War of the comic clones

When a telly show is perceived as an offshoot or close clone of another comedy programme, it comes riding not only on unreasonably high expectations, but also runs the risk of close comparisons and negative scrutiny.

Mad In India 100% Desi Show on Star Plus thus comes with a lot of hype and arrives in the shadows of the other laughathon, Comedy Nights With Kapil, by virtue of the fact that one of the protagonists of Kapil’s show, Gutthi aka Sunil Grover’s switching to this new rival comic programme in a closely cloned avatar of “Chutki” has been perceived as the hottest actor poaching of this telly season.

So, the biggest talking point since Mad in India has taken off has obviously been this: Is the Sunil Grover avatar of Chutki a cloned act of Gutthi? And will Chutki deliver as much comic chutzpah as Gutthi?

Before coming to a comparison of the comic characters, let’s start at the start.

Does the template and comedy format of Mad in India set it apart from other laughter shows or do they make it a clone of its predecessors, with a tad twist here and a turn there.

The show claims to be hat ke (different) by tossing out less Bollywood and more general celebrity-hood. In a conscious attempt to steer clear of being called a clone of Comedy Nights, Mad in India’s guest list is not restricted solely to Bollywood, like Kapil’s show.

It has a celebrity cast drawn from different walks of life, starting with godman Baba Ramdev to cine stars Karisma Kapoor and Govinda in the next episode to cricketer Harbhajan Singh in the subsequent episode.

Competing with showstopper of Comedy Nights’ Kapil Sharma is Mad in India’s Manish Paul.

Well, to have expected Manish to be a patch on Kapil, whose comic timing has made him a czar of comedy, would be expecting too much.

Nonetheless, Manish does manage to bring some madness to Mad in India with his one-liners and punchlines.

From his Bollywood-esque opening of the show grooving to Bachna Ae Haseeno to his Meri mummy kehti hain gags with spiritual guru Baba Ramdev in the inaugural episode to his bro-mance with spinner Harbhajan Singh in a subsequent episode, Manish makes for some masti and mad moments.

But they qualify less as rib-tickling humour and hardly carry the class of cutting ‘n’ crisp comedy, and belong more to the slapstick comedy genre.

Now, coming to the hottest talking point of the show: Gutthi versus Chutki. Sunil’s inaugural act on the show — that of a corrupt politician — was proof enough of the fact that the pressure to not appear a clone was telling upon the role and taking a toll, since the aam aadmi gags mostly fell flat for lack of novelty and lacked spunk and satire expected of political punchlines.

All in all, Chutki lacked the chutzpah of Gutthi as did her one-liners and verses. So, for better or for verse, Chutki couldn’t really deliver a Gutthi.

As for the rest of the cast, consisting of veterans like Siddharth Jadhav, Rehman Khan and Dolly Ahluwalia Tewari, they’re trying to do their bit for the cause of comedy, but even they sometimes can’t save the show from sinking to a slapstick low.

For instance, we did have Jadhav trying to lift it out of its comic lifelessness with his comic timing, like driving in Chutki on his cycle rickshaw and all that.

So, while the template that steers clear of too much tinsel town may be Mad in India’s saving grace, it falls short of flaunting a distinct identity, a signature note for the show, which ends up being a clone of not just one but myriad reality shows, doing a bit of Comedy Circus, a bit of Movers & Shakers there, a bit of India’s Got Talent here.

You can’t just pick on one feature, what counts is the complete package deal.

And what better than to say that, figuratively speaking, compared to Gutthi Sunil Grover’s Chutki is simply a steal.

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