I’ll bite. The best comedy Anglophone India has produced was AIB’s The Roast, and that was back in 2014. Since then it has been a slow, sometimes sudden descent into banal, serviceable humour. You laugh, chuckle mostly, you forget, you move on. But I am thinking of the woman sitting in the front row of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s comedy performance, who laughed so loudly, a boob came out. I am also thinking of me cackling like a Disney Witch watching The Roast, my neighbours knocking on my door to ask if everything is okay. When do we get that?
SonyLiv’s 6-episode Chalo Koi Baat Nahin is certainly not that. Vinay Pathak and Ranvir Shorey come on stage and talk about a theme per episode — say sports, doctors, media, or climate change. Why? Are they funny? Not particularly. Do they have impeccable comic timing? Sure. But what does one do with comic timing if the material itself is whatever-passable?
Therein lies the problem with this show. It’s not that it isn’t smart — it has interesting observations, like the forced English interviews of the man of the match in cricket, a sportsman who might not speak or be comfortable speaking English. But smarts doesn’t cut it. And Shorey and Pathak’s silly body language, and awfully tailored suits, certainly don’t help — it’s like they are hosting an annual society function, the forced laughter, the rehearsed camaraderie, the mobilization of audience applause, like a team-spirit exercise.
Like all satire, there are some roots to immediate reality in Chalo Koi Baat Nahin. It is true that those discussing climate change use private jets to ferry into and out of day-long seminars. It is true that climate change will affect the cricket pitch. It is true that last year 60% of orange orchards in Vidarbha were dead due to drought. But satire must spin this into exaggerated humour, not just exaggerated circumstances. Chalo Koi Baat Nahin is entirely about the latter, attempting very feebly the former. The title — referencing our mundane indifference to life’s tragedies — might have been more fitting if the writing was more indifferent or had that don’t-care irony that can produce some spectacular moments of comedy. (Read: Anthony Jeselnik)
The format of the show — Shorey and Pathak doing stand-up, introducing a theme, inviting cut-tos to performance sketches — attempts to distract us from the ennui that sets in and SonyLiv’s awful interface that buffers more than it plays. Alas, the thirty minute episodes feel like hour-long odysseys.
Some clinching lines, though, are killer, like the Indian ambassador to the Climate Change Summit screaming at the Chinese delegate, “Chamgadad khaye tum, lockdown sahe hum!” or in a later episode when parents find white powder under the nails of their child, hoping it is heroin, but is instead rangoli powder, implying his artistic bent of mind. To cure his creativity, they send him to Kota. I can sense some rabble rousing talent that has been dampened to give banal takes on everyday items of news. These are thus attempts at highlighting what we already know. There is nothing new, and even within the familiar, there is nothing cutting edge here. It’s all a mere invitation to the familiar complaints this familiar world produces.