The ‘original’ Santa-Banta speak out

“We don’t support humour that targets any community”

sakshi

Sakshi Kuchroo | April 2, 2016


#jokes   #santa banta   #Sardar jokes   #sikh community  
Santa Banta

Governance Now got in touch with Gurpreet Singh alias Santa and Prabhpreet Singh alias Banta, who have been living up to their stage names for 18 years. Sick of being held responsible for bringing disrespect to the community, the duo has now decided to change their names to Jugli and Shugli.

When and how did you become popular as Santa and Banta?

Gurpreet: Santa and Banta are actually Khushwant Singh’s characters. We adapted them temporarily for a stand-up show that we did 18 years ago for one minute at a New Year’s programme. People really liked it and wanted more. We went on to do shows and even starred in films. We actually made a career out of it by starting our own production company with the name of Santa-Banta.
Prabhpreet: People have given us so much love since our first act. By adapting these characters we didn’t know that we are actually bringing them to life. The journey has been really great. Nobody calls us by our original names.

Then what made you take this sudden decision of disowning your popular stage names?

Gurpreet: It’s been a long time since obscene jokes started doing rounds on social media under the names of Santa and Banta. People started pointing it out that we are the ones who have stooped to this level to make money while we don’t even know where all this started. We have always tried to make people laugh by clean humour. We have only made fun of Santa and Banta and never attacked the whole community.
Prabhpreet: The decision to change names was a personal one. We are not with those people who forward the kind of jokes that target our community and make fun of sardars. We are certainly not with people who are using our stage names to make money for themselves. We want a ban to be implemented by the supreme court so there is an end to all this bullying.

Being stand-up comedians, how do you differentiate between the right and wrong kind of humour?

Gurpreet: We know only one kind of comedy and that is of the purest nature. We never made any obscene jokes, although there are many obscene jokes that have been circulating in our names. We just want to say that it’s not us. We respect our community and stand by it no matter what they think of us.
Prabhpreet: As comedians we know that while cracking a joke, it is important not to hurt the religious sentiments of any community. It is just wrong. If I say Santa is a mad man and that makes people laugh, that is okay. But if I say Santa is a mad man because he is a sardar, then that obviously will be a problem. Khud pe hasna aur baat hai, par jati pe hasna aur baat hai (It is one thing to laugh at oneself but laughing at the whole community is different).

Do you think the large-hearted, fun-seeking nature of many sardars might have encouraged such jokes?

Gurpreet: Every community has some good people and some bad people. The bad ones don’t define the whole community. Laughing at oneself is a different matter all together. That has nothing to do with the humour that is insulting our community.
Prabhpreet: No Sardar will laugh at a joke that insults his whole community.

Do you think a ban can be implemented on such jokes?

Gurpreet: It will definitely help. It is necessary to put a full stop to this kind of racism towards our community.
Prabhpreet: Even if there is no ban, there should be a law that restricts people from making such jokes. It is necessary. Kids suffer a lot because of such jokes. It is a torture for them.

Are you aware of the petition that has been filed in the SC by the DSGMC?

Gurpreet: Yes. We fully support the cause. It is high time to put an end to this nuisance that is targeting Sikhs.
Prabhpreet: It’s high time for people to understand that humour doesn’t necessarily mean demeaning someone. It’s not just about Sikhs. We don’t support humour that targets any community for its culture or intelligence.

Some people think that it is you who have brought disrespect to the community by circulating jokes of racist nature.


Gurpreet: I just want to say that it was never us. There are websites that are running by our names; jokes that are being forwarded on social media. This is why we have now changed our names to Jugli-Shugli.
Prabhpreet: Our community has given so much for the nation. We have always tried to create light-hearted humour for people. These people who are using our names to make money should be taught a lesson. It is time to put an end to this nonsense that has been going on for years.

READ: Is banning ‘sardar jokes’ a waste of time or a necessity to stop ethnic stereotypes?

sakshi@governancenow.com

(This interview appears in the April 1-15, 2016 issue)

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