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Alarmed By A TV Show : Patriarchy Nights With Kapil?

Posted: July 19, 2014

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Popular TV shows often influence attitudes and trends. Here is an article about Comedy Nights With Kapil, and why we must be alarmed.

Comedy Nights With Kapil is winning accolades. The show is funny, with its startling comparisons and gender stereotypes – the pushing forty Bua declaring herself to be ‘hot and sexy twaanty two years old’ and the tully Daadi.  Telly viewers are going gaga over Kapil’s show.

I seem to be an exception. Am I the only one losing my sense of humour? I don’t laugh at his jokes, especially those about his wife Manju’s family; the area I am going to focus on. I get irritated and annoyed, I don’t find them funny. Am I taking things too seriously? Am I becoming unnecessary alarmed about the voice of patriarchy in remarks against women, especially against Manju Sharma in Comedy Nights With Kapil?

Though he has been taught many times by celebs to woo his wife, Bittoo Sharma keeps on making fun of his ‘bade hoton wali bibi’ (wife with big lips). She also keeps on checking on him whenever a beautiful guest appears on the show. This part of their love and hate relationship – it’s a cliché, because there is hardly any lovely respect – is still acceptable.

The ridicule Bittoo heaps on Manju’s father, brother, uncle, fact her whole family, though, is horrible. He calls her father a beggar, a pauper, a miser, a thief. This is not banter. I am not an “angry feminist” but this is not a laughing matter. The more we take  these comments as  jokes and laugh at them, the less likely it is that the perpetrators – Kapil, his scriptwriters with this mind set – will ever take it seriously and realize the errors of their way.

It’s a comedy show. I realize Kapil is not here to sermonize, or to be  didactic.

It’s a comedy show. I realize Kapil is not here to sermonize, or to be  didactic. He is depicting the status quo of  patriarchal culture. Though the tide is changing, men continue to have the upper hand as far as making compromises and adjustments is concerned, and women keep on playing second fiddle to men in relationships. Punjabis on the whole, are jolly people always willing to enjoy life. But Bittoo Sharma is injecting chauvinistic, patriarchal, Punjabi humour into the minds of his viewers.

Cultural values are shared assumptions about what is good, right, or important. Societal norms are based on values people hold dear, and we internalize them. Bittoo Sharma is creating a sanction for the unwritten assumption that it  is all right to make fun of one’s wife’s brother, father, brother , call them names, declare them beggars, paupers, cheats, swindlers and shoplifters, to taunt one’s wife for not bringing dowry and wedding gifts.

Her father and brother are bhukkads (gluttons), who always reach uninvited at parties and devour food stealthily. Why he has so far spared Manju’s mother is a mystery.  Her uncle is a watchman. Her cousin was caught stealing jewellery. Poor Manju keeps on protesting before her Sharmajee, to  not insult her family.

In a nutshell, Manju has come from a very lowly disreputable family. People are laughing at these jokes;  impressionable ones will internalize them and conform to them. Thus, their status will change. They will become approved  socially constructed expressions.

Manju is not shown making fun of  Bittoo’s family –  because that is not an acceptable patriarchal norm. If she were to do so, she would face social disapproval because it is her duty as a wife to respect her husband’s  family. Only husbands have the prerogative to be patronizing towards their wives’ families – the families naturally dearest to all the uprooted, displaced wives.

Whether Bittoo Sharma is following the existing social reality or not, he definitely is getting a chance to shape it.

As far as literature and society are concerned who picks up from whom is a moot point. Whether Bittoo Sharma is following the existing social reality or not, he definitely is getting a chance to shape it. When we see something being repeated so many times in our drawing rooms, it becomes very easy for us to accept it.

Social norms keep on changing; agreed? Television is a powerful medium; agreed ? Kapil by following this vein of humour(?) which is very popular and acceptable in the  patriarchal mindset, is creating an informal sanction for it in the Indian psyche. Look at how Punjabi apparel – salwar kameez has been accepted by women across India. Or, how South Indian dosas and idli are now pan-Indian food. Now, do you get what I am driving at?

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