Posted by Harshita Malik
Are you a straight Indian guy looking for advice on relationships and breakups from an expert? Don’t worry I would never suggest Zakir Khan. Though he has attained a cult status in the Indian majority. He might seem cool to the lakhs in the audience who have paid for his stand ups and can not stop laughing on his simply stereotypical jokes. But I can never ignore the fact that he gained all his popularity by talking to a large subset, that is, the heterosexual males of the country. His lingo is always aimed towards the not-so homo community, presuming his audience all the while.
But I totally understand the fact that he has reached out for the fascination himself by stretching out to the audience who needs his counseling. And by the counseling, I mean talking always about how girls will hurt you forever but you gotta take a chill pill because you are the ‘Sakht launda’ (strong man) out here. How can someone attract this large viewership every time by just talking about what to do when you chase a girl and what not to do after she walks away – because she is the one who will always ‘kaato’ your fate (mess up your life) – with some other guy in front of you? How can you follow the same pattern every time and not talk about other major subjects that need more attention of the youth and can be turned into comedy as well?
How can someone attract this large viewership every time by just talking about what to do when you chase a girl?
It’s when he speaks to his audience that you actually come to know where his comedy has evolved. Zakir Khan follows a framework that starts from ‘getting’ a girl and then how to cope up when you get fed up of her cleanliness, over-emotional nature, possessive behaviour, clothes, lipsticks, life in general. This moves towards you asking for a breakup but ultimately she does it and now you have ‘lost the game’. She ditches you so that you get to play the victim card in the end. As your plan goes, you see her with some other guy or maybe her ex and again, you became the Devdas. But hey, now you are the prisoner of the victim card you played. This is what his show Haq Se Single talks about. But here, surprisingly (good for him though), he mentions that it is not always the girl who is at fault because “There is no villain. It is you who is the hero.”
No wonder he gets an amazing applause when he defines the stereotypical gender roles when he talks about ideal girls to be studious, experts in cooking and embroidery, and a complete package of ‘Papa ki pari’. And boys to be all no-book players and spending their lives looking and running behind their dream girls. Its not shocking to see how he draws thick lines between all over-emotional girls and emotionless, fierce boys. Throughout the show he keeps on pointing out that girls are those ‘OCD creatures’ and the upbringing of boys is more mud and less phenyl.
No but that’s fine, no harm! Since he is talking to the men and the patriarchs of the country, he has to get the bro code in fairly early in the one and a half hour talk. He even mentioned the word ‘feminism’ towards the end. Which, by the way, reminds me of a thought that crossed my mind when I watched the full video. His parents were present during the show and he very proudly helped his father go broad on his shoulders by repeatedly referring him as a stud, on actions such as going all lovey-dovey with another aunty while mom is making tea for everyone in the gathering (Oh such an easy to imagine frame!).
On the other hand, referring to his mom as the least aware person and that they, as the men of the family, didn’t let her know about what being equal means and so she very cutely did all their work because her sons and her husband never wanted her to be empowered. To which, she very clearly couldn’t help but laugh.
Zakir has mixed announcements and suggestions for his bros in the show. He builds up stereotypes and gender specific roles at one end while tries to explain and understand the face of the targeted side (mansplaining, specifically) on the other.
Keeping the sexism apart, I personally don’t find his jokes as interesting as his viewers find them. He keeps extending a joke unnecessarily which falls flat towards the end.
However, I was astonished to read reviews of the show that say that there is nothing wrong in him objectifying women in the talk as girls at some point become a need in life. This is not just about Haq Se Single as a show but about Zakir Khan as the universal Sakht launda of the generation.
he keeps on pointing out that girls are those ‘OCD creatures’ and the upbringing of boys is more mud and less phenyl.
Through troubled phases, fights, and broken relationships, he tries to make sure he doesn’t alienate any member of his audience, and you get the sense that he’s succeeding in this endeavour. So he gets probably his loudest cheer in the show when he reveals the truth to his bros that girls cry because you are a jerk.
To sum up the account on the interpretation on Zakir Khan and Haq Se Single, I would like to quote Pradeep Menon.
“The evolution towards a world free of misogyny is a long, slow process, so it’s heartening to see, towards the end of the act particularly, that mass popularity can also be tinged with unpopular messages; and no one does that like Zakir Khan. Perhaps there will soon come a day when he can even avoid gender stereotypes in his humour. A show named Haq Se Equal, perhaps?”
Harshita Malik is a gender queer to-be journalist. Supporter of human rights. Believes in individual wishes and opinions. Don’t ask for validations, do it if you like it. (unless you are a criminal). Mediocre reader of non-fictions.