So let’s start with a story. You may consider the entire article, therefore, to be a case study.
This was in college, engineering college, if you care about that stuff. Diwali was in the air, quite literally, and needless to say, many students chose to celebrate the festival by setting of firecrackers in the washrooms. I guess bombs would have been a better description but any foreign person reading this wouldn’t have grasped the nuanced difference. Anyway, the authorities cracked down and instigated a random search. Our little section was fortunate as we were greeted by a breathless kid just before a class. The kid panted out the information which told us that our class was next in line for the search.
Before most of could react, a student, friend of mine, bolted out the door with his bag. It was obvious he was ‘holding,’ and hence, we ran after him as well. He ran to the washroom, entered it and put the ‘Cleaning in Progress’ sign in front of it. We entered after him to find him holding, but not what we had assumed he was.
Standing near the wash basin, my friend had a bottle of Royal Stag Whisky and was staring at it in a manner similar to Voldemort who saw Harry finally appear before him in the Forbidden Forest. He was ecstatic but resigned as he turned us to and told us, “I have to finish this now.”
A man of saner disposition would have told him to just flush it, but not the three of us. We stood beside him and started drinking the bottle, taking swigs turn by turn. It wasn’t long before one of us had rushed to the canteen and brought four paper cups. We were also joined by a couple of other guys who, to our delight, were accompanied by plastic plates. These were filled with ‘chowmein,’ which I can only assume, by the taste, was made from unleaded petrol. We ate, drank, laughed, relieved ourselves and finally passed out in the washroom. We were woken up by a cleaner who was too shocked to even react to the scene. Also, we fled before he could.
I’ve told a lot of my friends this story. An interesting thing happened as a result. A lot of them laughed, as I did tell it to them as funnily as I could. Some of them grinned or snickered or sniggered or whatever the damn verb is. Then there were some who didn’t find it funny at all. And among this last group, were two people whom I like to refer to as ‘adjectivists.’ Words, or adjectives, if you will, like ‘immature,’ ‘irresponsible,’ and ‘ridiculous,’ were used by these two. They questioned my sanity and the level of my intelligence when I told them I found it funny. They probably had the same opinion for the others who had laughed at the story as well. It was then that I realised what had happened. I realised what I had become.
In their eyes, I was Rohit Shetty.
Confused? Read the story and the subsequent paragraph again. Also glance at the article title. Take your time, I can wait. Not a problem. I’ll make some tea while you’re at it.
Read it again? You’ve got questions. I can tell. Let’s dive right into it.
The Golmaal series began in 2006 and was accompanied by total surprise. The film was a sleeper hit and was quite appropriately timed. The market for comedies had been run by Priyadarshan and his particular brand. This brand had become tiresome to the general public and there was a feeling of animosity towards comedies when Golmaal came out. The movie did quite well, however, with its extremely weird humour, ridiculous action, zany characters and an overall stupid but funny plot. Since then, Golmaal has become a franchise and Rohit Shetty has become a household name with his brand of comedy. That fame, however, did come with its problems.
Rohit Shetty’s brand of comedy has been dubbed by many as a new trend. Many critics and film goers believe that Shetty is useful in raking the big moolah but his movies lack substance or in fact, anything. His film making is considered shoddy, and a lot of people face condemnation for just wanting to watch his films, let alone actually doing so. He understands this himself, fully accepting the 1 star and 2 star ratings in his stride as he churns out one entertainer after the other. Golmaal Again is another in a long line of comedies that have done well, obviously liked by a majority of the audience, but reviled by an equally significant section of the cinema populace.
We all know that the divide exists. What I chose to ask instead, why is such a divide even there? Why is it so wrong to love the Golmaal series? I have had my opinions on such films in general, which you can read about here so there’s no point rehashing that.
Today, instead, I chose to be a little more specific and give you the reasons why I love the Golmaal series and why you should love it too.
Firstly, let’s discuss subjectivity.
