A couple of years back, a relatively unknown – at least in the Indian subcontinent – Hasan Minhaj furthered the politician-comedian parentification (don't look up the dictionary; the meme below explains the meaning of this word better) through his White House correspondents' dinner address. He took digs at the bigotry of Donald Trump & Co, but that didn't make much of an impact in India because, of course, we're stuck in deep shit of our own.
Over the course of this weekend though, the American comedian of Indian origin finally turned towards the subcontinent in an outright courageous, half-an-hour long episode about the upcoming Indian general assembly elections, on the second season of his Netflix original 'Patriot Act'. And since it touched a lot of nerves, India is kinda…umm abuzz.
“Since [Narendra] Modi came to power, India has grown more hostile to minority groups. There's been a resurgence in religious nationalism, specifically Hindu nationalism, the idea that India is a Hindu nation,” opens the monologue.
Ha! How dare?
A bunch of trolls on my Twitter, and some of you reading this on MensXP (judging by the quality – or the lack of thereof, of a lot of comments on our Facebook page), would disagree. But the bad news for you guys is that he backs it up with solid facts (not Whatsapp forwards and 4Chan theories) to tell you how almost 300 people have been physically assaulted (including the 50 killed) in cow-related violence in India.
But I don't expect this lot to understand, let alone be empathetic. After all, I was called a 'cow-eater' just last week on a metro ride to work, because I had put on a kurta (serious offence in this day and age of pigeonholed points of view). So Hasan's Pakistani (then Qatar and then Iran) spy joke hits home instantly.March 18, 2019
That's not the only talking point from the episode. An unflinching Minhaj goes on to poke fun at the Indian TV media community that is drawing the ire of international compatriots, especially for its role in the coverage of the recent Indo-Pak tensions. More TV anchors let out war cries than the concerned people and more TV studios were turned into battlefields than the actual ones.
If truth be spoken, sane debates – both on air and off it, seem like a distant memory. Trust me, I'm an ex-Muslim man in the 'media business,' and get to physically interact with maybe more people than the average Indian bhakt.
In his own style, Minhaj also interviews Indian National Congress' outspoken Member of Parliament, Shashi Tharoor for the episode (FYI, he failed to get a response from the Bharatiya Janata Party and, going by his Twitter handle, Chowkidar Narendra Modi, 'who is the first PM in the country to never hold a press conference').
The comedian goes on to revive the age-old joke of the direct proportionality between an Indian politician and the number of criminal charges against them. For crying out loud, he confronted Tharoor about his wife's murder during their interview. It's a real moment of pride when this is the actual state of Indian media at present.
And finally, he also addresses the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named of Indian politics, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) (yes, my name is Khan and I'm not a terrorist). Minhaj calls upon their problematic history and Narendra Modi's close ties with them, with reference to the rise of right-wing politics across the world in the recent past.
Apart from Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adiyanath's 'Aap Ki Adalat' appearance with Rajat Sharma (another TV anchor with dicey political ties), former chief MS Golwalkar deciding to name his book 'A Bunch of Thoughts' also became the butt of his jokes.March 17, 2019
The Twitter troll army, surprisingly, did stay away from going all-out in harassing Minhaj (at least in the first 24 hours of the episode's release), despite him poking ample fun at Modiji & Co. That's, in some ways, a testimony to the narrative's middle-of-the-road approach, and in a lot of ways an unlikely masterclass for Indian TV media.
Well, these were my bunch of thoughts on the show and how Minhaj's rational, hilarious, and neutral take on the Indian political climate, and the dire state of our TV 'journalism'. Without further spoilers, here is the entire episode; check it out.