Kapil Sharma’s I’m Not Done Yet is a Charm Offensive that only Confirms his Pedigree

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Kapil Sharma’s I’m Not Done Yet is a Charm Offensive that only Confirms his Pedigree

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Standup comedy in India hit the scenes in earnest about a decade ago. With comedy groups such as AIB (All India Bakchod), SnG (Schitzengiggles ) to name a few, young comedians became the newest internet sensations and celebrities. Their approach to comedy was well, as we all know, ‘punching up’. From jokes on politicians to commenting on celebrities, so much so now it seems ironic how most of them have sort of become, part of Bollywood themselves.

To this new brand of woke comedians, the desis played the counter-foil, a more conservative brand of comedy that had held together the early years of the nascent, almost unrecognizable scene. Be it Kapil Sharma, Raju Shrivastava or Kiku Sharda or Sunil Grover, the old guard has, as is evidence stood the test of this new wave. Call it unpolished, or not edgy enough, but Kapil Sharma has ruled the roost of prime-time television. A fact that his Netflix special, I’m not done yet confirms.

Call it unpolished, or not edgy enough, but Kapil Sharma has ruled the roost of prime-time television. A fact that his Netflix special, I’m not done yet confirms.

I was especially curious to see whether Sharma would address the many burning questions we have about him. As the ultimate outsider who has now become the king of an industry that he, half-supports and platforms, what is this man of no heritage but a boundless future up his sleeve in a more liberal, off-tv-screen setting. Netflix has most recently been identified as a platform for woke people, with a certain suavity in terms of consumption. Sharma has always, of course, delivered the opposite, a homely, distinctly family comic, who though troublesome in aspects, remains the closest thing to a national force.

Netflix has most recently been identified as a platform for woke people, with a certain suavity in terms of consumption. Sharma has always, of course, delivered the opposite.

Kapil Sharma opens up the special by acknowledging and thanking Netflix and how they believed in him enough to grant him a special. He moves on and discusses the lows in his life –  his depression and his drunken adventures. Not once but several times the media had speculated about his mental health issues and his fondness for the occasional ‘glass of whiskey’ which the comedian ably contorts to his own charming will. Rather unexpectedly, the comedian also steps out of his comfort zone, taking sly digs at politicians, factionalism and the bloodthirst of the paparazzi.

Sharma’s opening up about his mental health issues is a radical direction considering most of his destinations are usually traditional or domesticated to the point that they cannot articulate such issues. It may come as a surprise to traditional fans, but it is a welcome one that must be counted as those rare moments of stardom culminating in something constructive. Not once does he mince his words which must be endearing for an audience that has for long decried his tight-lipped politics.

Kapil Sharma’s Comedy Nights has always been on the receiving end of social media outrage but this time around, his materials rise above the ordinariness of the cycle that he has mastered.

Kapil Sharma’s Comedy Nights has always been on the receiving end of social media outrage because a lot of these jokes have been crass and in poor taste. But this time around, Kapil’s materials rise above the ordinariness of the cycle that he has mastered. It’s a risk he takes, and whatever the response by his loyalists is worthy of its cache in the corridors of Indian comedy. It’s after all a corridor, he has built.  Not everything about the special lands though, his dialogue with his wife seems forced, his musical tendencies have always felt self-indulgent and the act itself doesn’t have a structure to it.

While woke comedy is quickly becoming the norm of urban India, no one has managed to emulate Sharma’s popularity or reach.

Sharma has been routinely written off by his critics for not being the man to take the next step of evolution and speak some truth to power. He is obviously funny, and smarter than he looks, but in trying to retain his mass authority he has come under the scrutiny of woke critics. But while woke comedy is quickly becoming the norm of urban India, no one has managed to emulate Sharma’s popularity or reach.

You could argue it doesn’t always justify the kind of material he puts out on his own show, but if this new special is any evidence, he doesn’t really need to. There are obvious motivations at play there, and clearly, a Kapil Sharma in a more liberal country would have been the comedian that Sharma can clearly become, but simply chooses not to. Let’s just hope that like the title of his special, the comedian comes around to prove his doubters wrong because it sure does seem like he isn’t done yet.

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