A lot of people would be arguing by this point that humour is subjective. What one person finds funny may not be as funny to another. But a lot of us miss a detail when discussing subjectivity. I mean, after all, if we take my story as an example, it’s about boys getting drunk in a college washroom. Hardly an ideal for the future of this country. Humour like this IS subjective, definitely. But Rohit Shetty’s brand is not of this kind. Take Golmaal, the first one, for example.
You’ve got a bunch of four youngsters making fools out of an elderly, blind couple and living in their house, with a lack of future prospects. That has comedic potential like nothing else. We have an assassin who fails spectacularly everytime due to happenstance. The villain is a deaf gangster by the name of Babli. The youngsters are being chased by another gangster whose name, not subtly at all, is Vasooli. Add to that a love interest, a man who is mute but swears like there’s no tomorrow, some diamonds, a cheesy backstory, action and there you go, a Rohit Shetty film.
The movie is pure comedic gold with a wide variety of jokes, aimed specifically at making all people laugh and entertaining everyone who watches it. Families usually enjoy juvenile humour that is (mostly) kid friendly. Youngsters will laugh at everything. Adults find some solace from their hectic routines. Subjectivity is not an issue here because the film and the film maker truly intend to entertain as many people as they can and maybe, just maybe, add a little laughter to their lives. Even adding that little amount, let me tell you, is a Herculean task. If you think about it, the only common thing in all the variety of jokes is a consistent level of juvenility.
That brings me to my next point – intent.
Intent is an important part of any work of art, whether it’s music or painting or film or any other. Intent is what the producer of said art wishes us to experience. It’s not something we aren’t familiar with, after all it’s one of the reason genres exist. Each film comes with an experience that the film maker wishes you to be a part of. A thriller film wishes for you to be thrilled. A family drama wishes you to think of your family and tap into all those emotions. Similarly, a comedy wishes to make you laugh.
That’s what I did with my story. You heard it. Maybe you found it funny or maybe you didn’t. But do you honestly believe that the people who found it funny are idiots?
If not, then I don’t have a problem with you. But if you do think so, then why? You’d probably say the story was stupid and immature and you know what? You would be absolutely right. But since when does laughing at something stupid make us stupid as well? We have all seen silent artists like Charlie Chaplin do their thing and most of that work, if you think about it, is profoundly based on stupidity.
But why is Chaplin considered a genius?
It is for the very simple reason that the stupidity we saw was manufactured and performed meticulously with each frame setting up a joke, a payoff in the end that will make your stomach hurt with laughter.
It is the same with the Golmaal films. Are they stupid? Overwhelmingly.
There’s a scene in the third Golmaal film where the five characters are sitting across each other. One of them raises an object (a candle) and moves it in a particular way, revealing the intention for that object to be shoved up the other’s backside. The other retaliates with another, even bigger candle and the silent, physically non violent fight remains as it is, yet the crude humour escalates into something exceedingly funny. Add to that the Hum Saath Saath Hain tune in the background and you can leave everything else to itself.
But I can hear the argument coming. If it’s the argument I think it is, then I must say that you’re a very reasonable and smart person. I like you. The argument itself should go something like this.
“It’s easy to say that such a broad variety of jokes negates the problem of subjectivity but that’s not a claim that can be realistically made. Also, while the intent to make people laugh through purposefully stupid design is commendable, it does not always have the intended effect for everyone. I mean, why should I spend money to watch a film that has zero substance and requires such a high level of suspension of disbelief? Such suspension borders on intellectual degradation, so why should I do it?”
This person sounds smart, doesn’t she/he? It’s a valid argument, I have to say, and does have some merit. I’ll be the first to admit that my argument gets a bit jittery here but then this article isn’t about people who don’t like Rohit Shetty’s comedy. It’s about those who dismiss it as unlikable. There’s a small difference and you’ve probably noted it if you’ve read the article as carefully as I wrote it (YOU BETTER HAVE). Having said that, I am still going to try and counter this particular argument. Wish me luck.
The average movie watcher believes that the more substance a film has, the lesser your suspension of disbelief. Putting it simply, the more the film has to say, the lesser we have to convince ourselves of its realism.
