So what is it that makes a good comedy film? If I had to nail it down, I would say it just takes an intelligently crafted story that taps in to the foibles of human nature and gives them a lighter spin. How do you measure a comedy film as good or trash? Again, the yardstick for me is a simple and time-tested one. If the film manages to make your stomach hurt with laughter even after you've seen it 58 times, it has to be good.
Let me share with you five of my all-time favourite Hindi comedy films. I am not rating them, since they all make your belly explode equally well. On to the laughter pills then:
1. GOLMAAL (Topsy-turvy): Ram Prasad is a middle-class chartered accountant, desperately looking for a job to support himself and his sister. He is thrilled to learn about a vacancy at a firm owned and run an eccentric old man called Bhavani Shankar. However, there is a catch. The old man believes the youth of the country should focus only on their jobs, and not waste time on other interests like sports or entertainment. Ram Prasad, a soccer and hockey lover goes prepared for an interview with this quirky gentleman. He impresses Bhavani Shankar when the latter asks him a question on Pele, and he apparently fails to recognize the soccer maestro. He gets the job.
Trouble starts when the boss spots Ram Prasad on the spectator stand at a soccer match he goes to attend. When called in for explanation, Ram Prasad fabricates an impeccable (and imaginary) tale of his younger brother, Lakshman Prasad, who he says is a wayward young man, wasting his youth on sports and music. He convinces his boss that it was Lakshman whom the old man had seen at the stadium. He further claims the younger brother doesn't sport a moustache. What follows is a rollercoaster of uproarious situations, in which Ram Prasad has to switch between the roles of his own self and that of his sans-moustache fictional brother, forever at the risk of his boss stumbling upon the truth.
2. CHUPKE CHUPKE (Stealthily): A well-plotted story of how a couple decides to dupe their relatives for some harmless fun. A newly-married couple--a botany professor and his wife--plan to play a prank on the wife's brother-in-law, a judge who is very particular about the use of pure Hindi. The professor, hitherto unseen by these relatives, takes up a driver's job at the judge's house, exhibiting his unadulterated Hindi-speaking tendencies.
Things get suspicious for the older couple when the judge's sister-in-law is seen to openly flirt with the new driver. The situation gets out of control when the duo actually elopes and another (planted) character emerges, claiming to be the botany professor. Imagine the older couple’s embarrassment, even as the man claiming to be the botany professor is actually a scholar of English literature and has a hard time teaching botany to a young girl he begins to fancy while still posing as the married professor.
3. JAANE BHI DO YAARON (Let it be, Friends): A remarkable film that was a blend of black comedy and slapstick. Two photographer friends set up shop in the busy Mumbai city. Their first assignment comes from a newspaper editor, and accidentally the two friends photograph a murder scene. They are dragged increasingly into the dark and deceitful world of corrupt administrators and businessmen. A brilliant satire enacted by some of the finest actors of the Hindi film industry, this flick was marked by witty dialogues, hilariously absurd sequences, and an unmistakable dig at urban ugliness (not just the physical part of it).
4. RANG BIRANGI (Colourful): A riotous comedy on a bachelor friend's attempt at rekindling the spark in the marital life of another friend. His script turns the lives of the married friend, his secretary, her boyfriend, and a whole lot of other people in the film into a complicated labyrinth of circumstances. The plot hatched by the bachelor friend is the backbone of the film's plot. Fantastic plotting and rib-tickling scenarios conspire together to produce an explosively funny film.
5. KATHA (Tale): Yet another social comedy, reflecting the dilemmas of urban life. Rajaram is an honest middle-class clerk living in a densely-populated locality of Mumbai. He secretly loves his neighbour, Sandhya, but can't profess his feelings to her. Soon, he is joined by his smooth-talking-but-idle friend, Bashudev. The latter wastes no time in courting Sandhya, even while living in Rajaram's flat at the nice guy's expense. A classic hare-tortoise story, in which, thankfully, the tortoise wins the battle after almost losing it. Bashudev takes the cake, though, entertaining and disgusting the audience at the same time.
All of those sparkling funny bubbles, filled with natural laughing gas are stories of ordinary people caught in the daily grind. They make for healthy, wholesome family entertainment. All of them deserve separate entries. Maybe some other time. For now, let me navigate you to the Indian-movie-loving Simran at Writing From Within.