy, because it emphasizes on the same prejudices and it shows what your mindset is. You’re prejudiced against it, that’s why you find it funny right? Otherwise what is funny in saying ‘have you eaten jamun and grown up?’ What’s funny about it, you tell me? It is not a joke. You find it funny because you are deeply rooted in that prejudice. The thing is that I cannot stand for this, because I’ve never stood for this. I’ve never used ‘white’ make-up on my face ever in my life. I’m very comfortable with my skin tone. I am very happy that I am my skin tone. Why do I have to be apologetic about it in 2016?

Even in films, so many times Nandita (Das) and I have discussed this, the moment you get an upper middle-class character, we are told ‘thoda sa fair make up kar lein? Yeh character gaaon wala nahin hai na’ (can we do slightly fair make-up, this character is not from a village). What does that mean? It means that people like Nandita and I don’t exist, who are educated, who can have a dark skin. So this is really beyond all those things. This is not comedy.


The jokes on the show ranged from calling her a jamun-eater to kaali kalooti baingan looti. Tannishtha just couldn’t tolerate the insults any more and left the show midway. Sadly, the creators of the show didn’t quite understand what she was angry about. After she left the sets, they told everyone that she was feeling unwell and so had to rush away.


I told them (the makers) very clearly why I’m leaving and Leena (Yadav) also told them. But they just did not understand. This is the problem, that people think it’s funny. They constantly said that ‘but we told you it’s a roast’. Do I have to become your teacher and define for you what a roast is? I’m not here for that. You should know your job. You should know what a roast is. I’m not here to teach you what a roast is.


The popular show stars stand-up comics Bharti Singh and Krushna Abhishek. Recently, a new set of comedians including Sumeet Vyas of TVF’s Permanent Roommates and social media sensation Ssumier ‘Pummy Aunty’ Pasricha also joined the show, hoping to take its humour up a notch.


Comedy Nights Bachao has a bit of a nasty reputation though. A few months ago, Akshay Kumar got miffed with its cast and makers for making rude jokes about his Housefull 3 co-stars Lisa Haydon and Jacqueline Fernandez, for their rusty Hindi.