A film like Dunkirk is about a very real event and displays the horrors of war. The film has substance (horrors of war) and thus, we don’t have to stop our brains from screaming, “THIS IS SO UNREALISTIC OH MAH LAWRD!” This is because our brains aren’t screaming at all. We believe it. It’s too realistic for us not too. But what about a film like Blade Runner 2049?
Filled with so much thematic complexity, this was a movie with a lot of substance. Yet it was based in a future in which there are flying cars and robots that appear human, forming the basis for extremely philosophical themes. Wouldn’t such a highly fictional film require a higher suspension of disbelief? How about films like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings? There is a point in every film where you have to actually believe what is happening. At that point, you accept it as truth and then just experience what the story asks you to. Think about it, what made you think that my college story is real and not a complete fabrication. Once you’ve thought about that, ask yourself this. Does it even matter?
It’s obvious that the relationship between substance and disbelief is more complicated than most think it is. Any movie buff could tell you that.
Why, then, does it become such a difficult act to completely suspend your disbelief for a movie that lacks substance? Comedies can have substance too (Peepli Live, Thithi), but they work equally well even if there’s a lack of it (Golmaal series, duh). It’s one of the best things about them. What’s wrong if you just shut your brain up for two hours and revel in the madness that ensues? As you hold that thought, why don’t you also apply it to the little story in the beginning?
There’s also another little thing (Last, I promise). I have a friend. Her name is Tulika. She hears me tell the story of my drunken escapade in the washroom and she finds it funny. But before she can laugh, the people around her start telling me what an absolutely horrible story it was. They tell me how I represent that problems this country faces and how I am an example of youth that will do nothing in life. She controls her laughter and says nothing.
Let’s say she doesn’t find it funny, genuinely. She’s not the sort of person who’s really into this form of humour, maybe because of her friends or maybe she has friends who are similar to her. A real chicken and egg situation. But one day she has had a shitty day and decides that she wants to go to the theatre and watch a stupid movie like Golmaal. She can’t, however, without openly declaring herself as a hypocrite. Peer pressure, of all things, stops her from watching Golmaal and laughing like a baboon, where all she’s looking for is a release.
How does this point even figure into why I like these films? In fact, how do any of these points? I’ll tell you why. I appreciate Rohit Shetty and the Golmaal franchise for doing what they have always done.
I love the fact that their films have everything, from a gangster with short term memory loss to a man who turns violent every time he sees a finger pointed at him. It’s a vast range of comedic highs (and lows as well) and it makes me feel eager for more. Every time I watch a Golmaal film, I tell myself that he can’t top this. Two years later he does, displaying a level of creativity which is actually quite rare. It’s hard to be crazy, believe me, but it’s even harder to be consistently so.
It’s no small feat to make people laugh, but Shetty and his team achieve it. I watch people sitting around me laugh and when 400 people laugh loudly at something, I can safely say that something funny’s happening. Everyone, right from my grandmother, to my NRI cousins, enjoy themselves. In his own way, Rohit Shetty succeeds in his intent to entertain. Isn’t that the point to every film, to provide the very experience it intends to? That experience comes with a certain amount of relaxation as well. I can go ahead and point out all logical inconsistencies but I don’t need to. I can suspend my disbelief and watch this film that has absolutely nothing but craziness to boast of.
As for the final point, namely peer pressure, I think that’s a reason more for you than for me. I make that distinction because the human mind can have likes and dislikes based on irrational reasons as well. In that case, not liking something isn’t a problem, but going ahead to dismiss it, as I said before, is not really the best way to go. By extension, sometimes, liking something or wanting to do something, like watching a mindless comedy, can have an irrational basis as well. We saw this with Tulika.
A film like Golmaal, thus, succeeds in a way few other films do. It makes the irrational fun. It helps you understand that you don’t always need to be rational or logical in the fun that you have. It’s a message that lies at the very core of such films and it is why I love them. It is why I will always love them.
Now scroll back up and read my story again.