India’s premier comedy act has come a long way since being set up in early 2012.
All India Bakchod, India’s premier comedy group have made a big name for themselves nationally and even internationally in a very short period of time. The name of the group is a clever play on the name of the radio station All India Radio with the word ‘Bakchod’, a Hindi slang essentially referring to a person who gossips a lot. This seems totally apt keeping in mind their satirical comedy on both India’s social and political scenario and also topics of sex and religion. The bold four-man comedy group has come a long way after starting with just SoundCloud podcasts in 2012, garnering fame on YouTube and more recently breaking the news and the media after one of the most daring comedic acts in the country.
The not so Humble Beginning and the iTunes setback
All India Bakchod or AIB’s eventful journey began in the February of 2012, when co-founders Gursimran Khamba and Tanmay Bhat released the first ever episode of All India Bakchod, a humorous podcast discussing an array of things ranging from current affairs to the growing comedy culture in India. It was since then that they never looked back. With concern for, or rather fear of censorship as the last thing on their minds, the duo kept releasing more episodes joking about the evergreen topics of sex, politics, religion, the Indian film industry and much more, with each release turning out to be more blatant or funnier as some would call it, than the other. In addition to this, their podcasts also consisted of candid conversations with a diverse set of guests who define the entertainment culture in India such as comedians Raju Srivastav, Ranvir Shorey, Russell Peters, and even Indian cinema director Anurag Kashyap. In not much time, having garnered considerable notoriety, they spent the longest time atop the iTunes chart before they were banned by iTunes India for their explicit content. However, instead of falling behind in their attempts to project humour on arguably anything and everything mankind knows of, Khamba and Bhat remained undeterred as the AIB team went on to expand further.
Addition of Joshi and Shakya, and ‘The Royal Turds’
While Tanmay feels that Khamba is probably more easygoing and cares less about stuff in general he also adds that both of them usually have the same line of thought on most things. To bring that variety in thought and action to the AIB team Bhat and Khamba were soon joined by their close friends Rohan Joshi, an auto journalist and Ashish Shakya, an engineer and a humour columnist with the Hindustan Times.
With the addition of Joshi and Shakya the team of All India Bakchod was complete. Venturing further into realm of unabashed and aggressive comedy, the four of them in addition to podcasts began focusing more on live stand up and improvised comedy, a field none of them was a stranger to. Their flagship live act ‘The Royal Turds’, a parody awards ceremony poking fun at recent releases in Bollywood collected about a crore and a half just from ticket sales in the year 2013, contributing to a boastful record of 42 consecutive completely sold out shows! Even with this much under their belt, AIB were still far off from becoming a household name, the one that they are today.
All India Bakchod on YouTube
AIB’s increasing popularity was imminent thanks to their podcasts and over the top comedy at their live shows but the full potential of the team was yet to be realised. With that being said it comes as no surprise that AIB then took to YouTube in their bid to become one of the most well known comedic acts in the country. According to sources however, it may be interesting to note that AIB took to YouTube simply because they did not have enough funds for promotion and advertising. As a result, they had to rely upon social media for all of their work, a significant step in the career of the AIB team which has taken them places in a short span of time. It would be fair to also mention that the group also received offers from the television and even the film industry. The four of them were interested in neither. The reason behind it was plain and simple: long gone are the days when the legitimacy you are looking for could be had from films or TV. YouTube provides the group with the platform that AIB needs where they can create whatever they feel like without much thought, and with their continuously growing fan base there is not much to argue upon in that regard.
With their eyes now set on YouTube, AIB started focusing on sketch comedy videos and anything that had the potential to be humorous. That in itself is a huge task because for a comedian every single thing in this whole wide world is funny. Yes, be it religion, be it cancer or even death, everything has the potential to be funny according to Bhat, who considers himself an absolutist when thinking of what could be funny and what not. Their first video, ‘Indian iPod’ stands to prove just that. The video, in the format of an advertisement for a fictitious Apple product, the iPod Chotu, depicts what an iPod for an Indian market would be like. Another video, ‘Sanjay Dutt GPS’ is along similar lines, showcasing a GPS system with Sanjay Dutt’s trademark ‘Munna Bhai’ voice.
One of their breakthrough videos in YouTube goes by the name of ‘Rape: It’s Your Fault’ which currently has over 4 million views! The video, a social satire, features actress Kalki Koechlin and VJ Juhi Pande addressing absurd statements by public figures that blame rape victims for being raped.
