The laughter queens

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By It's time for the men to move over because the ladies are taking over the business of comedy, says Sushmita Biswas
  • Published 30.08.09

Who says women don’t have a sense of humour? Take a look at television actress Smriti Irani who’s been raising laughs with her new show on SAB TV. Irani has come a long way from her days as the queen of the tear-jerking, saas-bahu soaps to her new incarnation as a lady who raises laughs. Says Irani: “It was something exciting and different.” is a serial based on a Gujarati play about a middle-class woman who moves from Gujarat to the posh Malabar Hills in Mumbai. Says Irani, who also played the lead character in the stage version: “My character Maniben is not loud but evokes laughter based on her actions and reactions to events.”

Or, look at actress Shweta Kawatra who seems remarkably at ease doing a comic role in her latest serial Sonu Sweety on SAB TV. The show is a light-hearted comedy, which revolves around a couple, Sonu and Sweety, and their relationship post-marriage.

Kawatra, who shot into limelight by playing the negative character Pallavi in Kahani Ghar Ghar Kii, (Star Plus) reckons that the move to comedy has been a challenging one. “I have always tried to do something different. So if I could make a mark by playing a negative character, why not try something equally interesting by doing com-edy? More importantly, I didn’t want to get stereotyped by just doing serious stuff. It’s a way of honing my skills in the comedy genre.”

There’s also Ashita Dhawan who’s giving TV watchers comic relief in the serial Ladies Special on Sony TV where she plays the effervescent Babli Chhadha. Dhawan, who also plays a negative character Malti with a comic touch in Bidaai (Star Plus), says: “There’s no reason why women should not try comedy roles. But the script has to be strong enough to justify the character and it shouldn’t be mere caricature.”

Though comedies have always been around, it’s only now that women are coming to the fore as laughter queens. So along with their male counterparts, you have actresses who are entertaining viewers with their witty one-liners, funny expressions and joke-a-minute acts.

Veteran actress Tabassum is judging Hasne Hasane Ka Tonic Ladies Special, a competition for stand-up women comedians; (right) Ashita Dhawan is giving TV watchers comic relief in the serial Ladies Special as the effervescent Babli Chhadha

The channels too are pushing women-oriented comedy shows in a bid to grab TRPs. SAB TV, which has positioned itself as a niche comedy channel, has a sprinkling of comedy shows with women protagonists.

Says Anooj Kapoor, business head, SAB TV: “Our focus is primarily on women as central pivots for family comedies. Their success and fan base is proof that female comedy actors definitely have a future on Indian television.”

So what makes for a funny female comedian? Says Savita Bhatti, wife of well-known comedian Jaspal Bhatti: “Unfortunately, women comedians never had respectability in India. But all that’s changing now as channels are also providing a platform for women to take up comedy roles to entertain viewers.” Currently, she is imitating real life and playing Jaspal Bhatti’s wife in the serial Thank You Jijaji on SAB TV.

However, almost everybody agrees that comedy is a difficult art and requires more than just funny one-liners. Veteran actress Tabassum, who’s judging a stand-up comedy show for women on Zee TV called Hasne Hasane Ka Tonic Ladies Special, says, “It’s heartening to see women taking up comedy and perfecting in it. Unfortunately, women are only portrayed as docile girls or obedient daughters-in-law in saas-bahu soaps. It’s high time we hone their humorous side and bring out the best in them.”

Lawyers aren’t usually funny people but Juhi Parmar has been raising laughs as Chanda in Yeh Chanda Kanoon Hai, a courtroom comedy

How do women comedians go about the humour game? According to Irani, female comedians should not be too aggressive in their body language. She says: “I don’t want to believe that women are genetically incapable of being funny. A good script and perfect timing are all it takes to make the punches effective.”

Meanwhile, actress Juhi Parmar, who’s playing Chanda in Yeh Chanda Kanoon Hai — a courtroom comedy on SAB TV — feels that comedy comes naturally to her. Parmar who played the iconic bahu in Kumkum on Star Plus a few years back was desperate for a change in image. “Since I am known to have an inherent witty side, I was keen to try comic roles,” she says. Before doing this serial, Parmar was adjudged the winner of stand-up comedy show Comedy Circus 2 (Sony) along with co-actor Vijay Pawar.

So are they willing to do more comedies in future? While Parmar is looking forward to doing more comedy shows in future, Dhawan is at ease essaying light-hearted roles. And like Kawatra says: “The market for female-oriented comedy shows is gradually opening up.”

It only needs to be seen whether female comedians can continue to tickle people’s funny bones and grab eyeballs.