Good comedies are hard to come in Bollywood, and what we do have is riddled with gags about people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, racism, and other sensitive matters.
Since the start of (Bollywood) history, disability has served as a source of comic relief in our films. Guzaarish, Barfi, My Name Is Khan, Margarita With A Straw, and only a handful of other films have dealt with the subject sensitively.
On the other hand, some comedy flicks with disabled characters not only did an absolutely terrible job of portraying them but also made a mockery of them.
This quite recent film was released in 2016, therefore the very least one can expect is the absence of inappropriate statements on sensitive topics. However, the film does the exact reverse. Although Salman Khan declaring Shah Rukh Khan as his favourite may be the film’s whistle-worthy scene (because of their famous fallout), the ‘blind girl’ remark could have been skipped.
2. Golmaal series
The Golmaal film series, like the humor in it, does not improve with each sequel. The first part included a mute character, played by Tusshar Kapoor, who was the target of much ridicule. Later in the film, Paresh Rawal and Sushmita Mukherjee play a blind couple who are exploited by a group of men who live in their house.
Rather than making any progress in the following instalment, the creators introduced a character that stutters. What could be more hilarious than a mute man mocking a man with a speech disorder, right?
3. Housefull 3
The film‘s plot revolves around the main characters pretending to be disabled in order to marry the love of their lives. And in a comedy like that, one can predict that all of the laughs will come from their impairment.
Well, this recurring monologue is one of the most memorable as well as most problematic aspects of the film, Welcome. Mushtaq Khan, who walks with a limp, is placed as a prop to scare people away. We may have found it hilarious, but it’s past time to realize that it was never amusing in the first place.
5. Mujhse Shaadi Karogi
Kader Khan‘s character is simply in the plot for comic relief. And somehow the writer thought it would be entertaining to have a character who chooses a ‘new’ disability every day.
6. Awaara Pagaal Deewana
Almost every film in the ’90s included a subplot to introduce a ‘comedic character’ who would contribute to the film’s humour quotient. And the target was almost always a marginalised group. The creators of this film felt that a mobster, a character usually portrayed as tough guys, with a stutter would be humorous.
7. Phir Hera Pheri
Even though the Hera Pheri series is widely regarded as one of Bollywood’s best comedies, it couldn’t resist the common temptation to make jokes about a disability. In fact, the character is named Totla Seth, after the speech disorder that makes him stammer.
The subplot in which Upasna Singh’s mute character marries Johnny Lever’s character added nothing to the main narrative. However, the writers thought that a man duped into marrying a disabled woman would be hilarious.
A few films have helped to redeem the narrative of disabled individuals in Bollywood films over the years, but we are yet to see popular comedy movies that do not make inappropriate jokes about them. So, until the writers figure out a better way to make us laugh, we can put a halt to this long-running tradition.