Flop Show – TV Series. Written, directed, produced and acted by Jaspal Bhatti in late 1980s, this was one of the greatest Hindi satirical comedy series which struck a chord with the masses.
Foreigners will not be able to understand the comedy even if subtitles are provided, due to the simple reason that it is highly contextual to India and pokes fun at the system by highlighting problems faced by the common man due to bureaucracy & corruption in a humorous manner and still makes sense today because most of the problems exist in current system as well. Each episode ends with a satirical spoof of a popular Hindi song which vents out the frustrations of a common man.
Following is one such spoof at the end of an episode highlighting corruption/bribery in the system:
The entire series (10 episodes) can be watched online here:
25th Oct 2012: Jaspal Bhatti died in a car accident. May his soul rest in peace.
The following letter is straight from my heart as a tribute to the legend:
I still remember the day I first watched Jaspal Bhatti’s satirical comedy serial “Flop Show” when I was just 4-5 years old. Back in those days, Bangalore was a sleepy city, without the cosmopolitan status it has today. For comedy, one had to look no further than Kannada artists like Master Hirannayya. Kannada was the dominant medium for cultural programmes and entertainment as well, with exceptions being few Hindi serials like Mahabharata & Ramayana due to their mythological importance. So, I was surprised when my parents tuned into a Hindi serial which neither had Gods nor was it the DD national news.
That was the charm Jaspal Bhatti had over Indians from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. I still remember how confused I was when I first watched it because throughout the show, my parents were laughing out loud while Bhatti appeared serious in the show. Although I was able to understand basic Hindi, I could not understand the satire. Being a 5 year old kid, I could not understand why one would laugh at something which had no funny action. That was how I got introduced to satirical comedy by Bhatti.
Over the next few years, as I grew up in an environment where the mantra was “This happens only in India” & “Swalpa adjust maadi” (means please adjust a little), I was gradually able to understand the satire and since most of Bhatti’s serials were recorded in our VCR, everytime I watched it, I was able to appreciate it better. That was how my respect for Bhatti began to grow.
I had always held Bhatti in high regard because he was able to strike a chord with the masses and that in my opinion is a highly specialized talent which can be developed only if one has reached the stage of maturity in comedy. Anybody can produce comedy which makes a section of people laugh by joking about other sections (Madrasi jokes, Sardar jokes etc). But producing comedy which makes people of all the sections laugh and also at the same time convey a subtle social message requires maturity. Just like how the Amul girl in her campaign has been a social commentator and RK Laxman’s common man has been a witness to problems & social transformations, Bhatti was humourist who depicted the socio-cultural problems faced by the common man and at the same time, convey some subtle message.
He never picked on any particular politician but was able to make politicians also laugh at his humour without them realizing that he is actually poking fun at them indirectly. He never picked on any particular professional but was able to make them laugh by showing how arrogant and indisciplined they could be towards the common man, without them realizing that it is actually intended towards them. In fact, I have always been inspired by his satire because they have helped me find out my own weaknesses as a reflection of the satire and worked on overcoming them.
For example, in one of his satirical works, he shows how a family goes crazy over a new telephone connection and at some point of time, the telephone becomes more important than the family!! That was in the context where getting a telephone connection was an achievement in itself but deep down, he was trying to show how materialistic things can actually make us slaves making us prioritize objects over humans. Throughout the episode, I laughed, but later when I introspected, I realized that even I too and many like me were doing the same i.e Prioritizing objects over humans, friendships & relations. We are concerned more about how much processing speed our mobile phone has rather than about how good our relationships with families and friends are.
Similarly, he had put so much of thought behind every satirical work of his to ensure that it need not remain only in the context of his era but also for several more generations to come. One of his legendary works being “Flop Show” series produced almost 25 years ago, captures several such thoughts which is valid even today.
The official CD/DVDs are available for sale at affordable prices in the following links:
DVD costing Rs 226:
It is very unfortunate that such a great personality had to leave us today. May his soul rest in peace.
As with every great personality, the body will be gone but the legend will stay and inspire millions. Lets hope the legend of Bhatti will continue to inspire several more generations of satire artists.