Bollywood has a messed up sense of humor and for a very long time, it has been making us laugh at tasteless jokes. In reality, films that have thrived on offensive gags rather than witty comedy have increasingly dominated the category. When it comes to humour, it takes a lot of skill to know where to hit. Slapstick comedy, which is the standard in Hindi cinema, is favoured. But right now, we must turn to the dark side.
Dark comedy, a challenging genre to break into, has largely been kept off Indian screens and audiences. And even when some directors did attempt to make the leap, the films seldom ever turned out to be particularly noteworthy. However, along the road, we did get to see a few movies that left us wishing that our filmmakers would frequently explore that dimension of comedy.
The dark comedy subgenre, where you’re expected to laugh at obscene jokes, has, nonetheless, been attracting more attention from filmmakers recently. If we’re talking about the most recent movies, Darlings, which was produced by Alia Bhatt, caused a lot of noise and stood out from the rest of the movies that were released this year.
The movie included humour while delving into a sensitive subject—in this case, domestic violence—and did so in a way that was meant to unnerve the audience. However, that is the main point of this kind of comedy, and Darlings‘ expertly crafted story and strong performances elevated its morbid wit to exceptional heights.
But in doing so, the movie is hardly unusual. It’s a must-see film, but it’s not exactly a ground-breaking endeavor for Bollywood in this domain. Before this, movies like Kaalakaandi, Delhi Belly, Andhadhun, Blackmail, and many others waded with the hurdles of bringing foreboding humour to the screen.
While we’re on the subject of dark comedy, it would be a sin to overlook Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Bollywood’s pioneering attempt at gallows humour. A peek at the corruption in Indian politics, the government, the news media, and business was depicted in the film directed by Kundan Shah, which was far ahead of its time. The film is considered a cult classic for its scathing and cynical representation of the extremities of morality and ethics.
Even though there has only been a modest amount of work done on this subject thus far, some of it has been rather outstanding. In truth, several films deserved considerably more recognition than they ever earned and regrettably got lost in the maelstrom of the other films.
If we discuss a movie such Kaalakaandi, it was a true gem that shouldn’t be overlooked. Though very few would recall it, this Saif Ali Khan-starring masterwork tackles a convoluted plot while finding hilarity in the most improbable of circumstances. It also drips with sinister humour.
Saif forayed into a new path that was distinct from the mainstream projects he is known to be involved in long before we spotted him in Sacred Games as his reinvented avatar. Unfortunately, despite having actors like Sobhita Dhulipala, Vijay Raaz, and Deepak Dobriyal, the movie failed to capture the attention of the audience.
The actor had already starred in other dark comedies, therefore this was hardly his breakthrough. He starred in the equally excellent but lesser-known film titled Being Cyrus. A dysfunctional Parsi family is the focus of Homi Adajania’s 2005 film. The movie is indeed very edgy and occasionally pulls the viewer to the character’s innermost thoughts. The weirdly humorous film begins out slowly, but once it gets to you, there’s no going back.
Similar to Saif Ali Khan’s films, Irrfan Khan’s Blackmail also failed to attain popularity. The movie’s premise is very intriguing, and the performance is entertaining as promised. When Dev Kaushal, portrayed by Irrfan Khan, a toilet paper salesman, arrives home early one day to surprise his wife, he is in for the shock of his life to catch her in bed with her lover. He considers numerous alternatives, some of which involve killing one or both of them, but ultimately decides to blackmail them. And a scheme like that is designed to stir up trouble, and when a blackmailing loop is set up, things do go haywire.
With the making of the film Peepli Live, another audacious and brilliant piece of cinema was born. Nathadas Manikpuri, who lives in a small village, is the protagonist of this satirical story that explores the plight of Indian farmers. Due to an overdue bank loan, he risks losing his only remaining piece of land. He is scornfully advised to kill himself in order to benefit from the government plan that gives relief to the families of indebted deceased farmers. What happens next takes you to the political and media circus as well as the deep dungeons of poverty.
Years after its premiere, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro gained the appreciation it deserved, and there’s a possibility that other contemporary dark comedies will have the same fate. But now is the time for Indian fans and creators to show a keen interest in this genre, which has a tonne of room for exploration.
There is a good likelihood that films in this subgenre may expand Bollywood’s horizons due to the rise of OTT platforms. The audience is eager to witness diversity, and on handheld screens, movies that tanked in theatres will find a clean slate.