Episode 21: Rohan Joshi from All India Bakchod

This week Henry talked to Rohan Joshi, from the comedy group All India Bakchod, who walks us through how to use comedy to confront social issues, particularly in the Indian context.   Joshi recently spoke at the Indian Culture Lab,highlighting insights Indian audiences could learn from Captain America.

            How do we still have a Captain America?… how has avoided the potential campiness of it?   He is always asking ‘what does it mean to be a Patriot?….He is a symbol of a soldier, propaganda, etc. But he never allows himself to just be that mindless drone. He is essentially driven by one question: “how do I use this for public good?… that’s what keeps him away from being a cog in the system.

            In the 70s, during the era of Nixon,  there was a captain America storyline… you may not know this because it was not in the movies… the thing that breaks his heart is when he finds out that the head of this terrorist organization is the president of the United States himself… Captain America is so disillusioned by this breaking of this American ideal that he gives up his suit entirely, and decides to become this state-less creature known He’s so disappointed that he takes off his suit and becomes “Nomad”.  He asks, when is it time to stop being a good citizen, and become a good person?

In his chat, Joshi also gets into other successful civic interventions that can be mounted through comedy.  An example was the massively viral video, from 2013 called “It’s your fault” that dealt with the issue of rape, focusing on the irony of victim-blaming.. They decided to create it after many high profile cases of sexual assault in India and the clumsy political and legal responses surrounding the issue. The sarcasm-heavy video mocks ignorant statements that high profile figures made in response to the assaults. Joshi described the process of creating the video, sharing that at one point, they passed it by academics and activists to “make sure we were using the right language and tone and not somehow replicating the same mistakes we had been hearing.” They also asked actress friends to perform the script. The worldwide response was much more than they expected, with people reaching out to ask if they could replicate the video as a means to combat widespread patriarchal issues..

The video, called “it’s your fault”:  

When reflecting on what to call this form of civic intervention, Joshi shared that simply calling it  “standup,” is too small , because of the impact and way it’s being used across different languages around the country: is it a movement of comedy that manages to better explain issues going on in India? Is it civic entertainment? Can we call it so?

Join us as we delve into these questions and more!

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