Let’s face it – India is a country divided by religion, caste, language and politics. And no matter how much we pacify ourselves by claiming to be a secular, open-minded democracy, we just cannot take a joke. Directed by Jaideep Varma, I AM Offended sheds light on this very nature of Indians, who get riled up when a joke offends their “delicate sensibilities”. But while doing so, the documentary provides an in-depth understanding of what the life of a stand-up comedian is like. It also showcases the plight of other artists like cartoonists, poets and writers.
I cannot emphasize enough on how right the timing of this documentary is. Everyday, we hear news of somebody being shunned for either being in love, for being gay or for simply voicing their opinion. In the name of Indian culture, we have the moral police unleashing their fury upon the common janta. Who is to blame here? The politicians? The religious leaders? Or the common public itself? The problem lies deeper within the moral fiber of our nation, and as the documentary progresses, you realize more and more, that we are a democracy built on lies and threats.
It is also wonderful to see how the film touches on every aspect that comes with the art form. Be it the usage of cuss words, the male-female imbalance in stand-up comedy or the conflicting viewpoints among the comedians themselves, we get to watch a thoroughly researched feature. It is unabashed and unapologetic in its treatment and succinctly drives the point home. There are times when you yourself will wonder what is wrong with our nation. Ashish Shakya, a famous comedian and columnist points out how a chef on Indian TV can’t use the word “beef” even when he is cooking beef.
We also get to witness the gradual evolution of comedy in India, starting with the works of the legendary Pu La Deshpande, and also capturing the works of Johnny Lever, Raju Shrivastav and Vir Das. We get to hear stories from the young comedians who have revolutionized English comedy such as Tanmay Bhat, Varun Grover, Aditi Mittal and Sanjay Rajoura among several others. But it is not all that serious. There are ample laughs interspersed with the narration in the form of live stand-up acts that help you realize, that humor is indeed the only medicine that our troubled nation needs.
Why should you watch this film?
The recent killing of journalists in Paris by extremists resulted in people all over the world marching in protest. But in a country of 2 billion people, how many of us are ready to pick up a pen or a microphone and stand up for everything that’s wrong with our nation? The stand-up comedians, writers and caricaturists are the only ones ready to talk about things as they are! Yet they are subjugated. This documentary is a reality check for all of us. Are we progressing as a nation, with emphasis on free speech or are we headed to the dark ages with bans on open mindsets? I AM Offended is a very relevant piece and an inspiration to the people of this nation to promote liberal arts and stand behind our satirists. We don’t have the right to call ourselves a democracy otherwise.
You can watch the whole documentary here: