Comedian Saloni Gaur’s latest video of Nazma Aapi giving the entire Arnab Goswami-attack fuss her own twist is being dubbed as Islamophobic. A tweet said that the video wasn’t only stereotyping Muslim women but “shifting the entire perception of muslim women from iconic fighters of Shaheen Bagh to an illiterate, abusive and savage women who needs lessons on decency (sic)”.
If anything, the author of the tweet was trivialising the immense courage that women of Shaheen Bagh displayed, which led to similar protests across India, by mistakenly thinking a video by the latest kid on the block could take away the tremendous impact the anti-CAA-NRC protests had and its lasting impression.
Illiterate, abusive and savage women — that’s what the Twitter user says Saloni Gaur has reduced the Shaheen Bagh protesters to.
Might I point out just how riddled with class privilege the tweet is by equating inarticulate, poorer woman with ‘savages’? Saloni Gaur’s Nazma Aapi is very effective in her articulation. Must everyone speak, walk, talk a certain way to be classified with the ‘gentry’, in rarefied Urdu of the Raqs Collective, or be accused of lacking ‘decency’? The tweet’s take is very Churchillian, minus the wit of the late British PM.
But it is becoming a lazy and tired criticism these days – accusations of Islamophobia, even though it is a very real thing. But we need to come up with better terms for things we don’t like.
More importantly, Gaur’s acts are normalising and mainstreaming poorer Muslim women. The women that you took for granted didn’t have a voice, far less a witty one.
Nazma Aapi on Arnab vs Sonia Gandhi pic.twitter.com/clFQAs2f2y
— Saloni Gaur (Nazma Aapi) (@salonayyy) April 23, 2020
We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.
Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.
Laughter and prejudice
A lot of funny characters’ appeal lie in their relatability — they are people we know in our everyday lives. This is what comedians do, they take certain stereotypes and blow them out of proportion — which is precisely what makes us laugh.
Many could argue the extremely frugal Monisha from Sarabhai vs Sarabhai is a prejudiced take on middle-class women and Maya Sarabhai is a potshot at the elites. They could also argue that Daya (from Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah) and Hansa (from Khichdi) are stereotype-dripping portrayals of Gujarati women.
Guess what, they would all be right.
And yet, we have to see if these characters were out here to offend the people they’re moulded from, or are they just imaginations based on certain truths.
Hell, Lily Singh made an entire career out of stereotyping brown parents. Hasan Minhaj, too, makes fun of NRI families. The entire appeal of Subtle Curry Traits, the immensely popular Facebook page, lies in the jokes it makes on its own community — and its various idiosyncrasies.
Nazma Aapi isn’t Gaur’s only character based on stereotypes, her ‘nukkad natak’-obsessed ‘DU ki didi’, DD news broadcaster in ‘Dhan ki baat’ and ‘Sasu ma’ also liberally poke fun at the cliches. And that’s precisely where the appeal of her comedy lies.
I’ll tell you where it does get demeaning and offensive — men running around dressed as loud, horny women who make unscrupulous advances at the men in the room, like in Kapil Sharma’s show that only runs on sexist jokes. Where women are ridiculed beyond belief, paraded as the butt of jokes, kicked by the host and on top of it, played by men.
Because well, women can’t be funny, can they?
The Muslim identity
One has to remember here, Saloni Gaur never makes fun of the Muslim community. She just speaks to us as a Muslim woman.
Many would argue that Nazma Aapi — a seemingly poor, annoying but witty Muslim woman who is forever concerned with what ‘Afridi ke Abbu’ is up to — reduces the community to unappetising cliches.
But Saloni Gaur’s character is so much more than that. In fact, some could argue, Nazma Aapi catapulted to social media stardom because of her quick, sharp, witty takes on political developments in India.
Nazma Aapi bluntly puts forth her take on Modi’s CAA and uproar that followed the recital of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge, among other issues, with cutting-edge sharpness delivered with ease. In one video she says, “Modi says he doesn’t sleep at all which is why he came up with plans like CAA”. In her latest video she says, it’s Sonia Gandhi’s bad luck that she got such a son and such gangs who reveal themselves to Arnab Goswami’s security as soon as they are caught.
Only a comedian can pick such heavy topics and capture their essence, while perfectly highlighting the problems surrounding their characters.
For Saloni Gaur to do this at the age of 20 is commendable, and for all the gaps that she does have in her videos — the over generalisations, the portrayals that many term regressive and the irritating delivery — might just mature with age.
Views are personal.
News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it
You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.
You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.
We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.
At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.
This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.
If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.