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Election is no joke… ask these comedians how difficult it is

New Delhi: Four friends are sitting in a room, discussing the one question that is on everyone’s mind. ‘Who should we vote for?’ One of them points out what a difficult decision this is going to be. After all, cases are also pending against most of the candidates. After this there is laughter. This is the scene of a popular sketch by Bhojpuri comedian Mani Meraj during the ongoing elections. Comedian and mimicry Shyam Rangeela’s plan to contest against PM Modi in Varanasi may have been put on hold, but political satire full of local color and issues is still in the air this election season. Apart from entertaining the people, these sketches also raise issues like money power and muscle power of powerful politicians, speeches making lofty promises, and ‘stars’ coming to villages only during election time.

Purpose of giving special message with the help of video
Kumar Sanu Jena, 29, grew up in a village in Odisha’s Jagatsinghpur district, famous for its tradition of vibrant drama troupes. Today, he leads a team of 25 people, and often sees actors from cities like Bhubaneswar and Cuttack come to participate in humorous skits. In this Lok Sabha election, Jena’s team has made many videos, but one of their videos has gone viral. Titled ‘Our MLA’, the video focuses on the election campaigns of two Odia superstars who come to the village to seek votes. Although fictitious names and party symbols were used in the video, Jena and his team found two lookalikes of the BJD and BJP candidates. Jena says that her aim was to highlight how different parties try to bring the stars of Odia cinema into their fold. He also wanted to show how leaders make big promises but fail to fulfill them. Jena says that in every election, every party comes and promises that it will give us this, that, but nothing happens. He also says that he does not express his personal opinion in his videos and avoids making them one-sided.

Reels brings people’s problems to the fore

In Lucknow, 26-year-old theater artist Devesh Shukla brings out people’s problems using humor in his videos (reels). In one reel he shows the plight of villagers who have been waiting for the road to be built for years. In the second reel, he shows the problem of ‘young leaders’ who are used by experienced MPs in the election campaign but later sidelined. Shukla says that these reels are also helpful in connecting with the youth, for whom unemployment is the biggest concern. He says, ‘I know that the government cannot give jobs to everyone, but it is a matter of concern that people pass competitive exams and keep waiting for the appointment letter for years, or the exam gets canceled due to paper leak. It happens.’

There will be no political satire from today
The use of satire to make fun of politics has been around for centuries. If we look at history, there used to be jesters in the courts of kings who used to point out the king’s mistakes through humor. In recent times, politics has also been satirized through humor in films and television shows in India. Late Jaspal Bhatti satirized the problems of the common man in the 1980s like corruption and complex procedures of government offices, which were highly appreciated by the people. The 1983 Hindi film ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron’ is known for raising serious topics like corruption in politics and media through humor. Over the past few years, a number of English-language political satirists have emerged in India who create content primarily for urban audiences, including names like Akash Banerjee and Varun Grover.

Although less well known, there are equally popular comedians in their regions who highlight local issues. For example, the popular Kashmiri channel ‘Kashmiri Rounders’ has more than one million subscribers on YouTube. This channel has uploaded several videos showing the concerns of voters in the local dialect in the first election held after the removal of Article 370.

No one likes to raise questions – Shyam Rangeela
Why political comedy in these difficult days? Rangeela, who shot into limelight in 2014 after uploading videos impersonating PM Modi, says it’s because people feel connected to it. If you raise an issue through satire, the message reaches the people directly. They laugh, but also share and discuss it with others. Comedians say this. Shyam Rangeela has raised many issues in his satirical video, including rising petrol prices, paper leaks, and more. He also has to face criticism. He said that if I make a video on Modi, BJP supporters criticize me. When I imitated former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot in a video showing how paper leaks have become common in the state, Congress supporters criticized me. Nobody likes to raise questions. Despite some threats and the cancellation of his nomination, he says he will continue to raise his voice. My journey started with comedy, and it will always be my first love.

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