Apart from these, AIB have not been shy of producing videos on other feisty topics of political satire. Their video ‘Nayak 2: The Common Man Rises’ poking fun at the Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal in a playful sense of humour after he’d won the election in Delhi in December 2013 has again amassed 4 million views till date. It also featured veteran Indian actor Alok Nath after his brief stint on the internet with his ‘sanskar’ memes.
Many of the videos of AIB regularly feature Indian stand up comedian, actor and singer Abish Mathew who has also tried his hand at directing videos with them.
While AIB has branched out to cover anything and everything that seems funny, their YouTube channel consists of categories that help get an idea of what their videos are generally based on. In addition to their official podcast and The Royal Turds 2013, their work is categorised under broad headings as Bollywood Stuff, Social Satire, Political Satire, Musical Comedy and also ‘Bakchod’ Music. Starting from September 2014 they have also added a series of question and answer videos where they reply to questions from viewers on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube under #askaib. With so much entertainment for no cost at all, AIB’s YouTube channel is one of the fastest growing channels in India with nearly 63 million views and the figure of subscribers inching closer to a million as you continue to read further!
Brand partnerships with Snapdeal and others
AIB’s flourishing creativity on their YouTube channel also helped create an avenue for prospective partnerships with different brands, brands looking for means beyond the conventional methods of advertising to promote themselves and their products. Such has been the partnership between All India Bakchod and Snapdeal. Numerous videos has the AIB team’s edgy promotional techniques of the online shopping website. It may be debatable how effective such techniques are but they sure are innovative. The team have full freedom in deciding how to go about the promotion. This is important to ensure that their humour is not corrupted. The group has also created a number of ads for the online classifieds portal Quikr. Says Khamba that the major challenge is to make the brands see the plus points in their association with All India Bakchod. He also adds that the ones who want to look cool, or want to be associated with the young crowd come to them. Another of their ads for RedBull, a four minute long video plays on their tagline and repeatedly focuses on flying. The team comes up with the entire concept for the ads and acts as an agency for these brands producing digital ads for them. In a lot of cases, they also direct the ads. With the brand managers of big companies being allotted a huge budgets for advertising with hardly any knowledge of how to go about things, one could say that this may not be a bad idea after all.
Only Much Louder, the managers of the NH7 musical fest provide all the production support to AIB. In addition to that OML has also taken the responsibility of managing AIB and comedy careers of each of the four individuals in the group as each of them continue with live stand up acts and comedy shows.
Rise to Fame: All India Bakchod takes on Bollywood
The AIB team rose further to fame with their take on Bollywood in many of their videos. In November 2013, they approached Yash Raj Films Studios to acquire permission to create a spoof trailer for Dhoom 3. With their requests being turned down repeatedly in spite of several attempts at negotiations they finally made a musical parody dedicated to the studio as well as the entire Indian cinema putting across a message to stop taking themselves so seriously. The general response to the video was out of the ordinary. Several studios came up to the group asking them if All India Bakchod could make fun of their movie trailers. What comes across as more surprising is that YRF was one of them, as Bhat says in an interview. The video not just received over 2 million views but also effectively put out the message that the group so badly wanted to. Says Khamba of the event that it is a great thing because it is not very common in our culture to make fun of ourselves.
Moving forward with this idea they went on to create their most popular video to date, a mockumentary called ‘Genius of the Year’ starring Alia Bhatt. The ‘Student of the Year’ actress was then a trending topic on the internet with numerous memes on her making rounds after her poor performance in the rapid fire quiz on the show Koffee with Karan. The video showcases fictitious events after her appearance on the show. She enrolls at the ‘Dumb Belle Mental Gym’ in an attempt to raise her IQ and get smarter. Full of satire and signature All India Bakchod comedy, the video also features many big names from the film industry like Karan Johar, Mahesh Bhatt, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra. The video went viral and as of today has close to 9 million views!
One could say that AIB were slowly transforming the Indian culture from one where everyone is so uptight about themselves to one where everyone including major establishments in the country including political parties and Bollywood finally have the courage to laugh at themselves. However, the above statement was eventually going to be put to test as the AIB team was in preparations to come out with the boldest acts of their career so far on a platform bigger than any they’d performed on before then.
AIB Knockout Championship and the resulting Controversy
Towards the end of 2014 AIB announced a roast comedy show to raise funds for charity to be held in Mumbai starring Indian cinema actors Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor, two of the most prominent youth icons in the country. The roast show was given the name All India Bakchod Knockout Championship. In a huge buildup to the event the group also announced director Karan Johar as the host/roastmaster for the show and a well decorated panel in addition to the AIB team members.
