On The Growing Political Pressure And AIB Taking Down #AIBKnockout Videos

After growing political pressure AIB has taken down videos of #AIBKnockout We look at the controversy that raises question of freedom of expression

AIB, one of India’s premiere comedy collectives that created a storm on social media with their latest offering #AIBKnockout and the ensuing controversy has finally given up to the growing political pressure. All the videos have been pulled down but not before they went viral and created enough controversy over the last few days. (Technically, the videos are now in private mode and can’t be viewed by public. So if tomorrow they are back then AIB does not lose on the views and other stats.)

The debate whether the show was good for civil society sparked off last week when AIB decided to upload the censored version online. The videos that got more than a million hits in 12 hours were rude, offensive, filthy yet entertaining. The show happened in December with Bollywood stars Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor being the celebrity roasts with Karan Johar as their roast master.

Inspired by Comedy Central’s roasts of Hugh Hefner, Pamela Anderson, Charlie Sheen, among others, AIB presented the Indian version online with a bold disclaimer that the show is filthy and it is for grown ups. It was reported that close to 4000 people paid to watch the roast and the show also raised 40 lakhs in charity.

#AIBKnockout goes viral

In no time the videos started trending and became the most talked about subject on social media giving stiff competition to the mindless trends happening for the upcoming Delhi elections. The viral craze started spreading on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and many more.

This was the beginning of the controversy with a major portion of online viewers appreciating it as humour. But then a section also objected to the show calling it filthy, not comedy at all and also what our society is not supposed to watch.

With the weekend passing by, AIBKnockout garnered more than seven million views and enough reasons for the protectors of the society to wake up and wage a war on the grounds of culture and values.

Political pressure creeps in

It wouldn’t have come as a big surprise to AIB considering India is a funny country. By the start of this week news broke out that the Maharashtra Government has decided to investigate if the roast was guilty of obscene language and content. The decision was announced by Vinod Tawde, Maharashtra’s Minister for Cultural Affairs, reported NDTV.

Additionally, DNA reported that police have initiated another inquiry into a complaint against filmmaker Karan Johar, actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, which alleged that the trio had used “filthy and abusive language” on AIB Roast event held in Mumbai. Akhilesh Tiwari, President of Brahman Ekta Seva Sanstha filed a four-page complaint at Sakinaka police station, against the actors, filmmaker as well as the show organiser, among others. “I sought action against the event organisers and other performers as well, who passed dirty comments with such audacity. The police action would be a deterrent to them so that they would not dare to do such acts publicly in future,” said Tiwari.

Another complaint was submitted to the Bandra police station by Agnelo Fernandes of the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum on the grounds that the participants made mockery of Catholic priests.

The government sprung into action with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis pledging action against any violation. “If the AIB Roast was vulgar and has violated the law, we will take action,” Fadnavis said. The Maharashtra culture department issued a notice to the NSCI (National Sports Club of India) club, where the programme was held, seeking explanation whether the censor certificate was sought to stage the event.

Ranjit Patil, the state minister for home, said websites selling the AIB Roast tickets would also come under the scanner. “The police department has been asked to monitor such websites,” he said. “We will also seek information whether the organisers sought performance certificate from the collector and the police department.”

Twitter divided between supporters and haters of #AIBKnockout

The government investigation further resurfaced the double standards prevailing in Indian society, while adding to the virality of the videos. Twitter users reacted against the double standards with AIB Roast becoming a major talking point on Twitter.

Twitter was divided between two sets of people, the ones supporting with “We Stand By AIB Knockout” and another set supporting the investigation and trending “AIB National Shame”.

Sensing the growing unrest and bringing back the long debate of freedom of speech and expression, Vinod Tawde then tweeted that no moral policing would be done.

However, Ashoke Pandit’s tweet only added fuel to the ongoing controversy. Noted filmmaker and social activist Ashoke Pandit who also happens to be a member of India’s censor board made a derogatory tweet against filmmaker Karan Johar and equated AIB to a porn show.

Ashoke’s tweet  became the center point of the controversy, adding more fuel to the ongoing controversy of #AIBRoast.

Other political parties join to impose pressure

Meanwhile sensing this to be a good opportunity to come into limelight, other regional parties of Maharashtra have joined the cause to protect the society. Shiv Sena, BJP’s ally in the Maharashtra government has suggested to book all the participants. “The government should file an FIR against not just the organisers, but also the participants. The entire show was vulgar and derogatory,” said Sena leader Ravindra Waikar, who is also the state minister for housing.

The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) didn’t want to be left behind. Standing by its old methodology, the party has threatened to stop films of director-producer Karan Johar and actors Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, from releasing in the state unless they tendered an “unconditional apology”. Mumbai Congress spokesperson Krishna Hegde also added, “The content is such that you cannot watch with your family.”

With all political parties gunning for the AIB Knockout videos, the team has decided to pull down the videos with a promise to talk about it soon.

It isn’t tough to figure out why AIB had to pull down the videos. This isn’t the first time religious and political outfits have overpowered creative work and thrashed it on the grounds of ‘not fit for the Indian society’.

Adult comic acts as a source of entertainment have been present in the Indian society for ages. “If the government is really bothered about saving Indian culture, then stop the culture of rape, stop the culture of corruption, stop the culture of goondaism, stop the culture of burning churches,” says Suparn Verma in his hard hitting article why the state has no right to give lessons in Indian values.