Uncommon Sense with Saloni: Nazma Aapi turns to a rare Indian political comedy show, but fails to punch up
In a time, when there are no such shows (barring Kunal Kamra's), maybe we should be thankful for this one. It might improve in the episodes to come.
The Indian streaming and TV spaces have been remarkably bare when it comes to Tonight shows or topical comedy. No, Son of Abish doesn't count. Barring Shekhar Suman's Movers & Shakers (which was last telecast in 2012) and Hotstar's On Air With AIB, that was abruptly pulled off air following #MeToo allegations against a former associate of the comedy group, the Indian audience has been starved of topical comedy, save for Kunal Kamra's podcast Shut Up Ya Kunal.
With traditional media going on witch-hunts, and anchors demanding accountability from film industries, it's actually a relief to note that Instagram ke bandeh's favourite Nazma Aapi (Saloni Gaur) is transitioning from her Instagram account to getting her own show, Uncommon Sense with Saloni.
Given the number of failed attempts at comedians transitioning to something beyond their stand-up routine, it's understandable why many of us would be cautious about Gaur's new show. The first episode dropped today, and from the looks of it the show will be tackling a pressing 'issue' in every episode. Much like Hasan Minhaj's Patriot Act (which was recently discontinued by Netflix after a successful run of six seasons), even Gaur's show sees her make her way on to a stage replete with TV screens behind her (Minhaj's set is fancier with huge LED screens) and warms the audience with a few one-liners on 'trending' topics, before making her way to the show's main topic. In the first episode, Gaur picks up the issue of unemployment in India.
It's a pressing issue for the country, that's already witnessing its worst economic spiral in decades. In early 2019, the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) had shared a report that claimed the job loss in India was the worst in 45 years, at 6.1%. The report was disavowed before the 2019 general elections. After the pandemic, the figure has gone up to 6.7%, clearly making it the worst job crisis for our generation.
Now, only if the conventional media would be doing its job. And that's where Gaur comes in, to bring this issue into popular consciousness. The first episode of Uncommon Sense with Saloni, just about delves into unemployment. Unlike Patriot Act or Last Week's Tonight, Gaur's show is not here to submerge you in an ocean of data. It's content with laying out with 'harmless' jokes like - "people say it’s hard to find God, have clearly not gone around looking for a job in India."
The joke-writing here isn't top-class here, where she goes for the low-hanging fruits like Bollywood's "doping scandal", COVID-19 ’s ‘Chinese’ origins, and Tik-Tok and PUBG's ban during the recent border conflict.
What's surprising is how Gaur refuses to even indicate towards the establishment. Doing jokes on the country's highest-ever unemployment, without even indicating towards the powers responsible for it, is when the show begins to seem thoroughly vetted and approved by a legal team.
And that takes the fizz out of the whole thing. There's a skit enacted here called 'Unemployee of the year' - which invites the odd chuckle, but is hardly ground-breaking by any measure.
In a country, where the primetimes have become increasingly hand-in-glove with the establishment, where news anchors openly laugh about a Minister's alleged horse-trading skills during the ongoing Bihar Elections, maybe we shouldn't be outright dismissive of an "influencer" using her significant following to speak about pressing matters.
The first episode of Uncommon Sense with Saloni is well... adequate, also served with a segment featuring Nazma Aapi, Gaur's most popular avatar. In a time, when there are no such shows (barring Kamra's) maybe we should be thankful for this one. It might improve in the episodes to come. To borrow from the show, "beggars can't be choosers."
Note: This is the first impression of the show. Uncommon Sense with Saloni is streaming on SonyLIV.
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