After massive promotion, the show was finally held on the 20th of December, 2014 in Worli in Mumbai at Sardar Vallbhbhai Patel Stadium. Khamba, Bhat, Shakya and Joshi were joined on the panel by fellow stand up comedian and frequent collaborator Abish Mathew, well known stand up comedian Aditi Mittal, television producer and actor Raghu Ram from MTV Roadies, and Indian film critic and reporter Rajeev Masand.
With 4,000 attendees, donations worth Rs 40 lakhs were raised for various charity organisations including Salman Khan’s charity foundation Being Human. Those among the attendees included many big names in Bollywood, namely Deepika Padukone, Sonakshi Sinha, previous collaborator Alia Bhatt, Sanjay Kapoor, Hiroo Johar and also director Anurag Kashyap among a few others.
The show or the webisode was uploaded on YouTube on AIB’s channel on the 28th of January, 2015 in three parts roughly totalling to an hour. At the beginning of the first video the viewers are warned about the aggressive comedic nature of the show using tons of adjectives to describe the content that follows.
The show could be described probably as a full on challenge to censorship on its face. The crude and uncorrupted comedy projected on the show is the signature style comedy of All India Bakchod. While all the jokes were written by the team along with Abish and Mittal, the raw form of comedy that a roast is took no time at all to make its way through social media and towards a large Indian audience, especially the youth. In just four days, the videos received over 4 million views. However, in less than a week from the release of the video it had to be taken down as the show sparked nationwide unrest and controversy.
Numerous complaints flowed in from various sources to the police against the AIB Knockout allegedly for the use of profane, abusive and vulgar language. A probe was ordered by Vinod Tawde, the minister of Culture in Maharashtra, into the alleged inappropriate content. Eventually, an FIR was registered against 14 persons by the Police in Mumbai. Among them were included the roasted Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor, roastmaster Karan Johar, actresses Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and others. Even the officials of Worli, where the event was held were named among the 14.
The AIB responded with a huge letter to the public making full use of their favourite device: satire. While they cited that the reason for them taking down the video was that they did not want anyone to get into trouble because of their work, they also repeatedly emphasised on the show being held for comedic purposes only with no intention of offending anyone or any community.
While the AIB team attempted to make peace, Bollywood on the other hand got torn over the issue. Support flowed in from a large number of celebrities in the industry such as Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha, Varun Dhawan, Sonam Kapoor among others. Others have expressed their disappointment with the show. Aamir Khan, Farida Jalal and Anil Kapoor are a few major names to have done so. Shah Rukh Khan has refused to take sides while stating that humour can be a feisty affair.
Influences, the Present and the Future
The AIB team is always keen on interacting with fans and people who want to reach out to them. For this reason they are consistently online interacting with fans at allindiabakchod at gmail.com. As of today, they have many employees for different tasks of writing the scripts, brand consulting and even conducting both student and corporate workshops.
While Raju Srivastav is undoubtedly Bhat’s favourite, he also looks up to Louis CK for his unapologetic humour. Other names include George Carlin, Chris Rock, and Patrice O’Neal. These comedians put some light on the kind of humour All India Bakchod portrays; raw, edgy, and unapologetic, something that pushes the limits.
It is largely due to this style of comedy that AIB has become so popular today. Their popularity in turn has brought about new competition in the field setting up YouTube channels and working on fresh content. The team takes full credit for that, because there was hardly anyone at the scene of such kind of comedy before them. The Viral Fever (TVF), the makers of Qtiyapa, is the only other name that pops into our minds when thinking about comedy on similar lines as that of AIB. Bhat believes that it will only get better and better as more people try their hand at alternate comedy, hinting towards exciting times in the future.
While speaking of comedy in the future, the group notes the importance of YouTube, and its capability of taking on the role of being a mass medium. Even though other social media such as Twitter and SoundCloud will still be there, the importance of YouTube cannot be undermined. Also, it is much easier to work once you have a certain number of hits assured. It is however, important to focus on what the topic or the sketch is and how humorous or insightful it can or will be. This is what proves to be the most challenging part. Even so, the group finds the most satisfaction from their podcasts due to the fact that they are unrefined and thus the funniest.
Of the culture of laughing at oneself in India, AIB feels that it is growing at a slow pace but it is getting better day by day. Says Khamba that the team are constantly thinking of what new can be done next, what stereotypes can be broken next. They keep trying different things so they don’t get bored. Also, stand up comedy in India is not very common. Says Bhat that he would like the Indian audience to watch more of stand up comedy as they are very easy to please, a fact that he is not very fond of.
Bhat feels that comedy has been through the ages an important tool to talk about and discuss the society we live in. Says Bhat, ‘tragedy + time = comedy. This is the rule of life.’