Tannishtha Chatterjee on ‘Comedy Nights Bachao’ incident

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Tannishtha Chatterjee, who made headlines recently after she walked out of ‘Comedy Nights Bachao’ following a ‘racist attack,�۪ opened up about what exactly was said to her and why she felt there is a need of taking strong stand against such ‘racism.�۪

Chatterjee spoke of what bothered her most on the show. She said, “It began with ‘Aap ko jamun bahut pasand hoga zaroor. kitna jamun khaya aapne bachpan se?’ It went on in that direction. I could not believe I was sitting in a nationally televised comedy show in 2016 in Mumbai amidst such regressive and blatantly racist content. Though I was feeling suffocated, I decided to give it another chance. I even sat through another equally offensive segment. When I told the organisers what I felt, they said: ‘But we told you it is a roast!”

The Times Of India reports that she initially went onto the show to promote her latest film ��Parched�۪ (2015), along with with director Leena Yadav and co-actor Radhika Apte. After her experience she felt she had no choice but to react. “Some friends also told me not to take it so seriously since it’s just a comedy show. They have told me that this issue is not worth wasting my time. But I feel, we have to continuously talk about it. By doing that, we can teach people that they are victims of a certain prejudice,” she said. She went on to add, “In a country where we still sell fairness creams, where a matrimonial advert demands a fair bride or groom, where commercials talk about how a dark skin tone might prevent a girl from getting a good job – it is very important for us to speak out. This is not something we can ignore. This whole prejudice has deep roots in our caste system. In a country where dark skin is marginalized, making fun of it is not roast.”

Chatterjee questioned the format of the show and expressed her concerns. “I found that the definition of satire and roast are muddled. Satire is making fun of anything which is in a position of power. It can be an institution or political leaders. It is not about bullying the marginalized. My perception of roast was formed by all the ‘Saturday Night Live’ shows I watched over the years. According to Wikipedia, ‘A roast is an event in which a specific individual, a guest of honour, is subjected to good-natured jokes at their expense intended to amuse the event’s wider audience.’ This type of event was created as a mock counter to a toast. Such events are intended to honour a specific individual in a unique way,” she said. “In addition to jokes and insult comedy, such events may also involve genuine praise and tributes. The implication is that the roastee is able to take the jokes in good humour and not as serious criticism or insult, and it is seen by some as a great honour to be roasted”. To my horror, I found that the only quality the organisers found worth roasting about in me was my skin tone,” she added.

After her comments went vial Chatterjee has been able to round up support for her stance. Disappointed about what the actress had to go through, filmmaker and social activist Ashoke Pandit called the show ‘sexist” and tweeted, “Why comment on Tannishtha’s skin colour? Never heard ‘roast’ masters commenting on skin colour of male superstars! Sexist. Roast Vs Racism,” Pandit tweeted on Wednesday, adding that he doesn’t find vulgarity funny. “Today I’m vindicated that India feels offended when a woman is humiliated in the name of roast and humour. Vulgarity isn’t funny! Roast Vs Racism,” added Pandit, who is also a member of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC),’ he said in another tweet.

Actress Pooja Bedi said, “ALL extremes are brunt of jokes. Tall/short dark/fair virgin/prostitute. Remember Bachchan song “jiski biwi gori/lambi etc? #RoastVsRacism.” Lisa Ray tweeted, “Even considering that dark skin is a joke comes from very deep prejudice.” Standing in support with the actress, Swara Bhaskar said, “Good on you #TanishthaChatterjee !!! Big love, big hug and high five! You go girl!”

It is fair however, to note that this is not the first time in which a celebrity has walked off a show following offensive and insulting humor. ��Akshay Kumar too lashed at the comedians of the show after they referred to Lisa Haydon as a kangaroo (she is from Australia) and ‘a black African’ while they were promoting ‘Housefull’ (2010). A similar incident took place with SRK while he was promoting ‘Dilwale’. Reportedly, Krushna Abhishek and Bharti Singh went went so far in joking about him that he was compelled to ask the producers of the show to get the portion removed.

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