If it took you 5 minutes to realise who Vivek Shauq is – don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Pretty much every staff writer in newspapers across the country didn’t either; and thus copy pasted his Wikipedia entry and called it a “tribute”.
I’m learning more and more with each passing day about comedy, its history and the people who helped shape it. I’ve read pretty much every biography and/or autobiography of the comics I’ve admired and wasted hours watching their videos. (Pryor, Bruce, Martin, Mooney, Carlin, Hicks etc) And like others of my generation and socio-economic type, I’ve never really looked beyond them for my moments of inspiration and aspiration. And that perhaps, is one of the reasons legends like Vivek Shauq are overlooked - because we forget. Because while we lament the lack of comedy clubs in
or the comedy revolutions that took place in other cultures – we forget the kind of comedy we grew up with and the imprint it left on our subconscious. India
I don’t have the academic depth to be able to compare the pairing of Jaspal Bhatti and Shauq with that of Western comics as is the norm in pieces like these. Nor am I able to reference old Hindi comedies or the 60s and 70s because that is not what I grew up with. I grew up with Flop Show. Looking back, those 10 episodes where this duo knocked governmental institutions, cultural beliefs, value systems and inherent ways of being and screenings of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron on Doordarshan were what defined satire for people of my age. I have the DVD set of Flop Show. 20 years later the writing and stories still hold up and make me laugh. I’ll be glad if the shows presently on air (and the kinds I write for) hold up for even a year. And for that show alone – Shauq will be for me, a comedy legend. Without him – there would be no Flop Show, and that is the end of that.
I am reminded of a conversation with my friend Rahul from Faking News from a couple of months ago – where we were trying to hook up a meeting with Jaspal Bhatti at his MAD Arts school in Mohali – where I was hoping to get to meet him, Shauq and the rest of the crew (or perhaps even join a couple of classes). We never pushed it very seriously. I wish I had.
Shauq also associated with Bhatti for shows like Ulta Pulta (another classic) and Full Tension. He also did a handful of movies in Punjabi (Mahaul Theek Hai being the most popular of the recent lot) and Hindi where his role was usually that of the crummy sidekick with a couple of lines here and there. To a lot of people his movie career took the shine off his glorious past – to me it was just part of the ballgame when you’re a small fish in the pond. Either way, his contribution – which I fear will be overlooked because of being a mere sidekick – towards Indian comedy has been immense and something we shouldn’t forget.
People always point out how great comics and musicians seem to die young. I don’t agree with that thesis at all. But if that were true, and there is some sort of a god – then I imagine he needs all these folks to humor him/her looking at the clusterfuck he created in the form of Earth. Shauq would do a stellar job.
To Vivek Shauq – one of the first guys who made me laugh – thank you for all the entertainment.