India, Comedy And Vir Das. Need We Say More

So, What does India find funny
A still from the show Jestination Unknown in Leh, Ladakh
A still from the show Jestination Unknown in Leh, Ladakh

Stellar slow motion shots of salt sprinkling over perfectly cooked meat. Wide shots of picturesque valleys and mountains. A chaotic timelapse of a city&rsquos dynamic roads. These are the typical frames one can expect in a travel series. Well, Vir Das&rsquo Jestination Unknown has hardly any of it. In a unique format, the series interweaves travel and humour as the comedian explores the comedic heritage of different cities in a bid to answer the question &lsquoWhat does India find funny&rsquo

A concoction of culture, food, scenery and obviously comedy, the Amazon Prime series fleshes out stereotypes and folk humour to ultimately curate the ideal standup routine performed for the locals. The jokes that are intercut with their travels, are perched on their experience in the city and the stereotypes they unfold. Every episode sees Vir Das with new companions with whom he shares the stage.

Through the 6 episode series, we travel to Patiala, Jodhpur, Mysore, Kumarakom, Lucknow and Leh (in order) at grassroot level. 

Apart from the famous Patiala pegs and butter chicken, we see a boisterously funny performance of the folk Pund art in Patiala. Jodhpur, on the other hand, lends its rich architecture to the screen as the comedians discuss the court jesters that made the royals chuckle. The third episode delves into Mysore&rsquos sandalwood and other homegrown products. Travelling further south, the show then takes on Kumakoram in Kerala where Das shows us the city that bounced back after the devastating floods. Lucknow&rsquos old world charm is brought onto the screen with its beautiful poetry, interviews with shayars and hasya kavis. And finally, the serenity of Leh coupled with its dynamic side take over the season finale. 

Food makes tiny appearances on this show but boy, is it enough. In just a few minutes, the show gives us a taste (virtually) of the cuisine. From dal baati and butter chicken to street side food and South Indian delicacies, you get a glance of it all on screen. They don&rsquot forget the pegs and toddies either

While the show revolves around comedy and its evolution in the city, travel is not undermined. Architectural wonders like Mehrangarh fort, Rumi Darwaza and the Residency are detailed well to understand the influence of history on the culture. Beyond popular architecture, locally significant places such as RK Narayan&rsquos house, Devraj market, performer Pudil Narayana Chakyar&rsquos house and Druk padma karpo school maintain impressive screen time.

Kathakali, Kung Fu, Chakyar Koothu please the artistic minds of the viewers and chikankari work entices the fashionistas. Overall, the show does a decent job at summarising a city&rsquos soul in a measly half an hour. Most episodes begin with a capturing introduction to the city intertwined with humorous conversation, interviews and cultural exploration, leading upto the search of a venue. This search leads us to eye-pleasing sites, some more well known than others. Every episode ends with the sets of the comedians based on the city itself. 

While it is unscripted and roots in reality, the scenes often include skits, pumped with witty jokes and jabs amidst information. They share historical stories and fun facts about the places they visit, often to further their comedic script. They also interview locals to add perspective and learn more about the culture and people. 

Guest comedians include Anu Menon, Amogh Ranadive, Ashwin Mushran, Amit Tandon, Manan Desai, Raj Sharma, Rohini Ramanathan, Shruti Seth, and Suresh Menon.    

This travelling comedy show has introduced a novel concept to the Indian audience. We can hardly wait for the next season. 

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