Kapil Sharma: I'm Not Done Yet review — Intimate comedic setup from an eminently funny man
The special is a welcome variation to a man to whom self-deprecation comes so easily it is as impossible to criminalise him for his creative choices, as it is to dent his sense of timing and delivery that remain, evidently, intact
The Indian comedy scene can be divided into two halves. The largely woke internet darlings of the AIB (All India Bakchod) age who are more like brands than they are artists; young people who have filled the recently established influencer gap in a digital market that has opened over the last decade. The other half, perhaps the bigger of the two, is Kapil Sharma, a singular and relatable king of prime-time comedy. Ever since the birth of his late-night show Sharma’s star has risen to the point where he probably dwarfs most guests that appear on it as guests. His brand of comedy, however, has always been scrutinised for punching down and catering to an already problematic wife/woman-bashing culture. In his first Netflix special I’m Not Done Yet, Sharma finally comes close to taking some creative and ‘woke’ risks, while also establishing that the reason why his stature remains unsurpassable.
As far as comedy goes, Sharma has probably always been the funniest man in India. His peerless success, in the pre-influencer age mind you, is evidence of just how radical his participation has been in creating a scene where nothing existed. As for criticism against his brand of comedy which often pushes the limits of conduct and etiquette, the comedian is obviously smart enough to predict the offence. It is then I believe a matter of choice guided by demand rather than some notion to mend or alter it. It sounds cynical, obviously, but in an age where no joke can be made without the eventuality of cultural autopsies perhaps it makes sense to make hay while offence chimes. The crude fact is that most woke influencers/comedians are a tweet/comment/joke/act away from being divorced by their own fans - as AIB learned - as compared to a Sharma who simply hasn’t tried to preach that which, in the context of survival, he cannot practice. You can’t die by the sword you do not chose to live by it.
Sharma’s Netflix special is more intimate, where he pays homage to his father, his wife and others we have never heard or learned of before. By framing utterly modest topics, sieved through the safety net of nostalgia, Sharma affirms the mass appeal of themes that he consistently choses to speak about – family, love, aspirations and his small-town handicaps. But in his special, Sharma also oversteps the prohibitive nature of the television screen and talks about things that, if grim, also ground him as a person. From the breakdown of his mental health, to a lasting comment on the now rampant factionalism based on religion has become the comedian uncorks a side of him that may never have made it to national tv while it was on national tv. Momentarily, he also takes a sly dig at the Prime Minister before, cheekily taking it back.
This is a welcome variation to a man to whom self-deprecation comes so easily it is as impossible to criminalise him for his creative choices, as it is to dent his sense of timing and delivery that remain, evidently, intact.
This roughly 55 min piece, doesn’t have a looped structure, except Sharma’s nostalgia for his late father being a consistent anchor and the genesis of a rather whimsical ending. Sharma’s well-known desire for singing resurrects its obtrusive role – which it always kind of does – here as well as one of the things better left alone. There is no woman bashing in this one, but that is probably also because the only woman Sharma talks about is his wife. Though the comedian addresses the seed of doubt and shame that his mental breakdown elicited from the paparazzi, he rather disappointingly chooses to not address the nature and criticism of his material its enabling of women as the punchline trope that can often, even on the set of his show, mime harassment. Maybe it is because Sharma understands that though indefensible and subsequently divisive, it’s also a brand of comedy that has endeared him to a generation of middle-aged men, and maybe, even women.
I’m not done yet, is proof, if any was needed that Sharma is an eminently funny man, whose near implausible popularity irks more people than it offends. His comedy regularly pierces the high-brow elitism of moral righteousness and celebrates the gung-ho aspects of a joke that doesn’t aspire to anything other than be funny. It can be deemed dangerous for what it might encourage, but you’ve probably seen enough men and women enjoy it together to not quibble over its lack of societal etiquette. Moreover, while Sharma might be criticised for his material, he is still probably the only comedian actively trying to make an entire generation laugh without picking up the tools of outrage and vulgarity. His persistence on doing the kind of comedy he does, is justified at least mathematically, by the fact that his show has practically kept entire channels and networks alive. He is, in a world of screen-sharing, woke generalists, someone who can literally design his own destiny. The biggest evidence of that might be in the fact that more than him needing a Netflix special, it’s probably Netflix that needs a Sharma to enter more homes and devices. His is an unassailable position, a mammoth brand that has become too big to fail, too iconic not be allowed the coronation he, maybe, deserves.
Kapil Sharma: I'm Not Done Yet is streaming on Netflix
Manik Sharma writes on art and culture, cinema, books, and everything in between.
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