Team Aisi Taisi Democracy, consisting of musician Rahul Ram, lyricist and writer Varun Grover and satirist Sanjay Rajoura, had a first of its kind experience during a performance at the Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology (MNNIT) in Allahabad on Wednesday evening.
The group were invited to perform at gnoTalks 2016 on the campus and the audience consisting of students and faculty were thoroughly enjoying their show which started around 7pm.
However, trouble started when Varun began talking about how Indians are hypocrites when it comes to sex and about the lack of sex education. The mere mention of the 3 letter word made a few members of the faculty uncomfortable and they not only walked out of the show, but also shut down the performer’s mic and asked the ATD team to leave.
“The couple of members of the faculty who shut down our show, weren’t against us talking about sex, their problem was that we were talking about it in the presence of women, which is exactly the kind of hypocrisy we wanted to highlight,” says Varun talking to The Quint.
“We’ve done similar shows in several colleges including IIT Bombay, BIT Vellore but there have been no problems as such. Our content is edgy, which is sometimes uncomfortable but it’s always funny. In the middle of a punchline, my mic got muted and it took us a little while to realise that it was intentionally switched off and then we were asked to stop the show right then and leave, because we have offended some people,” Varun adds describing what happened at the event.
What Varun says next is the important bit.
“Actually they were not offended. They said ‘yeh sab ladkiyon ke saamne aap kaise bol sakte hain?’ So it was not about ki yeh sab aap kaise bol sakte hain but ki yeh sab ladkiyon ke saamne kaise bol sakte hain. Which is the core of our hypocrisy in a way – all-male gathering mein sab chalega -uss mein ultimate sexist, misogynistic stuff bhi chalega, but you cannot have a healthy discussion about sex when girls are there,” explains Varun, hitting the nail on its head.
ATD show stopped at MNNIT Allahabad by a faculty member:
People often ask us if we have ever had our show heckled or booed, or been attacked for our views. Last night, we got a taste of intolerance and outrage, about, of all things, the part of our show that talks about hypocrisy regarding sex in Indian society. A professor got our mikes switched off and abruptly stopped the show. His reaction is perfect vindication of our views about how Indians cannot bear the mention of sex.
Meanwhile, students who had organized our show were grilled and scolded and browbeaten and told to post on social media that the students agreed with the professor’s actions. On the bright side, a large number of students, male and female, have written in to us telling us how much they loved the show, and apologizing profoundly for the stoppage. We are so pleased that young Indians in the audience were a stark and welcome contrast to their outdated, outmoded and antediluvian professors!
Varun Grover adds:
All comedians in India know such a day is just around the corner always. But it still is disorienting & heartbreaking when it happens. MNNIT Allahabad had called Aisi Taisi Democracy to perform at gnoTalks 2016 and we were very excited as college gigs are always the most satisfying.
The show started at 7 pm to an auditorium packed to the brim with more than 1800 screaming students. An hour into the show, with more applause-breaks than we have ever had, I started my bit about how we Indians are so uncomfortable talking about sex & at the core of it lies our severe lack of sex-education. While narrating personal experiences, I was consciously looking at the reaction of female students (clearly segregated, sitting in front) just to make sure they were not feeling alienated or uncomfortable. And they absolutely were not. The bit comprised of no cuss-words or insult comedy, not even talking down to the moral policing that’s been a leitmotif of all our lives here in India, but I still could see some of the faculty members leaving their chairs and walking out. This happened exactly at the moment I started talking about the core problem – lack of sex education while sharing a story about my school teacher who would pronounce sexual as ‘hexual’ in biology class as he was (probably) creeped out by the idea of saying the correct word in public.
30 seconds later, in the middle of a punchline, the power in the mic was gone. As an instinctive reaction, I grabbed fellow comic Sanjay Rajoura’s mic and tried speaking into it but it was gone too. Seeing some movement around the sound console, where our show manager Anurag Rao was stationed, my brain told me for the first time that something’s wrong & it’s not the electricity connection. I still went ahead to check Rahul Ram’s mic and that was working (‘cos he had a separate line for his guitar mic) but by then Anurag Rao climbed on to the stage and whispered to us – ‘The show is over. They want us to leave.’
The students, by now a confused mass of anticipation & oncoming-dejection, were making murmurs. Rahul Ram’s mic was also gone by then so he announced, without a mic – “Your professors don’t want us to continue. You guys were fantastic but unfortunately this ends here.”
Backstage, we came to know that one senior faculty member took great offense to the fact that we were using such dirty words ‘in front of ladies’. (Dirty words being parts of human anatomy.) The student organizers apologized profusely for the mess and reasonably shared their helplessness in front of a faculty too powerful & sanskaari. We were led out as all the students (including the female students they were ‘protecting’) booed the faculty and waved at us with sadness in their eyes. Many of them (again, both male and female students) later wrote to us in private messages how ashamed they feel of this mindset of moral-clampdown.
I think, as long as students stand with freedom of speech AND talking about uncomfortable issues (as they overwhelmingly were), hope stands. The orthodoxy has only the entire human history to revisit to understand why it’s called orthodoxy in the first place & why it will just go down the drain.
One hilarious nugget that came from the sound console guy – as the offended professor walked up to him, he said ‘Taar kheencho!’ (‘Pull the plug’) Sound guy told him ‘Sir ab taar nahin hota hai. Button hai yahaan!’ That’s how much out of touch the seniors are with where the world has reached.