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Tanmay Bhat may not be funny, but that’s no reason to threaten him

Tanmay Bhat/Facebook
Bhat that's not funny.
  • Harish Pullanoor
By Harish Pullanoor

Co-editor, Quartz India

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Tanmay Bhat perhaps knew he had it coming.

So when the co-founder of comedy collective All India Bakchod (AIB) posted his latest video on social media on May 26, it came with a short disclaimer: “Also I obviously love Lata and Sachin, just having some fun.”

After all, the irreverent stand-up comedian was lampooning two of India’s most enduring celebrity icons: retired cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and revered playback singer Lata Mangeshkar.

Using Snapchat’s nifty face swap feature, Bhat pit the two against each other, sprinkling it with a small dose of invectives. The face-off over comparisons between Tendulkar and dashing Indian batsman Virat Kohli also includes the two icons turning crass and talking about each other’s death. There are also some Game of Thrones references.

You just don’t do that in thin-skinned India.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), a son-of-the-soil political outfit from Maharashtra, was quick to call for the public thrashing of Bhat, besides threatening to file a case against him.

“Forgiveness won’t do, these people should be caught on the road and beaten up,” MNS leader Ameya Khopkar reportedly said, “…We will protest and he won’t be able to come out on the road.”

There is simply no justification for such threats of violence—even if popular celebrities are being ridiculed.

For others, somewhat understandably, Bhat’s antics were decidedly humourless and distasteful. From Bollywood star Riteish Deshmukh to budding politician Aditya Thackeray of the Shiv Sena, there were repeated mentions of “disrespect.” Sure, Bhat’s jibes on Mangeshkar’s advanced age seemed tasteless, but neither she nor Tendulkar need guardians to speak on their behalf, particularly those of the MNS sort.

The most perplexing of reactions to Bhat’s audacity, however, came from veteran actor and known Bollywood conservative Anupam Kher. For, one was left wondering if Kher was blowing his own loud trumpet in the cacophony.

The comedian himself took the storm in his stride. In a series of tweets, he recalled a previous controversy that he and AIB were involved in.

And made this request:

Some thought he was serious.

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