Director: Deepak Kumar Mishra
Cast: Vipul Goyal, Abhishek Banerjee, Rasika Dugal, Sahil Verma
Streaming On: TVFPlay, MX Player
The first season of Humorously Yours (2016) was a timely, well-informed account of an ex-engineer struggling to infiltrate the thriving Indian stand-up comedy scene. Bilingual comic Vipul Goyal (appropriately labelled as ‘Young Devang Patel’ by trolls) starred as himself. His loser-to-viral journey served as a prism through which we were briefly exposed to the insecurities, technicalities as well as the endless potential of the marriage between an old-school vocation and a new-age medium. The series, unlike most others by Goyal’s contemporaries, was semi-autobiographical, and therefore fairly lived-in and heartfelt. It captured a “moment” in millennial entertainment, even reflecting – albeit unintentionally (the cameos, for instance, were largely male) – the notorious gender imbalance in the field.
Much has changed since 2016. The pillars of digital culture have been rattled. An entire nation’s #MeToo movement was triggered by an errant male comic. AIB has fallen. Even TVF, this show’s creators, were caught in the eye of the storm. The laughter and applause tracks, it appeared, were rooted in toxic echo-chambers. Given the circumstances, you’d imagine the second season of Humorously Yours, presents the perfect opportunity to explore this moment. The stage is readymade: The married protagonist is now a celebrity trapped by the dichotomies of online fame. There is scope for soul-searching, without sacrificing the novelty of its customized universe. But Season 2 is a massive opportunity squandered, akin to playing a defensive shot off a free hit. If the first season showcased the heart of a struggling artist, the second fails to spotlight the conscience of an established one.
Also Read: Rahul Desai’s Review Of Humorously Yours Season 1
The show visibly cannot afford to be a social statement because of its commitment to the personality of hero and co-writer Vipul Goyal. The semi-autobiographical theme – one that genuinely boosted the workings of Season 1 – becomes a limitation here. By choosing the broad reality of its subject, it somewhat overlooks the narrow reality of its times. As a result, the first two of four episodes are harmless. Nothing more, nothing less. Episode 1 outlines his search for an actual manager and assembles Goyal’s rag-tag entourage, while Episode 2 depicts their chaotic run-up to a strange Lucknowi gig.
We also see a little more of Goyal’s marriage to Kavya (Rasika Dugal; needs more screen-time) – a nice couple whose chemistry can best be described as “Little Things if Dhruv had a job”. The Seinfeld-style format continues, where Goyal’s real-life stage routines are not-so-seamlessly weaved into the narrative as airy fillers. However, given the continuity of his denim attire, they look like different portions of the same performance. This laziness extends into the way Goyal’s friend Bhusi – a stoner sidekick that Abhishek Banerjee epitomized in Season 1 – exists solely so that he can smoke a certain brand of cigarettes to promote one of the show’s unofficial sponsors. The addition of the affable Sahil Verma as Lamba, the old-classmate-turned-manager, is a lone bright spot. Yet, despite the adventure-per-episode narrative, you sense that it is perhaps leading to something more significant.
But, far from being an indictment of the cultural space it occupies, the show’s final two episodes are in fact an unwitting endorsement of its masculine mindscape. Episode 3 hinges on a sequence where Goyal, on the pretext of winning a jock bet, fashions a private encounter with an attractive female fan. There’s a possibility here to branch into a braver direction. But as with most TVF shows lately, the impetus is on the ‘lightness’ of tone rather than the relevance of mood. The buildup predictably fizzles out. The epiphany is sweet but generic, choosing instead to embody the melancholy of Vaibhav Bundoo’s title theme. It’s all very…safe.
The reason I’m being critical of what Humorously Yours Season 2 could have been rather than what it is: The last episode. It’s a nice enough episode on its own – Vipul and co. get nostalgic (there’s that keyword) after agreeing to perform at a ramshackled college at a discounted rate. But the makers themselves turn it into an exercise to humanize the embattled stand-up comic. There’s an apology video that goes on to sermonize – about mistakes and fans and acceptance. But this resolution is built upon a weak excuse, a “vegetarian” device of sorts, rather than respecting the holistic purpose the video is really designed for. This is the apology of a man, a flawed celebrity, who has violated more than just a random hostel rule. A man who belongs to much more than an easy show about goofy ex-IIT nerds.
You suspect this episode is the result of Goyal meeting TVF halfway. It’s like they want to simply hint at the trial-by-social-media syndrome without directly addressing it. Maybe it’s appropriate that an engineering college hostel is used as the (flimsy) means to a (serious) end. It is, in a sense, used as an escape from the real world. After all, where else do you think the phrase “boys will be boys” originated from?