” There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.” 

                                                                                                                               –   Ema Bombeck

Bhagwan Dada, Asrani, Mehmood, Pental, Keshto Mukherjee, Johnny Walker. What do you find common in these names? These are some of the living, and some sadly departed names of the most brilliant comic actors of Indian Cinema, who had the ability to make us tear up with their quick wit and twitchy expressions.

 The comedy in the yesteryears had the ability to make us smile even in the most serious times. There was no funny background laughter, and no music to build up the tempo, still the mere pure talent of these actors gave us some of the most epic comic scenes Indian Cinema ever witnessed. On the contrary, comedy today has been replaced by dual meaning jokes, and help of technological advances, that might make you laugh for a moment or two, but become obsolete soon after.

There is no lingering memory to make us smile when we remember these scenes. Though we have seen a few welcome changes in the form of light hearted comedies like “Piku”, but Bollywood still hasn’t caught up to relive the magic of that era, when comedy was much more than a few non-veg jokes and recorded laughter.

 Let us go back and relive the evolution of this forgotten genre, in the Indian Cinema.


The Black & White Silhouette


Some of the greatest comedians of Indian Cinema entered the scenario even before the colors came up on screen. Now when we watch those movies, anyone would agree that they light up the screens more than any colored frame would have. Kishore Kumar’s Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, Half Ticket, Padosan, are some of his outstanding examples where he managed to endear the audience by not only his superb acting and singing skills, but the way he made them double up with laughter. Another name on everybody’s list when the word comedy comes up, is Johnny Walker. Need we say anymore? The name is enough to make some of his scenes come alive, and even the imagination is enough to make you laugh.

Mehmood with Saira Banu in Padosan
Mehmood with Saira Banu in Padosan

The Sidekick and Laughter Ferry

Johnny walker in Movie "Anand" with Rajesh Khanna
Johnny walker in Movie “Anand” with Rajesh Khanna

Soon after came the era of Hrishikesh Mukerjee’s family comedies and some epic romances based on our own desi “Mills and Boon” authors. The romance, family, and laughter mashed up too well together to give us the greatest movies of Indian cinema. Here, even the actors matched up with the skills of comedians, who were mostly the best friend or a faithful sidekick, to keep the mood of the scenes light. Remember epics like Golmaal, Chupke Chupke, Parichay, Padosan, Bawarchee? These movies are still fresher than many so called members of 100-crore club, and command a repeated watch. Total laugh riots, these were light-hearted movies meant to give you a valuable lesson by means of laughter. They did not need violent scenes and tons of tears to teach you family values, and neither did they resort to meaningless dialogs to make you laugh. This was pure and unadulterated entertainment, a golden era.

Utpal Dutt and Keshto Mukherji in Hrishikesh Mukherji´s Golmaal
Utpal Dutt and Keshto Mukherji in Hrishikesh Mukherji´s Golmaal

Fall of the Chaplins

 The 80s and 90s were the time when mostly heroes started to double up as comedians, or even if comic artists were there, they didn’t have much other than lines and scenes that weren’t appropriate for family viewing. 80s is perhaps considered as the darkest era of Indian Cinema, as it focused more on bling and less on quality. The same was extended to genre of comedy too, and thus laughter was reduced to mere embarrassing smiles that left no lasting impact. More appropriately, this was the decade of fall of our Chaplins. However, there was one shiny ray of hope even amongst this vulgarity. Names after the legend Johnny Walker, entered Johnny Lever, who gave a new lease of life to this dying genre. With his expressions and unique way of making the simplest of dialogues hilarious, Johnny Lever was the sole savior of Indian comedy in the 90s.

Johnny Lever, Kader Khan, Govinda and Raveena Tondon in David Dhawan´s "Dulhe Raja"
Johnny Lever, Kader Khan, Govinda and Raveena Tondon in David Dhawan´s “Dulhe Raja”

Money over Quality

 In today’s online era, the only comedy that we get to see is in the form of stand-up comedy channels on Youtube. Most of the actors have doubled up as comedians and have created a new genre of pure comedies. Though these are quite fun at times, but they lack the soul and heart of those hilariously funny individuals, who lived there lives to make us double up with their sheer epic abilities. Our generation, sadly is growing up to see double meaning jokes and sly glances in the name of comedy, where the hits on your video, and money minting on box office is preferred to quality cinema. Gone is that slapstick humor and those lessons that we learned amongst the hiccup-y laughter.

Arshad Warsi,and Sanjay Dutt in Rajkumar Hirani´s Munnabhai MBBS
Arshad Warsi,and Sanjay Dutt in Rajkumar Hirani´s Munnabhai MBBS

Even though the genre of comedy has evolved at a downward pace to finally dwindle down, we still have hopes when we watch movies like Aankhon Dekhi, Welcome to Sajjanpur, Munnabhai, Well Done Abba, Piku, and the likes. These movies have entered like a breath of fresh air among the mass of stereotypes, and genuinely make us smile through the memories. However, we still miss those mischievous eyes and that twitching of expressions, combined with rib-tickling lines. That golden era, and those superheroes of the genre, will always be alive in our hearts.

Written by – Kadambri Srivastava

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